ATHENS — Once again, Georgia coach Mark Richt and the Bulldogs spent most of their day Tuesday deflecting questions about acronyms such as BCS and SEC and guiding discussions instead back toward the immediate task at hand, which is trying to beat archrival Georgia Tech and slow down the Yellow Jackets’ spread-option attack.
Get used to it. This will be the Bulldogs’ tact going forward. And it’s the right way to handle their situation, what with Tech coming to Athens and everything on the line and all.
“After what happened on Saturday, it’s a little bit easier for us,” said senior linebacker Christian Robinson, referring to the upset losses of No. 1 Kansas State and No. 2 Oregon this past weekend. ” You know that if we handle our business, there are no worries. We’re not worried about other people any more. It’s completely on us and it’s on everything we do from this point on. Our focus is completely on Georgia Tech because this is the game. Nothing else matters at this point.”
Richt and players answered questions during a large media gathering Tuesday at the Bulldogs weekly press luncheon. Here’s some of the highlights from that session:
GEORGIA COACH MARK RICHT
Opening statement . . .
“We are playing Georgia Tech this week, and we’re excited about that. Of course we all found out that they are the winners of the ACC Coastal Division, and they’ll represent the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship Game. I know they are excited about that. It’s a very challenging week of preparation for us. It will be a highly emotional game for a lot of reasons. Number one, it’s our in-state rival. Number two, it’s the last home game for our seniors. So it’ll be a big day for our boys. . . . We’re hoping to send our seniors off with a great moment there before the game and hopefully they’ll play great during the game. It’s an early morning for everybody, and I’m hoping the Bulldog Nation shows up early and supports us like always. Hopefully we can be in the stands by the time the seniors get introduced (11;46 a.m.).”
On Georgia’s senior class . . .
“We have won a lot of games, and I’m very impressed with this senior bunch. They really wanted to take some ownership of this team. Once they all decided to stick around, just the fact that everybody on defense especially checked out the NFL and where they might be drafted, once they all decided to stay I think it created energy immediately for those guys and for the team and the coaching staff too. I’m sure the Bulldog nation was fired up when they heard most everybody was coming back other than Orson (Charles). Because they decided to stay, they wanted it to be a special season. They didn’t just want it to be another year where we came up short, so I saw a sense of urgency in the offseason. I saw a very organized summer. (Aaron Murray) rallied a bunch of the leaders and asked them to divide the team into subgroups and had a high accountability with those groups to work out and in running, lifting, throwing and all the things you do in the summer. They’ve done a really good job. We didn’t start out playing as great as we would hope to, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but we got that thing turned around with Shawn’s (Williams) leadership. I think that was the catalyst for our defense to pick it up, and we’ve been playing pretty well ever since. There’s been a lot of player-driven stuff that we always talked about. I saw a lot more of it than we talked about it this year.”
On handling Georgia Tech’s spread option . . .
“I don’t know. We’ll find out how well we handle it against Georgia Tech. They are averaging 47 points over the last three or four games. They are just so explosive that I just don’t how we are going to handle it. We are going to have to find out.”
On coach Paul Johnson’s level of expertise coaching option football . . .
“There aren’t a lot of people doing it, but he knows it so well that obviously he doesn’t need a call sheet. It’s in his brain, and he’s seen just about everything under the sun, as far as people trying to defend it. When he sees something, he knows where to go next, and that’s the beauty of the system that they have. You know what to do to counteract what a defense is trying to do to stop something or slow it down. I don’t know if that many people have as good a grasp on their offensive system. There’s a lot of coaches that if the defense brings a little bit of a different scheme to a game, it might take until halftime to start making adjustments and it might take until the next day Sunday to watch what happened and figure out what went wrong. Whereas, I think within a matter of plays, he’s making adjustments. He might see one play and one thing they’re doing and he’ll know immediately what he’s going to go to then. He doesn’t have to go back and review what he thinks he ought to go to next.”
On the importance of the Georgia Tech rivalry . . .
“We always talk about it. There’s enough to talk about in this rivalry. Coach T (Joe Tereshinski) is passionate about this game, so he wants to put his two cents in, which is great. I want them to hear it. Because we don’t have any time constraints this week, we have a little bit more time to talk about those things on a daily basis, so we’re not as rushed for time with the fact that there’s no class and there’s no restriction on the 20-hour rule.”
On job of Georgia’s staff this season . . .
“I think it’s great to have coaching continuity when you have the right coaches, and I think we do. I’m very impressed with our coaches. They’re highly competent. They’re highly competitive. They just know what they’re doing. They’re good motivators, and they’re good evaluators of talent and also of what needs to be done and how it needs to get done. I love what we’re doing with the strength staff. I love the support staff and all the people that support us in that area. It’s the most complete staff, as far as just everybody understanding their job and everybody doing it. That helps with the continuity. We have what we call our hideaway before every year, and when you have new coaches or new staff, there’s a learning curve there. Sometimes you have to take a lot more time to explain the Georgia way, and this year we got it done in the shortest amount of time since I’ve probably been around here because everybody pretty much knows what to do. They’re doing a good job of it.”
On managing the BCS talk . . .
“We’re just focusing on today really, and then we’ll focus on tomorrow. It’s one day at a time.”
On how much he’s being asking him about the BCS . . .
“The staff’s not asking me. I get here at 8 in the morning and leave about midnight, so there’s not many people I talk to outside the building. So, we really haven’t talked about it.”
On keeping players focused . . .
