Lots of good stuff from this week just didn't find it into the nearly 15,000 words of text I wrote, so here's what you missed out on...
Mark Richt on emotions heading into the game: "I can't imagine them not being emotionally ready to play. They're going to be, and we are, too. There are some games where coaches have to talk more about will the team be mentally ready to play, will they be excited enough, will there be enough energy and adrenaline. This isn't a game that falls into that category. I doubt that Coach Meyer is worried about if his players are going to be jacked up or not, and I'm not worried about ours."
Richt on how well Florida is playing: "Florida's definitely peaking. I hope they have peaked already. I hope they can't get better than they have been. We seem to be getting better, that is not all that rare, especially with the youth we have. They are playing with a young team, too. They don't have one senior on defense. I can see they have made tremendous strides from last year to this year. Their offense is more of a veteran group. I don't know if anybody has really slowed them down other than they slowed themselves down in the Ole Miss game with a couple of fumbles."
Richt on all the players who have filled in for injured starters: "I am thankful we got these guys here and that they did step up. We really don't complain much about injuries We really try not to feel sorry for ourselves even though there have been a few times in private staff meetings that we were hanging our head, last week in particular. Trying to figure out how in the world are we were getting things prepared and who is going to be able to show up and who do we practice. It can be a bit of a downer. The game is over and you do see guys like that, it just makes you feel good that you recruited well enough to have guys that can step in and do well."
Richt on Corvey Irvin filling in for Jeff Owens: "Jeffrey certainly is a great player and a great leader for us, it is hard to lead when you injured. It is very difficult, although you can, it is not quite the same. You can't be in the middle of the game and rally the troops unless you are out there. Corvey has done a good job of that. It is Corvey's personality just as it is Jeff's personality to be a little bit more outgoing and the kind of guy that feels comfortable to verbalize that leadership. There are a lot of guys that lead without having to say much, they just do it by their actions, their work ethic. Corvey is the one that has the work ethic, the productivity out there that guys respect, but he also has the repore to say, 'Let's go,' and guys respond to him."
Richt on the offensive line: "We are on the fourth left tackle. Told me in preseason we would be 7-1 and with our fourth left tackle I never would have dreamed that be true. Clint Boling is very capable, I don't think that was his first choice as far as the position he wanted to play, but he realized he is the best candidate for it at this point. Thankfully Cordy Glenn showed up big enough, strong enough and talented enough to get the job done. Ben Jones was here this summer and spring, that helped him a lot. You got Bean out there are right tackle in his first season for Georgia, so there is a lot of youth and inexperience and a lot of guys that don't even know they aren't supposed to play good I guess. Maybe that is good for us right now. Chris Davis has definitely been the leader of that group. Of all those guys he is the one that is banged up the most."
Richt on defending Florida's speed: "If you try to defend a long bomb, a guy that is capable of running past you, you just have to be very good technique wise, especially if you are going to get up there and try to jam a guy, if you don't get your hands on him it is a footrace and you lose. Not saying we don't have fast guys because we do, we have guys that can run too but if a receiver gets off clean it is not good. Of course the coaching decision is 3-deep, way-deep coverages. You can give your guys a chance not to get beat deep. You get too soft in your coverages they throw it short. That guy that is quick enough to make people miss out there in space, he makes a couple guys miss and takes it to the house. They do create a lot of problems."
Richt on whether recruiting will be done in Jacksonville: "I'm sure recruits will be there, but not as our guests. I think at one time it had been discussed can the home team count that as recruiting time. But we're certainly not entertaining recruits this week. My guess is both teams it would be tough to entertain in a city that's not your place. Your campus is not there. I don't know what you would even do with the guys. You couldn't really meet them at your hotel room before you got to the game. It would be such a limited situation, I don't know if either one of us would even be interested in making it work because it would be more problematic than anything else, plus it would take away from the focus of the game."
Richt on neither team having a bye heading into the game: "If you look at the history of that you would say that the bye week has possibly had some type of factor. But because neither team has a bye week and the fact that I can't imagine anybody not preparing for who's right in front of them, I think it makes it more equal as far as prep time and that kind of thing."
Brannan Southerland on getting too fired up for the game: "There could be. You can definitely get too fired up. We had the day off yesterday and that was nice to kind of relax and look at everything. But you do have to guard a little bit against it, but I think the coaches and the older players are doing a good job to keep everyone focused on Saturday. That's the game. We've got to practice and prepare and everything, but stay calm, stay collected until Saturday."
Southerland on how well Georgia's offense is playing: "We're really starting to see it's kind of like last year. Our offense, everyone got experience, everyone was confident and playing great. Right now, you've got a lot of different people catching the ball, you've got a lot of different people blocking, receivers blocking, different tailbacks getting the ball we're really spreading the ball around and I think that's really having a great effect on the team, and defenses just don't know who to guard because everyone's touching the ball."
Southerland on how well Matthew Stafford is playing: "You compare him two years ago as a true freshman to now, and it's night and day. He was a great quarterback when he was a true freshman, but you're going to make mistakes. But really, especially the last couple games, he's been playing great football. Mistakes he might have made a year or two ago, he's not throwing certain balls or throws them away. He's just playing real smart, making the right reads and being a great leader out there getting all the young guys collected and focused."
Southerland on the fan excitement for this game: "I think just with both teams with only one loss and both teams wanting to get to Atlanta, both are playing great and have all their fan support behind them, everyone's going to be excited on both sides. Our fans are going to be giving it to their players, and their fans are going to be saying stuff to us."
Knowshon Moreno on whether this year's offense is better than last year's: "I think we can definitely get better. All of us know that and believe that, so I don't think we're where we were at the end of last year."
Fred Munzenmaier on the three-fullback offense that resulted in his touchdown run last week: "That was definitely a first but it was exciting because Brannan, Shaun and I are all really close friends and Shaun and I have learned almost everything we know from Brannan, so it was definitely a great experience to all get to be out there together. Luckily I got to carry the ball, but I would have blocked for either one of those two."
Rennie Curran on Dannell Ellerbe's status: "If he's ready to go, they're going to give him the opportunity, but at the end of the day, I feel like coaches are going to do a good job of mixing him and Darryl and giving them the opportunity to help our defense out."
Curran on the importance of fundamentals: "It puts that much more emphasis on you to just have great alignment and take great angles to the ball. They can be fast, but if you take good angles it takes away some of their speed. Where you're aligned at, you can kind of cheat over if you know where they like to run the ball and that gives you an advantage on their speed."
Curran on his hit on LSU's Terrane Toliver last week: "I love hits like those. I didn't even know I made him helicopter until I watched the film and I'm like, 'Geeze.' But as a linebacker, you love those hits. Those are the kind of hits you play the game for."
Curran on Corvey Irvin's play this year: "He's done an awesome job stepping up and embracing that role. At first when he got here he was pretty quiet just trying to find his way trying to get into the system. Now he's a lot more comfortable. He's taken control of those young guys like DeAngelo and all them, just being more vocal, getting us fired up and the whole accountability thing, he's one of the guys who will get after you if you're not holding your weight. He's made just a complete turnaround in his attitude and his leadership. It's taken a chance within one year so fast."
Baccari Rambo on how impressed he has been by his cousin, Darryl Gamble: "I'm proud of my cousin DG. He came from a small town of Bainbridge, Ga. It was like 20 minutes away from my small town of Donalsonville. I'm just glad to see someone out of the ghetto make it and have a good game and play like this in college."
Blair Walsh on hearing comments about being a Florida native playing for Georgia: "A couple text messages, phone calls, the usual. I try not to respond to them though. I've got a lot of people pulling for Florida, and then I've got a couple people who don't go there pulling for Georgia because I go there."
Kris Durham on getting back into action after missing two games: "It was hard watching, but the other guys did a great job with Vanderbilt and Tennessee while I was out, and I was just glad to get back out there and get a couple plays under my belt."
Durham on Georgia spreading the ball around more: "It's just part of Matthew's reads. Each week we go in, we don't know who's going to get the majority of the balls. It's not really designated, it's just based off of whoever's playing and he gets it to the open guy. It's not really game planned, it just kind of happens that way."
CJ Byrd on Florida having more weapons this year: "You've just got to play them a little different. You've got to know who they're trying to get the ball to, when they're going to run Tebow, when they're not. You've just got to know their game. All those great weapons they have on offense, it's hard to put your finger on one, and it makes it that much harder. But we know they can change the game plan at any time, so we've just got to play our best."
