Archive for October, 2012

Struggles continue in marquee games; team whipped but not flat, Richt says

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A dismal loss to South Carolina extended and exacerbated the Georgia football team’s multi-year trend of struggling — a lot — against top opponents.

Saturday night’s 35-7 loss — Georgia’s first game of the season against a ranked opponent and its first defeat of the season — dropped the Bulldogs’ record against Top 25 teams to 2-8 since the start of the 2010 season, including 0-4 against Top 10 teams.

And going back a bit further, the loss dropped the Bulldogs to 6-14 against Top 25 teams since the start of the 2008 season, including 1-9 against Top 10 opponents.

The impact of the loss on Georgia’s national reputation was quickly registered. Ranked No. 5 before the game, the Bulldogs tumbled Sunday to No. 14 in the Associated Press media poll and No. 12 in the USA Today coaches’ poll. South Carolina rose from No. 6 to No. 3 in both.

Asked late Saturday night how he responds to the perception that Georgia doesn’t rise to the occasion in …

Continue reading Struggles continue in marquee games; team whipped but not flat, Richt says »

Spurrier: ‘They can’t say they own us anymore, that’s for sure’

WHAT THEY SAID AFTER SOUTH CAROLINA’S 35-7 WIN OVER GEORGIA

“Obviously this was a special one … beating three years in a row a school that used to own you. They can’t say they own us anymore, that’s for sure.”

— South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier on the Gamecocks’ first three-game winning streak in the history of the Georgia-South Carolina series, which UGA leads 46-17-2

“This was actually my 250th overall win as a coach [including college, NFL and USFL], and having it against the Georgia Bulldogs is special, too. That’s a team that used to beat my alma mater [Florida] very well. I’ve been fortunate as a coach against them, not so much as a player, but as a coach.”

– Spurrier, 15-5 as a coach against Georgia (11-1 with Florida and 4-4 with South Carolina)

“Like I told the guys, ‘The bad news is we took a whipping, but the good news is that we all took it together.’ I don’t think anyone could look in the mirror and say, ‘I had a great day, but …

Continue reading Spurrier: ‘They can’t say they own us anymore, that’s for sure’ »

Gamecocks’ QB Connor Shaw shows off against state school

South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw accounted for 240 yards and 3 touchdowns in a decisive 35-7 win over Georgia on Saturday night. (AP photo)

South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw accounted for 240 yards and 3 touchdowns in a decisive 35-7 win over Georgia on Saturday night. (AP photo)

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Saturday’s night’s dominating win over Georgia was special to a lot of Gamecocks, but no one was more pleased than Connor Shaw.

South Carolina’s junior quarterback grew up in Flowery Branch, just 40 miles from Athens, but left the state without an offer from the state university. Saturday he played like a man on a mission.

Shaw played a near-perfect game in the Gamecocks’ zone-read-based offense. He ran for 78 yards on 14 carries and scored on a 7-yard run and passed for another 162 yards and two scores. He completed only six passes, but they averaged 27 yards a pop, with a long of 62 yards.

“We were all hyped up for this game,” said Shaw, who has completed 41 of 49 passes in the least three games. “It was the greatest atmosphere I’ve ever played in. I saw a tweet where Kirk Herbstreit said …

Continue reading Gamecocks’ QB Connor Shaw shows off against state school »

Georgia’s defense no match for Gamecocks

(Updated 11:50 p.m.)

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Remember the Georgia defense that ranked among the nation’s top five last season and expected to be even better this season?

It once again was nowhere to be found Saturday night.

The Bulldogs’ defense ranked an inexplicable 55th among FBS teams in yards allowed through this season’s first five games   and looked even worse in Game 6, a 35-7 loss to South Carolina in Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday night.

The Georgia defense was porous on South Carolina’s first two possessions, allowing touchdown drives of 76 and 69 yards that gave the Gamecocks a 14-0 lead and set the tone for what was to be a long night for the Bulldogs.  A special-teams touchdown –- a 70-yard punt return — stretched South Carolina’s lead to 21-0 with 5:18 still to play in the first quarter.

“We said we were going to fight back,” cornerback Sanders Commings said, “and unfortunately we couldn’t tonight.”

