ATHENS – The performance of Georgia’s offensive line – and its tackles in particular — against South Carolina this past weekend was one the Bulldogs would just as soon forget. In fact, that seems to be one of their primary goals this week.
“That game’s over,” freshman tackle John Theus said. “We looked at the film and we learned from it and we’re ready to go on to the next game. We’ve all moved on. We’re preparing for Kentucky now.”
On paper, it doesn’t look as bad as it was. Officially the Gamecocks were credited with two quarterback sacks and two quarterback hurries. But anybody who watched this past Saturday’s 35-7 domination of Georgia knows defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor had a much more profound effect on quarterback Aaron Murray and the Bulldogs’ offense.
Murray had career lows with 35 percent completion rate on 11-of-31 passing for 109 yards. The Gamecocks were credited with 10 pass break-ups, several of them occurring nanoseconds after the ball left Murray’s hands.
The end result was the Bulldogs were held to 41 points below their scoring average and 312 yards below their yards per game.
“It’s just one of those games you have to throw it in a bag and move on and focus on our next opponent, which is Kentucky,” junior left tackle Kenarious Gates said. “That’s what we’re doing. We’re working on Kentucky now. We’re not worried about South Carolina. It’s in the past. We can’t do anything about it.”
Gates had the toughest assignment of anybody on the team as he played the entire night head up against the 6-foot-6, 256-pound Clowney. Occasionally Gates would get some help from a chipping running back or fullback. But essentially it was the first-year starting tackle against one of the best pass-rushers in college football all night.
“It was a great experience,” Gates insisted. “He’s a great player. You’re going against one of the best D-ends in the SEC. You’ve to got to give him credit. He’s strong, quick off the line. He opened my eyes to what I need to do to get better and the things I need to work on. We gave each other good competition out there.”
The question now is whether Georgia’s overall confidence on offense has been shaken to the core.
“No,” Gates said. “We still have high confidence in our team. We still have our goals moving forward. We’re still trying to do what we’ve been doing all season, which is to win and be one of the best offenses in the nation”
As bad as Saturday was, the Bulldogs remain second in the SEC in points scored (41.3 per game), third in total yardage (484 ypg) and their nine quarterback sacks allowed are fourth-fewest in the league.
“I think we’ll be fine,” Murray said. “I think we’re still confident with who we have, with the play-calloing, with everything that’s going on. We just didn’t execute when the time came. When plays were there to be made we just didn’t hit on them. . . . But I don’t think we’re shaken up at all. We’re going to come out very confident in our next game and be ready to go.”
Murray feeling better
Murray said he was being sincere when he said Saturday night and Sunday morning were “the worst 12 hours of his life.” Between the Bulldogs’ dismal performance against South Carolina, Murray’s house getting vandalized and finding out Sunday morning that his father had cancer and needed surgery immediately, “My head was about to explode at that point,” Murray said Wednesday.
But he was feeling much better after returning to practice this week. “Things are on the rise,” Murray said.
First and foremost, the prognosis for Denny Murray, who has thyroid cancer, is very good. “It’s a very treatable cancer,” Murray said. “They removed the thyroid completely and now he has to wait a few weeks and get a scan to make sure it didn’t spread. So hopefully we got it early enough and it didn’t spread and it’s gone.”
In some ways, Murray said having to deal with his father’s illness helped him deal with Saturday’s loss and all that has happened since, including getting a speeding ticket in Gainesville, Fla., on his drive back Monday.
“I was being a little baby, then my parents came in and told me about what was going on,” Murray said. “I didn’t even think of football after that. I didn’t think about the game. Nothing. It really does put everything in perspective about what’s most important in your life, who’s most important in your life and putting those things first.”
Said Georgia coach Mark Richt: “There’s never a good time to find out about your father having something like that. But it does help get everything else that happened in perspective. Those things don’t seem as bad.”
The Bulldogs practiced for more than two hours in what coaches and players described as a “competition day.” There was a lot of contact and fundamental work and the day ended with the offense and defense scrimmaging.
“We had a good day; we had a fun day; we competed,” Richt said. “We treated it like a spring practice. We had a lot of things to work on and, since we weren’t going to compete Saturday, we decided to go out and compete with a scrimmage today. And we had some great competition.”
They said it
“First of all, I say we have the best fans in America. They do foolish things sometimes, usually in the first few hours after a ballgame. That’s just normal emotions. . . . Every once in a while a fan will do something foolish. But that doesn’t mean all fans are foolish.”
– Richt on fan behavior
Etc. . .
All-America outside linebacker Jarvis Jones was held out of practice for the second day in a row with a sprained ankle. Thursday is the last day of practice and it will be in shorts and helmets. . . . Richt said junior defensive end Garrison Smith has played exceptionally well in a backup role and will see his repetitions increase in the second half of the season.