Byrd on the play of Reshad Jones: "I think he's stepping up being the great player he always could be. He's getting confident and consistent, and coaches are loving that. He's got a great future ahead of him and if he keeps his head on, he's going to be fine. He has all the qualities. He can hit, he can run, he can catch. He's on his way."
Darryl Gamble on Florida not using Tebow as a runner as often: "Teams haven't really stopped the other guys, so why stop giving the ball to the other guys and try to hurt your quarterback even more? He still has to throw the ball, too. I think what they're doing is good, trying to take the running off of Tebow and give it to the other speedy guys. But he still gets his carries when they need it in short yardage."
Gamble on his role this year vs. the last time Georgia played Florida: "The roles have turned a whole 180. I always looked at the game doing assignments on the kicking teams, so I guess this year I can start thinking about a little more than how I'm going to block a guy on the kickoff team."
Gamble on his explanation of what he meant about Georgia's seniors having a surprise in store for the game: "It was more of a misprint because the guys were asking me about last year, and I said the seniors had something planned, and there was a guy that walked by and I guess he thought I was talking about this game. I was talking about last year's game. I don't think we'll have anything like that this year. It was just a booster to help us try to win that game. This year we're just going to go out and play ball."
Clint Boling on Georgia having so many injuries this season but still being 7-1: "I don't know what I would have thought about being the fourth left tackle, I probably would have been a little nervous about that, but I think 7-1 is about where I thought we'd be. I've never been on a team where we've had this many injuries, but when somebody goes down, we've had somebody step up for each position, especially on the O line. I think we're all still close, and when somebody goes down, it kind of helps bring everybody else together."
Kelin Johnson on Reshad Jones: "Reshad is coming on strong. It's the middle of the season, and I think he's starting to become the player Coach Martinez always dreamed and wanted him to be. He started off rough a little bit when he came in as a freshman, but he's learning how to finish, learning how to become that player that Greg Blue and Thomas Davis and Tra Battle and Sean Jones once were, making plays when we want you to make plays. He always made plays, but he's starting to make those plays when it's needed."
Willie Martinez on Reshad Jones: "At safety, it's like a quarterback. You've got to make all the calls, know the whole defense, and I think he understands it now, so he's feeling a lot more comfortable. He's just very confident in our defense, and if you know what to do, now you're just playing. I think he was doing a lot more thinking before, which is understandable, and it's tough for a young player to play at safety. But he's really picking it up, and now he's seeing things and just reacting he's getting himself in more playmaking because he has great anticipation."
Rodney Garner on the role of the DTs this week: "We've got to make it a physical contest. It's different than the game we played last week where they were more intent on being downhill, they're going to bring the fight to you. You've got to come out and create a new line of scrimmage at the point of attack."
Friday, October 31, 2008
Lots of good stuff from this week just didn't find it into the nearly 15,000 words of text I wrote, so here's what you missed out on...
Happy Halloween, folks. I'm about to head out in search of my Rennie Curran costume, but I'll probably give up easily and go out as an underpaid sports writer again.
While you're putting your costumes together, here's a few tricks and treats for your reading pleasure...
-- I have two stories in today's Telegraph and Ledger-Enquirer. The first is on defensive tackle Corvey Irvin, who has changed his outlook since taking over for injured starter Jeff Owens. The second is on freshman Baccari Rambo, who found his niche this week as Tim Tebow.
-- The Gainesville Sun has a story on the party in Jacksonville and what UF officials are doing to protect students.
-- The AJC's Jeff Schultz comes to the same conclusion I did in my 10 Questions blog yesterday: A Georgia win could make Urban Meyer's head explode.
-- Thomas Stinson says Georgia's offense will be Florida's biggest test to date.
-- Chip Towers has a new feature in his blog in which he chats with a reporter who covers Georgia's opponent for the week.
-- The Albany Herald's Paul Dehner offers some Knowshon Moreno YouTube clips, including highlights from last year's Florida game.
-- Swamp Things compares Tim Tebow and Matthew Stafford. It's hard for Stafford to win this competition since he has never circumcised a baby or traveled back in time to prevent the Kennedy assasination. Oh, wait, Tebow hasn't done that either... yet.
-- I got a lot of great feedback from folks about the story I did on former Georgia defensive end Michael Lemon last month, but his younger brother still plays high school ball in Macon. Our Jonathan Heeter has a nice piece on Marquez Lemon in today's paper.
-- I'm sure you're all sick of me yabbering on about the Phillies at this point, but I wanted to tip you off to this really nice column by ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski on Charlie Manuel. It'll definitely make you want to call your mom when you're done reading it.
By the way, a bunch of my friends are at the Phillies victory parade today. I'm so jealous.
-- In sad news, the lady at the diner in "When Harry Met Sally" (you know, "I'll have what she's having") has died. She was also Rob Reiner's mother.
-- Regardless of your political leanings, I think we can all agree this is terrible. I can only imagine this interview will go a little something like this:
Berman: Welcome to the fastest three minutes in sports, I'm Chris Berman and I lost 30 pounds on Nutri System. Our special guests tonight, the two candidates for president, John McCain in the Membrane and I Wanna Barrack All Night Obama. Hello boys.
Berman (while waving his hands around and speaking in a. one. word. per. sentence. manner.): So you two have been rumblin, bumblin, stumbin around the country for two years now, which reminds me a lot of when I went golfing at Torrey Pines last month and it seemed to take forever to get to 18. I think we have some video. Roll that clip!
McCain: Who are you?
Obama: Man, I thought that interview with Hannity went poorly.
Berman: So Sen. McCain, your tax plan blah blah blah blah haven't had that spirit here since 1969.
McCain: Was that lyrics from Hotel California? My tax plan is nothing like that.
Berman: And Sen. Obama, from what I understand, you want to give money back, back, back, back, back to the middle class.
Obama: Why do I feel like me talking to you will be considered a bad association from my past when I run again in four years?
Berman: I'm hot blooded, check it and see, I got a fever of 103.
McCain: What the hell are you talking about?
Berman: Have you met Tom Jackson?
Obama: Is that the guy giggling uncontrollably in the corner?
Berman: Now, Sen. Obama, what's all this I've been hearing about Bill Ayers Supply and Reverend Jeremiah If It's Wrong I don't Wanna Be Wright?
Obama: They really couldn't get Bob Ley to do this interview?
Berman: Wanna see more highlights of me golfing or stading in front of a statue of myself in Buffalo or playing catch with Steve Young when he was a Tampa Bay Buc in 1986?
McCain: Someone is getting fired for telling me to do this interview.
Obama: I've lost all hope.
Can we please circulate a petition to prevent this interview from happening? Maybe get Berman canned. I mean, getting Berman off ESPN -- now, THAT is change we can believe in.Seriously though, don't forget today is the last day of early voting. If you go, might wanna bring a coat, some hot chocolate and a good book. You could be there a while.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
From UGA Athletics:
Former University of Georgia stars Gene Washington and Eric Zeier will be inducted in to the Georgia-Florida Hall of Fame Friday in Jacksonville.
In recognition of the nation's premier collegiate rivalry, the Jacksonville Sports and Entertainment Board created the Georgia-Florida Hall of Fame in 1996 to acknowledge the many great records, performances, career highlights and outstanding memories that have made the Georgia-Florida game one of college football's great traditions. Since Jacksonville became home for the annual Georgia-Florida game in 1933, the tradition and competition have grown between these two programs.
Since 1996, the Hall of Fame has added outstanding individuals from both schools for their roles in making the Georgia-Florida Football Classic the storied match that it is today. The Georgia-Florida Hall of Fame Class of 2008 consists of two former Bulldogs and two former Gators:
Gene Washington, University of Georgia
Gene Washington played for UGA from 1973-1976. He is well known for scoring on an 80-yard pass from tight end Richard Appleby during the final minutes of the 1975 game versus Florida to lead the Bulldogs to a 10-7 victory. Washington's record against Florida was 3-1. He was a part of Georgia's 1976 SEC Championship team that went 10-2. He was a ninth round pick of the San Diego Chargers in 1977.
Eric Zeier, University of Georgia
When his collegiate career ended in 1994, All-American Eric Zeier was only the third quarterback in NCAA Division I history to have thrown for more than 11,000 yards, and he held the SEC record with 11,153. In the 1993 Florida game, he was 36-for-65 for 386 yards but the Bulldog comeback fell short 33-26. Overall, he threw for 1,077 yards in four games against the Gators. He was a third round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 1995.