Any remote chance of Georgia getting back into the …

Continue reading Georgia’s defense no match for Gamecocks »

No. 5 Bulldogs ‘Spurriered’ by No. 6 South Carolina, 35-7 (UPDATED)

Georgia coach Mark Richt (R) congratulates South Carolina's Steve Spurrier on the Gamecocks' third win in a row over the Bulldogs. They're now 4-4 against each other. (AJC photo by Bob Andres)

Georgia coach Mark Richt (R) congratulates South Carolina's Steve Spurrier on the Gamecocks' third win in a row over the Bulldogs. They're now 4-4 against each other. (AJC photo by Bob Andres)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — It’s starting to look like Steve Spurrier is going to be just as frustrating for Georgia at South Carolina as he was at Florida.

The Ol’ Ball Coach had his No. 6 Gamecocks clicking on all cylinders Saturday night against the No. 5 Bulldogs at Williams-Brice Stadium. In the most-hyped game in the history of this series, South Carolina jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back en route to a 35-7 victory.

The win was the Gamecocks’ third in a row over Georgia — the first time in the 118-year history of the rivalry they’ve done that — and makes Spurrier 15-5 as a coach against the Bulldogs. He was 11-1 as the Gators’ coach and 4-4 since he’s been at South Carolina. Including his stints in the NFL and USFL, it was Spurrier’s …

Continue reading No. 5 Bulldogs ‘Spurriered’ by No. 6 South Carolina, 35-7 (UPDATED) »

Containing Marcus Lattimore a major key for Bulldogs

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Greetings from Williams-Brice Stadium. If you’re reading this on your iPhone and are sitting in traffic somewhere in this city, forget it. You’ll never make it.

Mark Bradley, Tim Tucker and I agree, this is the worst venue in the SEC as far as game day traffic. And if you’ve traveled anywhere in this league, that’s saying something.

Georgia hopes it can create some traffic jams today for South Carolina and Marcus Lattimore. The junior running back has killed them the past two seasons, rushing for 358 yards and three touchdowns in two Gamecocks’ victories. Most of his good work has been in the fourth quarter of tight games. The Bulldogs can’t let that happen again tonight.

Here’s some more about tonight’s matchup between No. 5 Georgia and No. 6 South Carolina.

THREE STORYLINES

1. Can Bulldogs overcome loss of leading receiver? Losing wide receiver Michael Bennett to a knee injury this week was untimely and potentially costly. While he leads the Bulldogs in …

Continue reading Containing Marcus Lattimore a major key for Bulldogs »

No. 5 Georgia, No. 6 South Carolina ready to settle their score on the field

The versatility and balance of Georgia's offense, led by quarterback Aaron Murray (C) is going to be key against South Carolina's nationally-rated defense. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

The versatility and balance of Georgia's offense, led by quarterback Aaron Murray (C) is going to be key against South Carolina's nationally-rated defense. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Lights. Camera. Action!

Today, we get to watch a classic Southern drama unfold. Georgia and South Carolina have accepted their roles in it, and they’re ready to play it out before a sold-out theater in Columbia. Both teams have played their parts to perfection to this point, each arriving with a top- 10 ranking and an unblemished record. One will leave in firm control of the SEC’s Eastern Division, at least for a week or so.

“This is why I came to Georgia, to play in games like this,” said Georgia senior cornerback Sanders Commings, who hails from the border town of Augusta. “To be in the top five in the country and to play other SEC teams in the top 10.”

Said South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw, who’s from Flowery Branch: “Two top-10 teams, a lot riding …

Continue reading No. 5 Georgia, No. 6 South Carolina ready to settle their score on the field »

Q&A: Gamecocks’ Shaw encouraged by what Tennessee ‘among other teams’ able to do vs. Georgia

South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw is completing 78.1 percent of his passes for 571 yards and 5 TDs this season.As Jeff Schultz so eloquently pointed out in his weekly predictions column, my scheduled interview with South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw on Wednesday was canceled by The Ol’ Ball Coach that day. We’re not sure if it was related to Schultz’s column advising Steve Spurrier he should learn to take criticism more like Georgia’s Mark Richt, but we have our suspicions. He’s been known to be a little thin-skinned here lately.

In any case, I wanted to profile Shaw for our readers because obviously he’s the starting quarterback for the Gamecocks, he’s from Flowery Branch, he’s the son of a longtime Georgia high school coach and, in case you haven’t noticed, he’s playing some pretty good ball.