“We meet every day and we talk just like we do every week. We talk about who we’re playing next, what kind of challenges they bring, and what we have to do on a daily basis to get ready for it. That’s really all we do.”
On Bulldogs’ energy level for Georgia Tech . . .
“Energy level is huge, obviously. If you have energy and no discipline, or if you have energy and no plan, it’s not going to be good. So you want to have good fundamentals and a good plan and then add energy to it. That’s kind of how it goes. I don’t know why sometimes there’s more energy in one given day. Sometimes I think momentum plays a bigger part than a lot of people think, on some days. There are some days people get momentum and you just can’t get it going for some reason. Sometimes people grab momentum, a big play happens, and then all of a sudden you start feeling good and it creates a little doubt for them. You’d like to think every single game that you’re bulletproof, but you’re not. How many teams are undefeated right now? Just two.”
On recruiting implications . . .
“I think it’s very important. The more you win overall, the better it is for your recruiting. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. I don’t think any one game makes a huge difference to the masses. There may be a kid or two that might decide on one or the other because of the result of a game, but that probably doesn’t happen very often. What I do think is that a lot of times when, let’s say, a kid is interested in both schools and then they play each other, I think what happens a lot of times is that their heart kind of tells them which team they like the best. They’re watching the game and they’ll find themselves wanting this team to win over the other team, so I think at times it can define for a kid where his heart is, regardless of who wins the game. He may be happy his team won or sad his team lost, but he might know who his team is when it’s over. He may not have known that going in. All the years that I’ve coached, when I was at Florida State, it was Florida and Florida State. It was a huge game, and there were a lot of guys on the bubble. You could see in some of their eyes after the game if they were happy or sad. If we won the game, you’d see some guys happy and then you’d see some guys that didn’t look too happy, and you’re thinking that guy’s going to Florida. So, I think there’s some of that that happens in these types of games.”
JUNIOR QUARTERBACK AARON MURRAY
On the Georgia Tech game . . .
“I don’t know how you could overlook Georgia Tech. It’s a heated rivalry, and there will be trash talking on the field. It’s fun. It means so much to everyone on both sides, you can’t look past it. I’m excited – I woke up Sunday morning ready to go for this week.”
On how offense is playing . . .
“I feel great about it. Our receivers have stepped up after two major losses [to Michael Bennett and Marlon Brown]. We’ve had guys continue to step in and fill that void. Chris Conley has been awesome, the tight ends have been awesome, Justin Scott-Wesley had his first touchdown last week. We’ve got guys stepping up and making plays. It’s a credit to how hard everyone has worked to get prepared to play.”
On being prepared for Georgia Tech . . .
“I like the game plan we have going in. Coach [Mike] Bobo has it ready for us already, which is pretty fast. It gives us time to watch film, also having no school this week with Thanksgiving, so we can dissect their defense and figure out what will work and what I feel comfortable with. I feel good. I’ll be ready to go.”
JUNIOR TIGHT END ARTHUR LYNCH
On Georgia Tech . . .
“No matter what the records are, or what’s happening, nothing changes the fact that if we lose them it’s a living hell for the next 365 days. It’s what fuels me and gets me motivated. If you’re not motivated for this game, you probably shouldn’t have come to Georgia. You always have to beat Tech.”
On not looking ahead…
“Eight weeks ago before our big SEC stretch, Coach [Kirk] Olivadotti came to us and said that if we want to do these things, win the SEC East, win the conference, everything else, we need to buckle down and take it one game at a time. After South Carolina, especially, we had to take a step back and realize that we can’t control our future. This is a one-game season, and we’re two days into it. We haven’t looked ahead right now. We haven’t all season.”
SOPHOMORE LINEBACKER AMARLO HERRERA
On the Georgia vs. Georgia Tech rivalry . . .
“Being from Atlanta this is a huge rivalry for me. Even though it might be predominantly a Georgia fan base, it’s still split pretty evenly because Tech is right there in Atlanta. With me being from Atlanta, I still here about it when I go home. It’s pretty crazy. I’ve been a Bulldog my whole life, so this game means a lot to me.”
On playing against the triple-option offense for the second week in a row . . .
“It helps us a big amount going against this offense for the second week in a row, because you get a feel of how the cut blocks will be coming against you in a live game. It gives you an extra week of practice as well as game time experience on how to defend against those cut blocks.”
DEFENSIVE END GARRISON SMITH
On the Georgia vs. Georgia Tech rivalry . . .
“I wouldn’t say this game is bigger than the Florida rivalry, but I’d say it’s about the same. I try and treat every game about the same because it’s all a matter of winning or losing. I don’t want to lose against anybody; I hate losing more than I like winning. A loss against Tech might hurt more than some other losses but as long we go out there and do the best we can, then win or loss all that matters is that you gave your all.”
On the BCS implications of Saturday’s game . . .
“Everyone is focused on the game at hand. We can’t look too far ahead of anybody; we have to take it one game at a time. In order to have the best record, like we want to do, we have to take it one game at a time and focus on the task at hand and just do the best that we can.”
On defending the spread option offense for second week in a row . . .
“I wouldn’t say that we’re getting the hang of defending this offense; I would just say that our guys are trying really hard. You can never get the hang of this offense because it’s so good and so tricky. All you can do is go out and execute your assignments, which is what everybody is doing. Georgia Tech has some great coaches with Paul Johnson who has coached their team really well, and they all execute very well. It’s going to be a challenge trying to stop them.”