Willie Jackson Jr., University of Florida
Willie Jackson, Jr. was a third round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 1994. Jackson became only the second player in UF history to have 50 or more catches and 700 yards in receiving in two consecutive seasons. Jackson was 4-0 versus Georgia from 1990-93. He led or tied the lead for receptions in each game he played against Georgia during his career with the Gators.
Fred Taylor, University of Florida
Fred Taylor was a member of the Gators 1996 national championship team and was the Jacksonville Jaguars first round draft selection in 1998. He tied a school record in 1997 when he joined Emmitt Smith as the only running backs in UF history to open a season with five straight 100-yard rushing games.
Current Georgia-Florida Hall of Fame Members (Year Inducted)
University of Georgia
Richard Appleby (1999), Buck Belue (1996), Charley Britt (2001), Kevin Butler (2003), Wally Butts (1998), Mike Cavan (2000), Vince Dooley (1996), Robert Edwards (2001), Bob Etter (2002), Ray Goff (2002), Cy Grant (2005), Rodney Hampton (2006), Terry Hoage (1997), Dan Magill (2007), Kevin McLee (2005), Larry Munson (2004), George Patton (2003), John Rauch (2000), Matt Robinson (1999), Erk Russell (2004), Jake Scott (1998), Lindsay Scott (1997), Frank Sinkwich (1996), Bill Stanfill (1998), Tommy Thurson (1998), Charlie Trippi (1998), Herschel Walker (1996), Tim Worley (2007).
University of Florida
Reidel Anthony (2004), Carlos Alvarez (1999), Kerwin Bell (1996), Howell Boney (2000), Joe Brodsky (2000), Norm Carlson (2002), Rick Casares (1998), Wes Chandler (2004), Chris Doering (2001), Jimmy Dunn (1999), Larry Dupree (1998), Jeremy Foley (2005), Don Gaffney (2005), Ray Graves (1996), Galen Hall (2007), Ike Hilliard (2006), Charles Hunsinger (1998), Doug Johnson (2007), Charles LaPradd (1998), Buford Long (2003), Shane Matthews (1996), Lee McGriff(2006), Ricky Nattiel (2002), John Reaves (2001), Errict Rhett (2003), Steve Spurrier (1996), Richard Trapp (1998), Danny Wuerffel (1997), Jack Youngblood (1997).
Coming off the practice field Wednesday, defensive ends coach Jon Fabris stopped freshman Baccari Rambo to tell him he thought the defensive back would make a great quarterback.
Fabris and the rest of the Bulldogs got a great taste of what Rambo could do under center this week as the freshman from Seminole County played the role of Tim Tebow on Georgia's scout team.
"He's a great guy, and I think that I best fit him," Rambo said of Tebow. "I can't throw like him, but I can run like him."
Rambo, who is redshirting this season, played quarterback in high school and filled in as Vanderbilt's Chris Nickson in Georgia's preparation for its game against the Commodores three weeks ago. Coaches were so impressed by his play, they immediately tagged him as the Bulldogs' Tebow clone.
"Rambo's been doing a pretty good job," defensive tackle Corvey Irvin said. "He's not as big as Tebow is, but he might as fast as Tebow and he's giving us a good look."
The extra work on offense has actually been a good thing for Rambo's future as a defensive back, too, he said.
Spending so much time studying some of the SEC's top offensive stars in order to mimic them on the practice field has given him a new perspective on how to handle his job on the other side of the ball.
"I'm starting to learn to a lot about defense by playing offense on the scout team," Rambo said. "Last week I played (LSU wide receiver) Brandon LaFell, and I was (learning) the defense real good and quicker."
Fellow true freshman Carlton Thomas has played the role of Percy Harvin this week, and the two have made the most of their opportunity to contribute, Irvin said.
It wasn't exactly how Rambo had hoped he would be helping the team win games this season, but he said if he is forced to be on the sideline on game day, he's happy to be making some important plays during the week.
"I really wanted to play this year, but I feel like I got redshirted because the coaches felt like that was what was best for me," he said. "I'll do whatever to help the team, go out and bust my tail on scout team, whatever."
Head coach Mark Richt said players have been cheering Rambo's performance in practice this week, even starting a "Rambo for Heisman" chant.
One player who has used the opportunity more for teasing than for praise, however, has been Rambo's cousin linebacker Darryl Gamble.
"I'll be out there on the field, and he'll just be teasing me and stuff saying, 'Come on, man, be like Tebow. Don't be like Rambo,' " Rambo said.
It's all in good fun for the cousins who, having grown up just miles from the Georgia-Florida state line, both have a special appreciation of this week's rivalry game.
Despite Rambo's new group of fans and rousing success at quarterback, however, he said his plans still include playing defense. After all, he doesn't think he's quite ready take over for the incumbent at his new position.
"No, (Matthew) Stafford is a good quarterback, man," Rambo said. "I can't beat out Stafford.
-- This week's game against Florida marks a special anniversary for Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno. Last year's showdown with the Gators was the moment for many fans when he stopped being the Bulldogs' redshirt freshman tailback and became the next Herschel Walker.
With seniors Thomas Brown and Kregg Lumpkin out with injuries, Moreno carried the load in Georgia's win over Florida a season ago, running the ball 33 times for a career-high 188 yards. On the Bulldogs' infamous opening drive, he was the runner on eight of the nine plays, including a 1-yard touchdown run that preceded Georgia's on-field celebration.
"That really was when everyone around the nation was like, 'Hey, Knowshon Moreno,' " fullback Brannan Southerland said. "He really was our only true tailback we had going into that game, and I think he showed not only Georgia nation but around the country that he could take the load, 30-something carries and the hits and everything. He had a breakout game last year, and we hope he'll have another one this year."
Heading into this year's matchup with the Gators, Moreno is just hitting his stride. In his past two games, he has run for a combined 335 yards and scored twice.
It's no surprise to Richt that Moreno has improved as the season has progressed, and he said even better games could be in store for the running back.
"I think he worked himself into better condition," Richt said. "He had a good offseason, but he really didn't get the work in camp like we're used to him getting. He banged up his knee, we were very careful with how much we were using him, and he just didn't get the reps in camp that he probably needed to hit the ground running."
-- Richt said he expects injured starters Dannell Ellerbe and Tripp Chandler to travel with the team and be ready to play Saturday against Florida.
"We expect Tripp to go, we expect Ellerbe to go," Richt said. "They've been practicing and there's no setbacks."
Bruce Figgins has started the past three games in place of Chandler at tight end, but he has a shoulder injury of his own and has not caught a pass yet this season.
Ellerbe's replacement, however, has been a star for the Georgia defense. Gamble made 13 tackles last week against LSU and returned two interceptions for touchdowns. Between Gamble's strong play and Ellerbe's injured knee, Richt said he expects there to be a rotation at Mike linebacker.
"The limitation would be the number of plays more than how we use (Ellerbe)," Richt said. "We'll use him the way we've always used him, but will it be the same amount of plays? Probably not because he's coming off the injury and because Darryl has done such a fine job, too."
-- Ever since Gamble was quoted saying Georgia's seniors had something special planned for the Florida game, fans have been abuzz over just what the surprise might be. Georgia's seniors and even Gamble, however, have denied there are any big plans.
Richt was asked Thursday if perhaps another Georgia blackout had been discussed, and he didn't exactly deny it.
"When you get a bunch of seniors in the room back in the fall, all kinds of things got discuss, I'll just say that," Richt said.
That caused another reporter to push a bit harder by asking directly what color uniforms Georgia planned to wear.
"We're going to wear red," Richt said.
But did that mean just red jerseys or red pants, too? Richt was coy with his response with a sly grin painted across his face.
"We're going to wear red," he said, adding he wanted to add the uniforms to his "no comment" list this week. "Put that in the celebration category."
-- Offensive line coach Stacy Searels doesn't spend much time with Georgia's linebackers, but that doesn't mean Rennie Curran doesn't have some fans in the Searels family.
Curran was informed this week by Searels' daughter that she would be dressing up like him for Halloween this year.
"It tripped me out a little when she told me that," Curran said.
Of course, family members of the coaching staff aren't the only ones who might want to don a Curran costume this year, and the sophomore linebacker said he had heard rumors the outfit was a hot seller.
"Apparently they're selling them at one of the sporting goods stores around here," he said.
