Mark Richt was the guest speaker at the Macon Touchdown Club meeting tonight. He did some radio with Bill Shanks (although he was totally upstaged by the wisdom and insight offered by a certain Bulldogs beat writer who was on before him) and only had a few minutes to meet with us lowly print folks before being whisked away to chat up fans.
I had to share the stage with one other reporter, so all these questions aren't mine, but here's the complete transcript of the interview we did with him. (SIDE NOTE: I have no idea what the phrase "sack up your bats" means, so feel free to interpret it however you would like.)
CMR: This time of year, you're tired. You're tired physically. You're tired emotionally – especially after these last two games. It's been a lot of tension and excitement toward the end of those ballgames, and to come out of there with victories is outstanding, but even so it can take a toll on you. But I'm doing pretty good actually, considering.
Q: Between the off-field stuff, the preseason hype, the injuries, all those things -- has this been the toughest season of your career?
CMR: It's been a long year, I'll say that.
Q: With all the ups and downs though, this year has to have taken a lot out of you.
CMR: They're all pretty emotional, pretty draining. You put your heart and soul into it, and when you win, it's exciting and emotional, and when you lose, it's horrible and it's still emotional. Everybody is putting a lot of time in it, a lot of effort and a lot of heart, so they all wear you out. I don't think there's a coach in America that isn't worn out when it's over – win or lose.
Q: What about all the fan reaction to the past few games? Has it been hard for you to hear some of the criticism?
CMR: The thing that is interesting to me is that everybody wants to – I think people are missing the fact that we've won nine games so far. We're 9-2. We lost to a No. 1 and the No. 3 in America. That's not too shabby. It's not perfection by any means, but I'm proud of this team. I'm proud of how they've battled and fought. The coaches, too. We've had some games where we certainly didn't finish the way we wanted to or play the way we wanted to, but it's like life. You get some disappointments and you could certainly just sack your bats and go home, or you can get back up and fight. We've gone that, and there's a lot to be said for that.
Q: How different do you think people would view this year if you had started the year ranked No. 24 instead of No. 1?
CMR: They'd be doing cartwheels right now.
Q: With the Georgia Tech game still looming, how important is this bye week?
CMR: It gives us more time to prepare and think it through a little bit. It gives us more time to rest and get strong, I hope. We'll hopefully be refreshed by the time we play. We're going to have to play fast and play physical and play smart.
Q: Have you figured out your scout team for Tech yet? Will you have Baccari Rambo leading the offense again?
CMR: Probably, Baccari. He does a nice job. I've enjoyed watching that kid. He's got some very good quarterback skills, there's no doubt about that.
Q: How helpful do you think all this scout team work on offense will be for Baccari next year?
CMR: I think it will help him. I think any kid who really understands offensive football who plays defense has an advantage. It's like a coach. Some coaches grow up on one side of the ball or the other, but if a guy early in his career – let's say he's a grad assistant on the defensive side of the ball, but ends up being an offensive coach later on – that information is invaluable.
Q: Looking back on this season now, are you disappointed with things? Are the players?
CMR: Our guys, we deal with reality. If we win, it's a job well done. If we lose, we're all disappointed. But the thing about us is, we've got to move forward immediately. When that game's over, you can't sit there and feel sorry for yourself. You've got to dust yourself off, get the new plan and go fight, get to the next battle. We're still in the heat of the battle right now. It's not like we've got a bunch of time to reflect right now. We've got to be ready to play Georgia Tech right now, and when the season's over, maybe we'll reflect on it.