A quick review on Shaw: He played at Flowery Branch High for his father, Lee Shaw (now at Rabun County). There he threw for 3,100 yards and 30 TDs with just six interceptions as a senior and established a reputation for finding a way to win games in dramatic fashion. Shaw was lightly …

Continue reading Q&A: Gamecocks’ Shaw encouraged by what Tennessee ‘among other teams’ able to do vs. Georgia »

UGA offensive line faces tall task vs. Gamecocks

ATHENS  – After several days spent watching tape of South Carolina’s defense, Georgia offensive line coach Will Friend was struck by what he had not noticed.

“I was … trying to remember when I saw one score [against the Gamecocks],” Friend said. “I couldn’t think of a team I saw cross the goal line yet.”

It has happened, but rarely.

South Carolina’s defense has allowed only five touchdowns out of 67 opponent drives this season, meaning the opposition has scored a touchdown on 7.5 percent of its possessions. Contrast that to Georgia’s offense, which has scored 31 touchdowns on 74 drives, a 41.9 percent rate.

How well Georgia's offensive line protects QB Aaron Murray will be key against South Carolina's tall, tough defense. (Photo/UGA Sports)

How well Georgia's offensive line protects QB Aaron Murray will be key against South Carolina's tall, tough defense. (Photo/UGA Sports)

All of which should make for a compelling clash Saturday night in Columbia.

Georgia’s offense has averaged 48.2 points and 536 yards (287 passing and 249 rushing) per game. But how will it fare against a defense that …

Continue reading UGA offensive line faces tall task vs. Gamecocks »

‘Back Porch Chat:’ Replacing Michael Bennett, protecting Aaron Murray and stopping Marcus Lattimore

Time for another “Back Porch Chat” with the good folks from CineSport. Thursday I talked with Tara Petrolino about Saturday’s monumental matchup between No. 5 Georgia and No. 6 South Carolina in Columbia, S.C. She wanted to know how the Bulldogs are going to deal with the season-ending injury to leading receiver Michael Bennett, if Georgia will be able to protect quarterback Aaron Murray and what the Dogs must do to slow down Marcus Lattimore. . . .

Continue reading ‘Back Porch Chat:’ Replacing Michael Bennett, protecting Aaron Murray and stopping Marcus Lattimore »

Notebook: Through five games, ‘Gurshall’s stats top Herschel’s

Todd Gurley's first five games: 536 yards rushing on 68 carries. (AJC photo/Brant Sanderlin)

Todd Gurley's first five games: 536 yards rushing on 68 carries. (AJC photo/Brant Sanderlin)

ATHENS – The “Gurshall” phenomenon continues to grow.

That is the nickname Georgia receiver Tavarres King coined for the freshman tailback tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, combining syllables from their last names to rhyme with the first name of Georgia’s greatest tailback — Herschel Walker.

“At first it was just a little thing, but now it’s getting big,” Gurley said. “I guess everybody knows about it. We just try to come out there and play our game and try to be like nobody else. But it’s a cool thing.”

Marshall acknowledged “Gurshall” has gotten a lot of attention, especially on social media, “but we try not to focus on that. We try to focus on every day at practice, getting better and not letting that stuff go to your head.”

Through five games, the “Gurshall” tandem has accounted for 964 yards …

Continue reading Notebook: Through five games, ‘Gurshall’s stats top Herschel’s »

Bulldogs’ Nov. 17 game vs. Georgia Southern set for 1:30 p.m., likely to be televised

ATHENS – Remember when Georgia used to play every home game at 1 o’clock in the afternoon? Well, the Bulldogs are going to give you a chance to reminisce on Nov. 17 as the Georgia Southern game has been set for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.

Television broadcast rights are still being negotiated as the game falls into the one game pay-per-view or point-to-point telecast provisions as outlined by the SEC.  There are strong indications that Atlanta’s WSB-TV Channel 2 could end up carrying the game.  The local ABC affiliate, a Cox Media Group station, televised Georgia’s game against Idaho State in November of the 2010 season.

Nevertheless, the kickoff time in such cases is left to the discretion of the schools and Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity liked the idea of an early afternoon start for a November game.

“We felt the 1:30 p.m. kickoff would give the fans the best timetable for tailgating opportunities before the game and will provide ample time to return home following the …

Continue reading Bulldogs’ Nov. 17 game vs. Georgia Southern set for 1:30 p.m., likely to be televised »

Notes: Dogs seek to avoid ‘historical’ loss; receivers vow to compensate for Bennett injury

Georgia ranks higher as a rival for South Carolina than vice versa, according to Steve Spurrier.

“I think Georgia is our biggest conference rival, although we’re certainly not their biggest conference rival,” the South Carolina coach said Wednesday. “They’ve got Florida and Auburn. … At South Carolina, we still have not beaten teams enough for them to consider us a big rival. … I don’t think Georgia sees us as a big rival.”