-- Richt was asked if he agreed with pundits who thought 100 points could be scored in this week's Georgia-Florida game, and his answer was pretty revealing.
"Just one team," he said, "or both?"
Some food for thought heading into the biggest game of the year for the Bulldogs...
1.) Does Tim Tebow take a big hit?
LSU's Ricky Jean-Francois said before the Tigers' matchup with Florida that it was hit goal to get a nice hit on Mr. Tebow to remind him who the reigning national champs were. Then Jean-Francois got hurt, didn't play, and Florida rolled. Not that it probably would have made much difference anyway.
While I have no doubt that any number of Georgia defenders would like to bury Tebow if they get the chance, the real question is whether that opportunity will arise. After running the ball 210 times last year, Tebow has carried just 82 times this season. Florida has more playmakers than it had in the past and hasn't relied as much on putting its QB into harm's way. If Georgia manages to thwart the Gators' new-look offense for the first two quarters, however, you have to wonder if Coach Meyers gets a little frustrated and sends the greatest player of our era into the line of fire.
(NOTE: Before anyone calls me an idiot, I'm misspelling Urban Meyer's name on purpose. That's how Richt refers to him, so that's how I'm referring to him.)
2.) Will Georgia's O line take another step forward?
No one was thrilled to see Vince Vance go down with a season-ending knee injury in the first half against Tennessee, but the truth is, since his departure, the line has really come together.
Clint Boling doesn't particularly like playing left tackle, but he's doing a heck of a job with it. Justin Anderson made a bone-headed play getting flagged for a personal foul in the second half against LSU last week that put Georgia in a first-and-25 deep in their own territory, but beyond that, he has played about as well as you could expect a redshirt freshman to handle the position. Ben Jones has been strong and Cordy Glenn has shown marked improvement since the South Carolina game. And then there's Chris Davis, who despite a painful hip injury that has had him hobbling off the field after each game, has managed to be both a successful blocker and a leader on the line.
"Chris Davis has definitively been the leaeder of that group," Mark Richt said. "And of all those guys, he is the one that is banged up the most."
Despite the youth and injuries, Georgia's line has been playing like old pros. They've allowed just one sack in the past three games -- and that was a coverage sack in which Matthew Stafford simply couldn't get outside the pocket in time to avoid the rush. Meanwhile, Knowshon Moreno has topped 100 yards in each of his past three games, including a 172 against Vandy and 163 against LSU.
"I think we finally got a line we're able to stick with," Boling said. "Nobody's switching positions as much, which is one thing, and that's helping us all out. We're getting used to playing with each other."
Florida has 16 sacks this season, led by Carlos Dunlap's four, and is third in the SEC in rushing defense, allowing just a shade over 100 yards per game on the ground. The Gators are likely to test Georgia's offensive line early, but Richt thinks the group is up to the task.
"There is a lot of youth and inexperience and a lot of guys that don't even know they aren't supposed to play good, I guess," Richt said. "Maybe that is good for us right now."
3.) How much will Knowshon run?
On Georgia's infamous first drive against Florida last year, the Bulldogs started out with nine straight running plays -- eight by Knowshon, who finished the drive with a 1-yard TD run. Moreno went on to carry the ball 33 times in the game for 188 yards -- a career high. But that was last year.
This season, Mike Bobo has seemed much more enthusiastic about going to the pass, particularly early in the game, to try to loosen things up for Georgia's ground attack. The Bulldogs have thrown on the first play of the game in four of their past five games -- the lone exception coming last week against LSU when Stafford went for the home-run pass to Mohamed Massaquoi on second down instead. Bobo and Stafford have shown a propensity to go for quick strikes early and often, and given Florida's questionable secondary, that's probably not a bad idea.
Still, the best weapon the Bulldogs may have in stopping Florida's powerful offense is keeping it off the field, and the way to do that is to sustain long drives behind Knowshon. The problem with that plan, however, is that while Knowshon's final numbers have been great the past few weeks, his runs have been more of a combination of 2- and 3-yard carries mixed with 20- and 30-yard hauls. To sustain long drives, Georgia's going to need Knowshon to pick up a bunch of 5-yard chunks at a time rather than running into a wall time and time again before breaking the long one. In his past three games, Moreno has ran the ball 71 times. On 35 of those runs, he has picked up 3 yards or fewer. On 18, he has picked up 10 yards or more. That's the same number of runs (18) he has had that gained between 4 and 9 yards. Of those mid-range runs, too, the vast majority have been at 4 or 5 yards and none have been longer than six.
I'm not complaining about the work Moreno has done the past three weeks, just saying that those mid-range runs are what keep drives going. The others either put you in second- or third-and-long or set you up for quick scores. Georgia will happily take the scores, but if the object is to dominate time of possession, Moreno hasn't shown a propensity for doing it the past few weeks.
4.) Can Brian Mimbs save the day?
Forget Tim Tebow. The scariest player Florida might have is actually Brandon James. He's one of three players in the country to return two punts for touchdowns and is a danger to take one to the house every time he touches the ball. Florida is fifth in the country in punt return average, picking up 20.2 yards per return this season. Meanwhile, freshman Jeff Demps blocked a punt last week against Kentucky, and the Gators are a threat to do it again this week against Georgia.
So how does Georgia handle Florida's dynamic punt-return game?
"There's two ways," Richt said. "You either kick it away or you kick high. If it's high enough to cover and keep it in play or you kick it out of play and hope you didn't shank it and you got it off. When he's in the pocket, the safest place to be is in the middle of the pocket. If he starts turning (left) or (right) to kick, he's basically stepping into a place that's not quite as safe. It also takes a little bit more time to turn and angle kick which is also a protection issue. You also have a chance of shanking. But we practice it. And when you put it in play, you give a great player a chance to return it for a touchdown. There's really not an easy answer."
It's going to be up to Mimbs -- who averaged more than 50 yards per punt last week -- to have another great game and shut down one of Florida's best weapons. Well, that or the offense could simply play so well that Georgia doesn't need to punt. Yeah, that'd work, too.
5.) Can Georgia match Florida's speed?
This year's Florida offense is chock full of speed, and the Gators are as happy to burn you with yards after the catch over the middle as they are going deep. It's not a vertical attack -- it's an offense that thrives on getting into space and making you miss, and few are better at it than Percy Harvin and Chris Rainey.
Guess what Georgia's biggest problem was last week against LSU? Allowing receivers to get into open space then badly missing tackles.
Sound like a recipe for disaster?
Well, maybe. But at the same time, last week's game also served as a good eye opener, and the Bulldogs know exactly what they're in for this week.
"It puts that much more emphasis on you to just have great alignment and take great angles to the ball," linebacker Rennie Curran said. "They can be fast, but if you take good angles it takes away some of their speed. Where you're aligned at, you can kind of cheat over if you know where they like to run the ball and that gives you an advantage on their speed."
The other key for Georgia to eliminate Florida's speed advantage? Hit 'em, hit 'em again, and make them not want to get back up.
"As a defense you always want to go into the game especially like this just being the more physical team and setting the tempo from the beginning," Curran said. "We feel like if we can continue to hit them, it's going to slow them down."
6.) Can Matthew Stafford beat the aggressive Florida secondary?
Here's the good news for Florida's pass defense: They are tied for fourth in the SEC with 10 interceptions and are fifth in pass defense. Sounds lovely given that the secondary was supposed to be a weakness for the Gators.
But let's look closer. Here are the quarterbacks the Gators have faced so far and where their respective passing offenses rank nationally this season:
HAWAII - Greg Alexander (52)
MIAMI - Robert Marve (92)
TENN - Jonathan Crompton (98)
OLE MISS - Jevan Snead (60)
ARK - Casey Dick (45)
LSU - Jarrett Lee (41)
KENTUCKY - Randall Cobb/Mike Hartline (84)
That's right, LSU has the best passing attack of any offense Florida has played thus far. On average, Georgia has thrown for 26 more yards per game than the next best team Florida has played -- and that sort of undersells what the Bulldogs have done considering they also have Knowshon in the backfield and have been ahead in all but one game in the second half.
The Gators' interceptions, meanwhile, have come as a result of aggressive coverages -- something Stafford and company can exploit for big plays. The fact is, Florida hasn't seen anything like what Georgia can do through the air, and Stafford, Massaquoi and A.J. Green have been lighting up better secondaries than theirs all season.
7.) Who's playing middle linebacker?
