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Saturday, October 11, 2008

UGA-UT Post-Game Notes

Shaun Chapas hadn't scored a touchdown yet this season. Brannan Southerland hadn't played a down on offense.

So before Georgia kicked off against Tennessee on Saturday -- the game in which Southerland would return to action at fullback for the first time -- Chapas joked with his teammate that they might have to fight if Southerland found the end zone first.

"We were talking before the game and he said, If you come back and get a touchdown today, he was going to be mad, just joking about it," Southerland said.

Of course, as fate would have it, that's exactly what happened -- in perhaps the most ironic of ways.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford hit Chapas on a screen pass in the first quarter that the fullback took down the sideline for 37 yards before being pushed out of bounds at the 1. Guess who got the goal-line carry?

"Sure enough, he got the screen down to the 1, and the next play I scored," Southerland said. "We came off the sideline and all we could do was laugh."

Chapas had another chance at a touchdown in the second half, but was tripped up by the last defender between him and a long stretch of green to the end zone. That, however, is nothing new for the sophomore.

Against Central Michigan, Chapas was forced out of bounds at the 3 on a long reception. Against South Carolina, Southerland argued with coaches to give Chapas some goal-line carries to no avail. Against Arizona State, Chapas fell down on an easy touchdown reception at the 2-yard line, then failed to punch the ball in from inside the 1 late in the game.

"I'm not too worried about it," Chapas said. "It'll come, I'm sure of it."

So, too, is Southerland. And when it finally happens, he said, it will be worth the wait.

"We're going to celebrate big-time when Shaun gets into the end zone," Southerland said.

In his return to action, Southerland finished with just the one carry for the touchdown and one reception for 10 yards. He played some at tight end, too, and dropped the first pass that was thrown his way.

"I got too excited," Southerland said. "I tried to go ahead and get upfield before I caught the ball. But it was good to get that one out of my system, and I was good to go after that."

Chapas finished with a career-high 64 yards receiving and had 10 yards rushing on two carries.

-- Two weeks ago, he wasn't sure he would play. After Georgia's 26-14 win over Tennessee on Saturday, Bruce Figgins feels pretty good, but his future is no clearer.

The sophomore tight end missed Georgia's last game against Alabama with a shoulder injury that will require surgery, but decided to play against Tennessee because starter Tripp Chandler was also hurt. The resultes, Figgins said, were encouraging.

"I was probably a little more tired than anything, condition-wise," Figgins said. "But I felt good, the shoulder didn't give me any problems."

Figgins can have the surgery and still receive a medical redshirt if he doesn't play in another game, but with Chandler expected to miss several more weeks, he may decide to keep playing and delay the procedure until after the season.

Kiante Tripp was moved from left tackle to tight end two weeks ago to provide depth, but he may be forced back to the offensive line after starting left tackle Vince Vance suffered what appears to be a season-ending knee injury. Head coach Mark Richt said he did not expect Vance back this year and wasn't sure whether that would necessitate a move back to the line for Tripp.

Figgins said the decision to delay the surgery, however, is ultimately a medical one. He will meet with doctors and trainers today and hopes to have a decision by Monday. Still, his performance Saturday gives him reason to think he'll be ready to play the rest of the season.

"This performance today gave me a lot of confidence," Figgins said. "It put my mind at ease about how I could perform and feel for the rest of the season. I'm not sure, I still have to talk with coaches and doctors tomorrow and go to treatment."

-- When Vance went down with an injured right knee, sophomore Clint Boling moved from right guard to fill it at left tackle. The Georgia running game followed, with Knowshon Moreno picking up 101 yards much of which came around the left end.

"It wasn't too much of an adjustment," Boling said of his move. "I've played tackle on the right side, but I've got to learn how to play left and right because when something like that happens, you've got to be prepared to play both sides."

Following the injury, Chris Davis moved from left to right guard and freshman Cordy Glenn stepped into Davis' spot. The unit played well, Boling said, but their thoughts remained with Vance.

"You have to keep finishing the game, and we had a lot of the game left to play," Boling said. "We had to keep fighting, but we still had Vince in our thoughts and prayers."

Vance's injury is the second season-ending knee injury to a Georgia left tackle this season. Trinton Sturdivant tore several ligaments in fall camp.

"I don't know what we're going to do if we get any more injuries," Boling said, "but we're just not catching a break with anybody."

Richt said he expects the lineup that finished the game to be the one that starts next week's contest against Vanderbilt. Tanner Strickland is Georgia's only lineman on the bench with game experience, albeit limited. Richt also said Glenn could move out to tackle if offensive line coach Stacy Searels decided Boling is better used at guard.