That may change, of course, if the Gamecocks keep winning.

They beat the Bulldogs the past two seasons and will be trying for their first-ever three-game winning streak against Georgia on Saturday — a point that some UGA players say coach Mark Richt made to them early this week.

“We don’t like to make history in a negative way,” Richt said. “It would be the first time in the history of the school that has happened, so we definitely don’t want to be on that end of the historical event.”

Despite the back-to-back losses, Georgia …

Continue reading Notes: Dogs seek to avoid ‘historical’ loss; receivers vow to compensate for Bennett injury »

Georgia wide receiver Michael Bennett injured, out for season (Updated)

ATHENS — Georgia’s football team suffered a significant and untimely injury, learning Wednesday that its leading receiver, Michael Bennett, will miss the remainder of the season with a torn knee ligament.

Bennett, injured on the final play of Tuesday’s closed practice, was diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and will require reconstructive surgery, UGA said.

The news came as No. 5 Georgia prepares for Saturday’s game at No. 6 South Carolina, a showdown of undefeated SEC East teams.

Georgia’s offense surely will miss Bennett against the Gamecocks’ stellar defense. Through five games, he leads the Bulldogs’ receivers in catches (24), yards (345) and touchdowns (4).

Bennett reacted to his season-ending injury via Twitter, writing: “God has a plan for me and everything happens for a reason. Get ready for a historic season Dawg nation. Our boys are gonna get it done!”

Coach Mark Richt said the injury occurred as Bennett was blocking in …

Continue reading Georgia wide receiver Michael Bennett injured, out for season (Updated) »

UGA notebook: Special teams ‘getting a bad rap,’ Richt says

ATHENS – Some high-profile mishaps — missed extra points, botched punt returns — have obscured generally good play by Georgia’s special-teams units, coach Mark Richt insisted Tuesday.

“I think the special teams as a whole are getting a bad rap,” Richt said.

Richt said he is pleased that Georgia special-teamers have blocked two punts, stopped an opponent’s fake punt attempt, allowed opponents only 18 punt-return yards in the past four games, provided “excellent” kickoff coverage and made four of five field-goal attempts, including two from 50-plus yards.

He also said “kickoff return has actually been pretty solid” with the exception of the one on which Todd Gurley stepped out of bounds at UGA’s 1-yard line against Tennessee. Gurley and Malcolm Mitchell “have big-play potential as kickoff return men,” said Richt, who mentioned Gurley’s 100-yard return in the season opener.

All of that said, Richt acknowledged the problems with PATs and punt …

Continue reading UGA notebook: Special teams ‘getting a bad rap,’ Richt says »

A look at UGA’s next opponent: South Carolina

NEXT FOR GEORGIA

Who: at South Carolina

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

TV; radio: ESPN; 750, 95.5

About South Carolina

Record: 5-0 (3-0 SEC)

Last time played: South Carolina won 45-42 in Athens last season, scoring three touchdowns off Georgia turnovers and another on a fake punt.

On offense: Tailback Marcus Lattimore ran for 358 yards on 64 carries against Georgia the past two seasons, 182 on 37 as a freshman and 176 on 27 last season. He returned this season after missing the final six games last year with a knee injury. … Dual-threat quarterback Connor Shaw, from Flowery Branch, is 12-1 as the Gamecocks’ starter. He has completed 78 percent of his passes (50 of 64) for an average of 142.8 yards per game this season. He completed his final 20 passes against Missouri. He also has averaged 50.8 rushing yards per game.

On defense: The Gamecocks have allowed 11.2 points per game, sixth best among FBS teams, and 77.6 rushing yards per game, seventh best nationally. They rank second …

Continue reading A look at UGA’s next opponent: South Carolina »

Georgia defenders: ‘Only stat that matters is our 5-0 record’

ATHENS – Despite reports to the contrary, Georgia is sporting a Top 10 defense this season. It’s just not the top-10 ranking everybody expected.

Heading into Saturday’s monumental matchup with No. 6-ranked South Carolina in Columbia, the Bulldogs are ranked 10th in the Southeastern Conference in total defense. That’s 10th as in 10 among 14 teams. Not 10th in the nation, as everybody expected this year.

The good news is Georgia (5-0, 3-0 SEC) arrives at the midway point of the season with an unblemished record and a No. 5 overall ranking in the national polls. They’ve just done it with its vaunted defense looking nearly as dominant as was expected.