Darryl Gamble had the game of his life last week against LSU, making 13 tackles, providing pressure on the quarterback and chipping in with an NCAA record two interception returns for touchdowns. But beyond the breakout performance last week, Gamble has been stellar in three games at middle linebacker in place of senior Dannell Ellerbe, and he is second on the team in tackles this season.
Still, Ellerbe was a preseason All-SEC selection and should be ready to return from a knee injury against Florida, which begs the question: Who should be playing?
Best guess is that Gamble will get the start and will handle all Sam LB duties in the game -- although there won't be many against Florida's spread. Even if Ellerbe is healthy enough to make the trip and play, he's not 100 percent, which means he shouldn't be on the field 100 percent of the time. Gamble will sub in at MLB early and often, and by game's end he'll probably have handled the Mike on about 70 percent of the snaps.
Or maybe 100. After all, Ellerbe was supposed to play last week and didn't end up making the trip.
8.) Can Shaun Chapas find the end zone?
This isn't a key to the game by any means -- although any score is a plus -- but now that both Brannan Southerland (who missed five games) and Fred Munzenmaier (who has two career carries) both have scored touchdowns, I think we need to include this question every week.
9.) Does Urban Meyers have a complete breakdown if Georgia wins again?
I think it's absurd to keep talking about the event-which-shall-no-longer-be-named, but it's clear that it is still fresh on the mind of Coach Meyers. Florida and Meyers have had this game circled on their calendars since last season ended, and it's fair to ask if all the hype might have the Gators off their game a little. A quick start is crucial for both teams -- but particularly for the Gators who need to prove they are focused on the task at hand and not what happened last year.
Of course, should Georgia pull out a second straight win over its rival -- and better yet, pull out a win with another galling celebratory display -- it will be even more fun to watch how Meyers handles it this time around. No doubt, he'll have a good excuse (Poor Tebow had a boo-boo on his arm that no one knew about?) and he'll hold a grudge (why does mean old Mark Richt pick on Urban so much?).
10.) What happens to the national title picture?
The good news for the winner of this game is -- barring a complete collapse of historical proportions -- you're playing in the SEC championship game.
The bad news is, that's still no lock for a shot at the national title.
Penn State and Alabama don't have too many more challenges, though this week's winner will likely get a crack at taking the Tide down in the SEC championship game. Then there's Texas and Texas Tech, who play each other this week. Neither have lost, and if Texas wins, there's a good chance the Horns will finish the season undefeated.
Then there's the list of the other one-lossers like Oklahoma and USC.
This game will have a lot of attention, and the winner -- particularly if it's a decisive win -- should have a nice claim for the No. 3 or No. 4 spot in the polls (depending on whether Texas wins or not). But looking around the SEC, there are only three teams -- these two and Alabama -- that have shown to be legitimate top-15 teams so far, so winning the conference at the end of the year might not be enough to waltz into the National Championship Game -- particularly if you need to make the case that you belong over an undefeated Penn State team. At the end of the day, it's hard for most voters to look beyond the record, even if Penn State hasn't played anyone. So if you have a tough case to make, you really need to take advantage of all the opportunities to pad your resume -- starting this week.
I never thought I'd be sad to be going to Jacksonville tomorrow, but I'd give just about anything to be in Philly for the victory parade. Alas, my streak of never attending one will continue, but I couldn't be happier for the city of Philadelphia, which definitely deserved something to celebrate. And if you ask me, the difference in this series was simple: Drinkability.
I'm not sure of the exact parade route right now, but I'm guessing they'll start at the art museum, get booed somewhere around Walnut Street just for fun, head up Broad and ring the Liberty Bell, then move down Passyunk where it's Pat's cheesesteaks for everyone. That'd be 1,000 times better than Boston's crappy parade last year.
In any case, there'll be plenty of celebrating around here, too, if Georgia pulls out a win Saturday. Here's a few links to whet your appetite...
-- First off, due to popular demand, I took down the Corvey Irvin post from yesterday. Never say I don't respond to reader feedback.
-- I've also got a story on Reshad Jones' coming out party the past two games.
-- The AJC's Chip Towers writes that Mark Richt isn't planning to change his special teams despite Florida's great return game.
-- I have no doubt you'll hear plenty of "What will Georgia do against Tim Tebow?" talk leading up to the game, but Bleacher Report asks an equally important question: Can Florida stop Matthew Stafford?
-- If Georgia lands this recruit, he will have already endeared himself to UGA fans before he ever plays a down.
-- Although most folks thought Jeff Owens would be back next year, he says he's not so sure. I thought this was pretty under-reported when his injury first happened. Richt was pretty decisive in saying Owens would be back, but Owens never really was.
-- The Miami Herald says momentum and motivation will decide this weekend's game. I can't think of two things less likely to decide the game. You know what will make a difference? Preparation, ability and execution.
-- ESPN's Chris Low says Jeffrey Demps won't be easy to stop this week.
-- Get the Picture lists the key issues facing Georgia this week. I'll have my rundown later today.
-- Watching ESPN right now, and Todd McShay has this to say: Matthew Stafford can't avoid pressure and forces passes. Um, has he watched Stafford play this year? I love what UGA's O line has done this year, but the reason they have only allowed nine sacks is because Stafford has been fantastic at avoiding pressure. Sometimes I wonder if these guys even watch the football games. Of course, they could have just checked out the nice spread on Stafford in the Banner-Herald.
-- The Jacksonville Times-Union says it will be a happy homecoming for Bryan Evans and Shaun Chapas.
-- The Ledger-Enquirer's Guerry Clegg takes a closer look at Urban Crier. BTW, Richt repeatedly called Urban "Coach Meyers" during his Tuesday press conference. I'd think this was a subtle jab aimed at the Florida coach if he hadn't spent the past four years praising "Brandon" Southerland, too.
-- Meanwhile, the Orlando Sentinel breaks down Mark Richt vs. Urban Meyers numbers-style.
-- Speaking of Philly's victory parade, they got started a litte early. And drunkenly. And a bit violently.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
It has been a long five weeks for Georgia tight end Tripp Chandler. The senior injured his shoulder Sept. 27 against Alabama and hasn't returned to action since.
With each passing game, he said he's scratched another opportunity to make a final impact for Georgia off the schedule, but this week's game means a little more than most.
"It's the last time I'll ever get to play against Florida," Chandler said. "It's definitely going to be a big game like it always is, but I think it adds a little bit more incentive to be a part of it when you know it's your last one."
Head coach Mark Richt said Wednesday that, barring a setback, Chandler would be on the trip to Jacksonville for the Bulldogs game against the Gators this Saturday, and Chandler said his shoulder is starting to feel better.
"Shoulder feels good, feels strong," Chandler said. "I'm just trying to work hard every day and get back into it. It's hard when you're out for a little while."
Like his fellow tight end Bruce Figgins, who is playing through a torn labrum in his shoulder, Chandler is wearing a harness to protect the shoulder while the injury heals. He said his movement still isn't 100 percent, but it is improving every day.
"It puts a little strain on a lot of different areas trying to catch a ball and put your hands up," Chandler said. "I'm just trying to get used to it now."
-- It was a big play at the time when LSU ran a fake punt last week that completely caught Georgia by surprise, but Richt isn't punishing his team for the mishap this week.
In fact, he's taking the blame himself.
"I should have had our defense on the field in that situation, playing a punt safe," Richt said. "It was fourth-and-4, the score as it was, almost mid-field. It was a perfect time to fake."
The fake worked for LSU, who picked up a first down and eventually scored on the drive, but Richt said the Tigers probably wouldn't have even run the play if he had been paying attention to the situation.
"Most people have a check and if you're in a certain look you'll run it, or if you're in a certain look you'll punt it," he said. "We should have had our defense in the game."
-- After the loss to Alabama, many Bulldogs admitted the team had lost focus before kickoff because of all the hype that surrounded the contest. It was a game between two top-10 teams, it was the "Blackout," Georgia had a shot at taking over the No. 1 ranking, "GameDay" was in Athens... it all added up to a lot of distractions.
Now on the verge of their next uber-hyped game, Rennie Curran said there's no chance of Georgia having a repeat performance. Those memories from the Alabama loss are still a bit too vivid.
"It's impossible to look at Alabama and what we came from and get caught up in the hype again," Curran said. "We really matured as a team since that experience and just the leadership has improved. We have no reason to get caught up in the hype. We just focus on getting in the film room and preparing for whatever they might throw at us and what could happen if we win this game."
