ATHENS — Georgia coach Mark Richt said he has disciplined freshman cornerback Sheldon Dawson for an incident in the SEC Championship game in which it appears Dawson tried to poke the eyes of Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner. But he said Dawson won’t miss any playing time and no other UGA players are being punished for their actions in that game.
Richt also declined comment about the SEC’s decision to not suspend Alabama defensive lineman Quinton Dial for his illegal hit on quarterback Aaron Murray. Richt addressed the situations at the end of the Bulldogs’ practice Friday afternoon.
“Dawson, I did (discipline), yes,” Richt said. “I’m not going to give detail of it. But, yeah, and Dawson saw it. He realizes it was a bad thing and a bad image for him and for Georgia. He understood why I needed to discipline him. It won’t be any playing time.”
Video shows Dawson sticking his fingers in Milliner’s facemask after a scrum for a loose ball following an Alabama kickoff return early in the fourth quarter. Milliner was actually flagged for unsportsmanlike contact when he responded by shoving Dawson.
Dawson claimed after Thursday’s practice he wasn’t trying to “gouge” Milliner’s eyes but said he apologized to Milliner on the field later in the game.
“We talked about it a couple of series later,” said Dawson, a 5-11, 181-pound freshman from Memphis. “I just went to point and my hand just went straight through his facemask. I heard people say stuff about eye-gouging and all that. I wasn’t trying to grab his eyes or something like that. It was just a mistake.”
“To me it looked very bad,” Richt said. “It’s just not Georgia. And I think when he saw it, he said, ‘Coach, I saw it and I don’t blame you.’ He didn’t even make an excuse. He just said ‘I’m sorry.’”
Georgia junior linebacker Alec Ogletree was flagged for hitting Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron high on a second-quarter play. But Richt indicated the SEC did not bring up that situation and that there was nothing malicious about it.
“I think he was just playing hard,” Richt said. “I don’t think he was trying to hurt anybody. He got penalized and the team got penalized for what happened. I think that was appropriate.”
While Murray was technically a defender on the play he was hit, Dial appears to be targeting Murray’s head on the play. Protecting players from intentional helmet-to-helmet contact has been a point of emphasis in the SEC this year.
“There’s a helmet-to-helmet hit almost every play,” Richt said. “How many times does a running back run the ball and he drives forward and here comes a tackler and they hit? I don’t want to get into that right now, but I think everybody’s trying to do what’s right by the rules.”