And now the biggest question mark for the Bulldogs heading into the most anticipated game of the season is, what in the world is going on with your defense?

“It definitely hasn’t gone the way we wanted,” senior defensive end Abry Jones said. “But I think we’ve been strong in the second halves of games and strong …

Continue reading Georgia defenders: ‘Only stat that matters is our 5-0 record’ »

Georgia’s Mark Richt: Dogs won’t need much motivation for S. Carolina

ATHENS – Georgia coach Mark Richt and selected players visited with media on Tuesday to discuss Saturday’s game between the No. 5-ranked Bulldogs and No. 6 South Carolina in Columbia.

Following is some of the highlights from the news conference. . . .

COACH MARK RICHT

Opening statement . . .

“Here we go. We used to play South Carolina earlier in the year, and now it’s game six for both of us. Normally when we play South Carolina, both teams are undefeated in league play because it’s always been the first one, but this year both teams have found a way to stay undefeated. So I know it’s definitely an exciting time for their program and for our program. We all know that ESPN College Game Day is going to be there, so that’s usually a pretty good sign that it’s a big ballgame. A lot of people are going to be watching and are going to be very interested in what happens, so we obviously have a lot of respect for South Carolina.”

On Spurrier going for 250th career victory …

Continue reading Georgia’s Mark Richt: Dogs won’t need much motivation for S. Carolina »

Georgia coach Mark Richt plays part in commercials for ESPN’s College GameDay

Have you seen the new ESPN commercials that feature Georgia coach Mark Richt? He flew out to Los Angeles this past summer to tape them. Apparently the idea was to build something around Richt’s annual tradition of taking the team to the Ramsey Center Natatorium on a practice day and showing off for the team with his backward flip off the 10-meter platform.

What do you think of the ESPN commercials with Georgia coach Mark Richt?

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Richt shot the commercials with members of the ESPN GameDay crew, including former Bulldog David Pollack, Desmond Howard and Chris Fowler.  In the scenes, Richt is more of a bit player rather a featured player. Lee Corso is the “star.” But they’re funny it’s certainly good publicity for Georgia that they thought to include Richt.

Let me know what you think of them. . . .

Continue reading Georgia coach Mark Richt plays part in commercials for ESPN’s College GameDay »

Notebook: Malcolm Mitchell understands why changes being made on punt returns

By RYAN BLACK
Special to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ATHENS – Every day is an adventure for Malcolm Mitchell.

Georgia’s sophomore cornerback/wide receiver said Monday he doesn’t know where he will practice each day until he arrives and sees which color jersey is hanging in his locker. And yes, he admitted, it does get tiresome.

“It can be difficult sometimes because you never know, but it’s what I signed up for, so I’ve got to deal with it,” Mitchell said following Monday’s practice, a day he noted was spent exclusively on offense.

Mitchell, who started three games at cornerback on defense, played only offense against Tennessee this past weekend. He said he never has an issue separating the offensive and defensive calls in his head given his constant, back-and-forth shuffling. He has played enough with both units already, after all. But he has had his share of issues in another area: punt returns.

Problems have plagued him fielding punts all season, and …

Continue reading Notebook: Malcolm Mitchell understands why changes being made on punt returns »

Sanders Commings, Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall honored by SEC for performances vs. Vols

Keith Marshall (4) and Todd Gurley followed up their 294-yard, 5-TD performance on Saturday by getting baptized at Athens Church on Sunday. (Photo provided by Rob Saye)

Keith Marshall (4) and Todd Gurley combined for 294 yards and 5 touchdowns on Saturday as Herschel Walker looked on. (Special photo provided by Rob Saye)

ATHENS — Three different Georgia players earned with player of the week honors from the SEC because of their performances against Tennessee this past weekend.

Tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall actually shared the SEC Freshman of the Week award with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny “Football” Manziel. According to the SEC’s Charles Bloom, it’s the first time the league has bestowed an award on three individuals.

Meanwhile, senior cornerback Sanders Commings was named Defensive Player of the Week. He, too, shared his award. Ole Miss linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche of Grayson also was honored for his defensive play.

This is the third freshman honor for Gurley and first for Marshall. The roommates combined for 294 yards rushing and 5 touchdowns in Georgia’s 51-44 win over Tennessee ton Saturday.

Gurley, a Tarboro, …

Continue reading Sanders Commings, Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall honored by SEC for performances vs. Vols »