-- Coming off a 52-point scoring barrage and three straight games with at least 425 yards of offense, it seems as though the Bulldogs are finally hitting their stride. The key to the success, fullback Brannan Southerland said, has been getting everyone involved.
"We're really starting to see it's kind of like last year," Southerland said. "Our offense, everyone got experience, everyone was confident and playing great. Right now, you've got a lot of different people catching the ball, you've got a lot of different people blocking, receivers blocking, different tailbacks getting the ball we're really spreading the ball around and I think that's really having a great effect on the team, and defenses just don't know who to guard because everyone's touching the ball."
-- Among the many offensive weapons hitting their stride for Georgia is tailback Knowshon Moreno, who has racked up 436 yards on the ground in his past three games.
While Moreno had some solid performances early in the year, Richt said there are to major reasons for his hot streak of late. The first is the improved play of the offensive line, he said. The second is that Moreno is finally in shape after spending nearly the entire preseason in a green non-contact jersey.
"He had a good offseason, but he really didn't get the work in camp like we're used to him getting," Richt said. "He banged up his knee, we were very careful with how much we were using him, and he just didn't get the reps in camp that he probably needed to hit the ground running."
-- And one last interesting observation from Willie Martinez on how you defend Florida:
"I look at Florida as an option offense. You defend the option, you've got to defend from the inside out. It starts with the tailback, it starts with the quarterback. They make a lot of plays on the outside, but a lot of their big plays have been inside off the zone read, the inside zone play so they'll be a big part of it."
So when we first launched the blog, it was always my intention to have a good bit of multimedia stuff. But I've intended to do a lot of things in my life I haven't followed through on. Sorry, mom.
Anyway, here's our first (and hopefully not last) installment in which Doug chats with Georgia defensive end Jeremy Lomax about this week's matchup with Florida.
From UGA Athletics:
Georgia's Asher Allen is one of 20 collegiate defensive players to earn a spot on the Lott Trophy quarterfinalist list, according to an announcement on Wednesday.
Allen, a 5-10, 190-pound junior from Tucker, is the Bulldogs' fourth-leading tackler with 32 stops, including 2.5 tackles for loss this season. Allen also leads Georgia with seven pass breakups and has recovered a fumble for the #8 Bulldogs (7-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference).
Named after Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, the Lott Trophy is awarded to college football's Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year. Now in its fifth year, The Lott equally recognizes athletic performance and the personal character attributes of the player.
Seven different conferences are represented on the list of 20 with the SEC leading the way with five candidates. There are nine linebackers on the list, seven defensive linemen and four defensive backs. While there are 10 seniors on the list, there are also nine juniors and one sophomore, the most underclassmen to be named Lott Trophy quarterfinalists.
Sponsored by The Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation, the Lott award is given to a player who exhibits the same characteristics Lott embodied during his distinguished career: Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity.
David Pollack of Georgia, DeMeco Ryans of Alabama, Dante Hughes of Cal and Glenn Dorsey of LSU were the winners of the first four Lott Trophies. Georgia, Alabama, Cal and LSU each received $25,000 for their general scholarship funds. In four years, the Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation has donated $450,000 to various charities, in addition to the universities.
Voters for the award include selected members of the national media, previous finalists, the Board of Directors of the Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation and Legends Coaches, a distinguished group of former head college coaches. The watch list will be trimmed to eight semifinalists on Nov. 11 and the four finalists, who will all be flown into California for the banquet, will be announced Nov. 26.
The winner will be announced at a gala black-tie banquet at The Pacific Club in Newport Beach Dec. 14. The keynote speaker will be long-time college football announcer Keith Jackson.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said injured linebacker Dannell Ellerbe fully participated in Tuesday's practice and should be able to play this week against Florida.
"The thing that was awesome was to see him out there going full speed," Martinez said. "He has definitely improved since the Alabama game, and he went all day (Tuesday), so that's a good sign. He feels really comfortable."
Ellerbe has missed the past three games since hurting his knee against Alabama, and sophomore Darryl Gamble has filled in nicely in his absence, earning SEC defensive player of the week honors this week.
After Gamble's big game, he got a call from Ellerbe on the bus ride to the airport. Gamble said he couldn't comment on most of the conversation, but admitted Ellerbe was a little down after missing the game.
"He was saying a little bit about how he wished that was him, but I said you'll have your opportunity in the future," Gamble said.
If Ellerbe does play this week, it still hasn't been decided who will get the starting nod at middle linebacker, but Gamble said he's happy to play wherever the coaches need him.
As for Ellerbe, Martinez said the Bulldogs will be happy just to have him back on the field in any capacity.
"We're going to play him if he's ready to go," Martinez said. "We'll take 90 percent because he's a playmaker. If he continues to practice like he practiced (Tuesday), he'll be ready to go Saturday."
-- It had been a rough season for Bryan Evans at cornerback, but after losing his starting job and dropping to third on the depth chart, he has found a second chance at a new position.
Evans was beaten for two touchdowns against Vanderbilt two weeks ago and hasn't seen much action at corner since. Coaches decided to give him a shot at playing free safety, however, and he's jumped at the opportunity.
"It's pretty fun," Evans said. "After I started doing it, I kind of got attracted to it."
Evans still played some corner against LSU, but also got his first taste of action at safety, too. He said the new position has given him a better perspective on the game.
"I think it kind of helps me out to read plays better," Evans said. "At wide corner, you're looking at just your man, you can't really see the field. When you get to see the field, you get to put pieces together, and it helps you make plays."
The experiment has worked well so far, Martinez said, and it's likely to continue.
"He gives us depth and I thought he really played well at corner when he played corner," Martinez said. "We're training him at both right now and he'll be ready to play both."
-- Fred Munzenmaier isn't exactly a household name, even among Georgia fans, but after garnering his second touchdown on just his second career carry last week, the fullback said he might start gaining a reputation as a big-time playmaker.
"Maybe there's a little bit of magic there," Munzenmaier said. "Maybe if I get one more on the next one I'll think there's something to that. I got a little nervous though. It was kind of a close call Saturday. I wasn't all the way in there. Just enough."
Munzenmaier's score came from the 1-yard line on a wham formation by the Bulldogs that included three fullbacks. Senior Brannan Southerland was forced to play tight end due to a rash of injuries at that position, and sophomore Shaun Chapas acted as the lead blocker.
That role might have been a little salt in the wound for Chapas, who started the first six games of the season at fullback, but is now the only one of the three without a touchdown.
"I try not to (tease him), but one comment slipped out," Munzenmaier said. "I try not to make fun of him though because I'm rooting for him to get in there, too."
-- Two months after tearing his ACL in Georgia's opener, Jeff Owens is finally back on his feet.
Owens ditched his crutches last week and is back to walking under his own power even if he's still moving a bit gingerly.
"The knee's doing real fine," Owens said. "I'm off the crutches, I'm finally walking, so it's a big step in the rehab. Now I'm trying to get my strength back in my quad and my leg. It's coming along real well."
Owens isn't exactly celebrating his health, and he would definitely rather be on the field this week against Florida, he said. Instead, he'll just be rooting on his teammates in his typical jovial style.
"The first week I missed was the hardest, but I got used to it," Owens said. "Now I'm just a big cheerleader. I need to go get some pom-poms to cheer on my team."
-- Mark Richt doesn't mind admitting he's impressed by Florida coach Urban Meyer's offensive strategy. In fact, Richt admitted to watching some tape of Meyer's past teams to see if there was any plays the Bulldogs might be able to implement on offense, too.
"I've studied what Coach Meyer has done a lot," Richt said. "Probably studied Utah more than Florida. We studied Florida to try to defend Florida. When we studied Utah we were contemplating implementing some of those things."
That doesn't mean fans should expect Georgia to line up in a spread formation when the Bulldogs hit the field against Florida on Saturday. Innovative offensive schemes are great, but they only work when they match the personnel on the team.
"For us, just a pure spread is not what we think is in our best interest," Richt said. "We are trying to maximize the players that we have."
-- Saturday, Gamble had the biggest game of his life. Monday, he was an instant star around campus. So how has life changed since he returned two interceptions for touchdowns against LSU?
"It's been a lot more hectic. A lot more people know who I am when I'm walking to class and stuff. I guess it's more of being a Knowshon around campus."