-- Making his first career start at middle linebacker, Darryl Gamble finished second on the team with five tackles and played a big part in holding Tennessee to just 1 yard rushing. Gamble was filling in for injured All-SEC linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who Richt said should return next week.

"To play Mike linebacker against a team that runs the ball the way Tennessee does, Darryl had to have played a great game," Richt said. "Darryl's really matured a lot. He's gaining knowledge and confidence, and I'm pretty sure Dannell will be back, so that just makes us stronger."

-- All week, Georgia worked on cutting the number of penalties it had been flagged for, but the results Saturday were not exactly what the Bulldogs had hoped for.

Georgia has averaged more than 10 flags per game, and Richt promised punishment if the numbers didn't improve. Against Tennessee on Saturday, the Bulldogs had 11.

"There was a couple times we helped them a long, a couple drives where penalties helped them," Richt said. "The boys are going to get worn out on Monday, and maybe we'll slow it down sooner or later."

Several of the penalties came after Richt chose to accept delay-of-game flags to help run down the clock, but the numbers were still too high considering the work the Bulldogs had put in during the past two weeks.

"It wasn't a lack of concentration, it was just busted plays," linebacker Rennie Curran said of the penalties. "I'm sure we'll definitely pay for it. But I felt like we came out and were focused, and I think overall had a definite improvement."

-- Defensive end Rod Battle returned to action for the first time since Georgia's second game of the season. Battle didn't record a tackle, but more importantly, said he felt good after the game.

"I probably played a lot compared to, the defense didn't play a lot, but I got in there a good amount," he said. "I still feel OK. Probably when the night sets in, all that kind of stuff, but I feel good right now."

-- Georgia looked infinitely better against Tennessee than it had against Alabama, and linebacker Rennie Curran attributed the strong on-field performance to the improved week of practice for the Bulldogs leading up to the game.

"I definitely feel like we had a definite improvement, not only in the game but in our practices," Curran said. "We started holding each other accountable for everything we did, just playing the scout team like we were playing an actual game, every session like it was game tempo. That was a big positive for our defense. Just communicating well, we were doing those things a lot better than we had in the past. Everybody being on the same page, everybody being positive. Those are things that were big for us."

-- In a strange series of events, Tennessee was flagged for holding on pass from Matthew Stafford to Mohamed Massaquoi in the end zone. The ball had been at the 6, and Georgia was moved up half the distance to the goal. The Dawgs weren't, however, issued a first down.

Their second attempt at a third-down conversion fell incomplete, and the Dawgs settled for a Blair Walsh field goal. Richt said he took responsibility for not arguing for the first down.

"Holding is not an automatic first down," Richt said. "If you hold an eligible receiver, it is. All I can say is this -- if I was on the ball, I could have ran out on the field and asked the right question at the right time. I wasn't certain on the rule, so I just sat there and watched it. This week, I'll read my (rule)book a little bit better."

-- Matthew Stafford had two ugly interceptions, but he also finished with his first career 300-yard game.

"It wouldn't have meant nothing if we had gotten the win, but we got the win and 300 is definitely nice," Stafford said.

Stafford's 25 completions were also a career high.

-- Kicker Blair Walsh was money in the bank Saturday, booting four field goals in the game. He also had a strong day on kickoffs, pinning Tennessee inside its own 25 on five of seven kicks. His success, however, came as a bit of a surprise to Richt.

"People don't know, but he was very, very sick this morning," Richt said of Walsh. "He had a migraine going on, he was nauseous. We had to take him out of the hotel and bring him to the health center, put some IV bags in him and give him some medication for the migraine. But he came through. He kicked off good, too. Probably his best game kicking off."

Walsh is now 10-of-12 on field goals this season, with both of his misses coming from beyond 50.

-- Tennessee's 1 yard rushing marked the lowest tally by an SEC opponent in the Mark Richt era at Georgia and the second lowest by any opponent (Hawaii had minus-5 in last year's Sugar Bowl).

-- Georgia's 97-yard drive in the second quarter was its third of 90 or more this season.

-- Aron White earned the first start of his career, and Figgins said he did a fine job.

"Aron played real good," Figgins said. "He's been going two weeks strong practicing real well and it just transferred to the game today. He had a real complete game today."

None of Georgia's tight ends were targeted for receptions in the game.

-- Massaquoi had 5 catches for 103 yards -- his second career 100-yard day and the 27th straight game in which he has caught a pass.

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