Talk about anti-climactic. The answer to the mystery of what Georgia's seniors had planned for this year's Florida game is that there is no mystery.
Rumors spread like wildfire after sophomore linebacker Darryl Gamble was quoted saying Georgia's seniors had something up their sleeves for Florida week after the Bulldogs' win over LSU last Saturday. The news came as a surprise to fans -- and to the seniors.
"That's been buzzing around, and I'm kind of confused as to where it started," senior wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi said. "I have no clue."
Senior Kenneth Harris has been Georgia's version of the White House press secretary since Gamble's quote, dodging tons of questions that he doesn't have the answer to.
"I wish I had a nickel for every time I've been asked that question," Harris said. "We don't have anything planned. We're just going to go down there and not worry about any gimmicks. We're just going to have fun and play ball. We don't have anything planned."
He said the team might have to put a gag on Gamble in the future, considering it was the sophomore who started all this hype for the seniors. Only Gamble said it's not his fault either. He was misquoted.
Gamble was the center of attention after his two-touchdown performance against LSU, and reporters happened to ask him his thoughts on last year's game against Florida in which the Bulldogs were flagged for excessive celebration after their first touchdown.
"I said the seniors had something planned," Gamble said, "and there was a guy that walked by, and I guess he thought I was talking about this game. I was talking about last year's game."
This time around, Georgia isn't hiding secret plans up its sleeves, and fans can't stop holding their breath for a big payout after the Bulldogs first score against Florida in 2008.
"I don't think we'll have anything like that this year," Gamble said. "It was just a booster to help us try to win that game. This year we're just going to go out and play ball."
From UGA Athletics:
Georgia linebacker Darryl Gamble has been named the FWAA/Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week for games of the weekend of Oct. 25.
Gamble, a 6-2, 237-pound sophomore from Bainbridge, Ga., tied a Southeastern Conference record when he returned two interceptions for touchdowns in Georgia's 52-38 victory at LSU.
Gamble, who also had a career-high 13 tackles, had 93 yards in returns on the interceptions. His first pick was on the game's first play from of scrimmage and gave the Bulldog's a 7-0 lead with 14:40 left in the first quarter.
Gamble will be added to the 2008 Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List. The Bronko Nagurski Trophy will be presented to the best defensive player in college football on Dec. 7 by the FWAA and the Charlotte Touchdown Club at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte, N.C. Five finalists for the Nagurski Trophy
will be announced on Nov. 17.
Each week during the 2008 season the FWAA All-America Committee will select a national defensive player of the week from nominations made by the 11 Division I Bowl Subdivision Conferences and major independents.
Last season, LSU tackle Glenn Dorsey won the coveted Bronko Nagurski Trophy during the 13th season the FWAA has named a national defensive player of the year.
The Football Writers Association of America, a non-profit organization founded in 1941, consists of more than 1,000 men and women across North America who cover college football for a living. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include game day operations, major awards, a national poll and its annual All-America team.
The Charlotte Touchdown Club is a non-profit organization founded in 1990 for the purpose of promoting high school, collegiate, and professional football in the Charlotte, N.C., region. The club's activities and services focus community attention on the outstanding citizenship, scholarship, sportsmanship, and leadership of area athletes and coaches.
Talk about a let-down. I can't say I'm too thrilled with how last night's World Series game turned out. I get that you had to play the game, and I definitely understand that you can't call a clinching game in the sixth inning, but you also have to ask how much of the Rays' rally happened because of the conditions and why weren't the Phillies given their last at-bat in those conditions, too. At least make it as fair as possible. Instead, Old Uncle Bud spent the last three innings begging for a Tampa run so he could justifiably suspend the game. Now the Phils lose their best starter and Tampa gets a fresh start today. I just don't buy it, and as a lifelong Cubs fan, it just reminds me a little too much of a certain NLCS series in which they had a lead going into the seventh of a clinching game. I don't want to talk about what happened next.
Anyway, some quick links for today, and then I'm heading over to the Georgia media session.
-- I have a story on what can be done with Darryl Gamble once Dannell Ellerbe is ready to return.
-- Knowshon Moreno is a popular guy among both coaches this week, says the AJC.
-- Tony Barnhart says this is the biggest Georgia-Florida game in 20 years.
-- Total UGA takes a look back at the hottest LSU fans, while Georgia Sports Blog shows us the other side of the spectrum.
-- Meanwhile, the AJC looks back at past trips to Jacksonville with equally humorous results.
-- Chattanooga's David Paschal says Florida has weapons this year they didn't have in Georgia's win last season.
-- And the Tampa Tribune looks at how to stop Georgia's best (but hardly its only) weapon.
Monday, October 27, 2008
OK, so these aren't really Monday practice notes since there was no practice today. UGA has a Regents exam today that many of the football players were scheduled to take, so the Bulldogs held practice on Sunday instead. These are some notes from that practice session, with quotes collected by Doug Stutsman. I was eating beef jerkey and drinking gas-station coffee in a car somewhere near Montgomery, Ala. at the time.
-- Jeremy Lomax isn't ready to call the problem solved, but he's happy to have the monkey off his back.
Georgia's defensive ends hadn't recorded a sack against an SEC team all year, but managed two against LSU's hefty offensive line Saturday. Lomax shared a sack with Jarius Wynn, while redshirt freshman Justin Houston also recorded one.
"It was a good feeling," Lomax said. "It took like four or five games to happen, but it feels really good."
Lomax is one of several defensive ends to play through injuries this season. The senior has battled a turf toe injury since fall camp. Houston and Wynn have also had various bumps and bruises, but the pass rushers are finally starting to get healthy, Lomax said. The return of Rod Battle to the lineup after missing three games with a neck injury has also been a key to the Bulldogs' improvement.
"We've been dealing with a lot of injuries all year and now the ends are getting healthier," Lomax said. "Coach (Willie) Martinez did a lot more four-man rush last game, and I think that shows confidence in us."
With Florida's high-octane offense looming this week, however, Lomax said the Bulldogs can't rest on their laurels after the two-sack performance against LSU.
"We got to use last game as motivation but the rush still isn't there like it should be," he said. "We blitzed (Florida) a lot last year. We got a game plan for this year to stop (quarterback Tim Tebow) and that's what we got to practice this week."
-- It was Georgia's big plays that keyed its win in Baton Rouge, La. last Saturday, but linebacker Rennie Curran worries the big plays the Bulldogs allowed will be their undoing this week.
While Knowshon Moreno, Matthew Stafford and the Georgia offense posted big numbers on the scoreboard, and Darryl Gamble returned two interceptions for touchdowns on defense, LSU managed to post some impressive numbers of its own. The Tigers became the first team to throw for more than 300 yards against Georgia in nearly a year, while running back Charles Scott added 144 yards on the ground.
That's something Curran said needs to get fixed this week against Heisman winner Tim Tebow and the Gators' offense, and it starts with doing the little things right.
"We didn't do the best job of getting off blocks and staying on tackles," said Curran, who had a team-best 14 tackles against LSU. "Knowing the playmakers they have, we've got to stay in our game fundamentally. We got to keep things simple. We got to play fast but be disciplined at the same time. The coaches are going to put us in the right position, and we just gotta let our abilities take over."
-- Following his arrest on DUI charges, defensive tackle Brandon Wood missed last week's game against LSU. Georgia's athletic association policy required a one-game suspension, but head coach Mark Richt said the sophomore will sit out this week against Florida, too.
"He will not play this week," Richt said. "He's going to miss one more game because of the situation he got into. He'll be back for the next game after that."
The Bulldogs didn't want to call it the complete performance they had been striving for, but it's hard to argue with a 52-38 win over a top-20 team in one of the country's most hostile environments. Georgia had an excellent game plan going into LSU and Mark Richt once again showed why there's no coach you'd rather have on the sideline in an opponent's stadium. But let's break things down a bit further with this week's grade. As you might imagine, the offense scored highly.
PASSING: I said Thursday that if Georgia was going to win out, Stafford had to move from being a good player to being a great player. Against LSU, Stafford was great. Stafford leads the SEC in passing this season and has certainly had his fair share of impressive performances. Unlike the past two weeks when he threw some costly interceptions (which, to be fair, weren't entirely his fault) Stafford avoiding making any mistakes while putting up extremely impressive numbers.
He finished the game 17-of-26 for 249 yards and two touchdowns -- not his biggest numbers of the season, but the final stats were hardly the most impressive part of his day. Two of my biggest criticisms of Stafford have been his reluctance to spread the ball around the past couple weeks and (going back to his freshman year) his occasional decisions to force a ball to a receiver when defenses start to frustrate him.
Against LSU, Stafford was brilliant on both fronts. He connected with nine different receivers in the game -- the most since Sept. 13 against South Carolina -- including the first reception by a tight end in more than a month. More over, Stafford's favorite target -- A.J. Green -- was simply not open throughout most of the first half and the few opportunities the pair had at connecting narrowly missed. Yet Stafford stayed patient and finally hit the big play on a 49-yard TD pass to Green in the third quarter. Green ended up with 89 yards -- all in the second half -- and Stafford didn't throw a pick.
Kudos to Aron White who made his first career reception after it looked like he wouldn't even make the trip to Baton Rouge, Kenneth Harris, who made a nice grab for a touchdown early, and particularly to Michael Moore, who had three catches in the game and had a fourth called back after a penalty. As Georgia's top slot receiver the past few weeks, Moore had struggled -- making just one catch -- but he returned to the form he showed early in the season against LSU. Durham, by the way, returned to action after missing two games with an ankle injury.
RUSHING: Heading into the Vanderbilt game a few silly media folks (yes, I mean me) foolishly pointed out that Knowshon Moreno was averaging less than four yards a carry in SEC play. In the two games since then, Moreno has racked up 335 yards on 44 carries -- a 7.6 ypc average. Knowshon is just 75 yards shy of 1,000 on the ground this season and, should Georgia make it to the SEC championship game, would be on pace to set the all-time SEC record of 1,891 yards in a season set by -- who else? -- Herschel Walker in 1981 (granted, he'll have two more games to do it in than Herschel, so perhaps an asterisk is in order).
Enough about the season numbers though. Against LSU, Moreno was exceptional. He kept the defense honest throughout and for the first time this season found continued success even between the tackles -- an encouraging sign moving forward. His cell phone pose after a 68-yard TD run was the icing on the cake. Colt McCoy's stellar season may keep Knowshon off the Heisman stage this year, but there's no doubt that right now there isn't a better running back in the country.
Props to Fred Munzenmaier also on his second career touchdown on his second career carry. Of course, it's starting to get a little embarrassing for poor Shaun Chapas. Can we please get this guy a touchdown already?
OFFENSIVE LINE: It started last Sunday when Mark Richt commented that LSU's youngest defensive lineman was as experienced as Georgia's oldest offensive linemen. Then came the comparisons to the Alabama game -- that this one would be won or lost in the trenches. It seemed fair to wonder if the Bulldogs offensive line could stand up to LSU's burly defensive tackles or the frenetic four-DE pass rush. Apparently all that talk got the Bulldogs big boys angry.
"We've been hearing it all year, but especially this week with how many seniors they have up front," left tackle Clint Boling said. "I think they felt they were going to come in and beat us up front, but we did a good job of blocking them."
Boling said the line is finally starting to come together after switching positions and starters almost weekly throughout preseason and the first month of the regular season. It showed against LSU.
The line allowed its first sack since the Alabama game, but even that was clearly a coverage sack, and it was still just the ninth of the season. Georgia clearly has some fantastic skill position players, but to be No. 1 in the SEC in total offense, No. 1 in passing offense, No. 4 in rushing offense (at nearly 180 yards per game) and to have allowed just nine sacks all game is remarkable behind an O line that has no one with more than 20 games of experience. These guys aren't perfect, but what they have done so far is nothing short of spectacular. Now, if only I was allowed to interview any of them, it might actually be a good story.
DEFENSIVE LINE: This was sort of a mixed bag. On one hand, the defensive ends clearly had their best day rushing the passer in SEC play this season. Jarius Wynn, Jeremy Lomax and Justin Houston each were in on sacks -- the first of the year for any UGA DE in an SEC game. Houston had a great performance and was in LSU's backfield significantly more than Andrew Hatch. It was a big step forward for the kid who has really been waiting for a break-out game. Having Rod Battle back is clearly starting to pay dividends for the pass rush.
On the other hand, LSU was able to run the ball well throughout the game. Georgia allowed 188 yards on the ground -- a season high and nearly triple what they had been giving up on average this season. Charles Scott had 144 yards rushing himself and scored twice on the ground. Other than the Alabama game, Georgia had allowed only one rushing TD all season.
Kade Weston returned to action at DT after sitting out against Vanderbilt to rest his injured knee, but the Bulldogs were without Brandon Wood, who will also miss this week's game after being arrested and charged with DUI. Wood had been playing regularly, and his absence may have contributed to LSU's success on the ground, but it was hardly an overwhelming factor. What really contributed to the problem was some poor tackling, which allowed LSU to pick up important yards after the initial contact -- something Georgia must fix against a Florida team chock full of game-breaking speed.
LINEBACKERS: Not sure what else to say about Darryl Gamble's big day. The third-year sophomore, making just his third career start at Mike LB, returned two picks for TDs and chipped in with 13 tackles while getting tons of pressure on LSU's QBs when he came on the blitz. It was a performance so impressive that it's a real question about what will happen when Dannell Ellerbe returns from a knee injury.
Rennie Curran had another solid game, once again leading the team in tackles with 14. The number is impressive -- as are Gamble's -- but too many of those tackles came six to 10 yards down the field. Georgia's linebackers have done an excellent job of pursuing laterally this year, but LSU made some big gains simply pounding the ball up the middle.
GRADE: A- (Can't go any lower than that given what Gamble accomplished.)
SECONDARY: Georgia's DBs actually played pretty well through most of the game, but too many big plays made the difference between an impressive performance and one they had to explain away to reporters afterward.
Jarett Lee and Andrew Hatch combined to complete just 16-of-20 passes and Reshad Jones did net his third INT of the year, but LSU burned the Bulldogs to the tune of 309 yards through the air -- easily the most by any opponent this year and the most since the Dawgs allowed Troy to run up 373 yards on 52 attempts Nearly a full year ago.
Again, poor tackling killed Georgia, and LSU had too many big plays in the passing game, led by the 66-yard TD pass to Keiland Williams. Another performance like that and Florida will post an even higher number on the scoreboard than LSU's 38 Saturday.
SPECIAL TEAMS: We'll switch it up this time -- bad news first. Blair Walsh missed a field goal for the second straight week. His kickoffs were far from spectacular either. LSU's average starting field position after a kickoff was the 37. And then there was the fake punt, which the Tigers worked to perfection against a special teams unit that never saw it coming. LSU turned the play into points, which may have been costly had it not been for Gamble's second INT putting an end to the Tigers' comeback attempt.
Now the good news: Walsh also connected on a 50-yarder, punter Brian Mimbs averaged 50.4 yards per punt, including a 60 yard boot, and the special teams kept all-world return man Trindon Holliday out of the end zone. Holliday did rack up 164 kick return yards, but his longest was just 26 yards and LSU only started one drive inside Georgia territory -- its final drive of the game after the Bulldogs turned the ball over on downs while running out the clock.
COACHING: I've spent a lot of time criticizing Mike Bobo's play calling the past few weeks and I think I was justified. Having said that, he did a great job Saturday, highlighted by running the reverse to A.J. Green for a 22-yard gain when Stafford couldn't get the ball to the freshman through the air in the first half. Heck, even the QB draw in the red zone worked against LSU. Hard to argue with the results, and 52 points in Death Valley is downright impressive. He gets a pass on anything questionable this week.
Willie Martinez also did a nice job of bringing the blitz a bit more often and making sure LSU's QBs never got comfortable, but the defense definitely took its foot off the gas after the Dawgs went up by 21 in the third quarter. Still, Gamble attributed Georgia's success overall to tremendous preparation.
"I guess the preparation, knowing when they were going to run and pass," Gamble said. "With a lot bigger line that LSU has, they kind of showed a little bit of what they were going to do, and we had a key of whether they were going to pass it or not. We pretty much knew what they were going to do before they ran or passed the ball."
Gamble even said he knew his first interception was coming before Lee even threw the football thanks to great study in the film room last week.
"I knew that's where he was going to throw it, so I just waited until he committed and I went and got it," he said.
While the offense and defense were well prepared, the success of the fake punt was something Georgia definitely wasn't ready for. A few points get deducted for that.
NEW ORLEANS: Let me just say that my wallet, head and liver are all glad Georgia doesn't play LSU every year.
OK, feel free to tear my grades to shreds. Just remember, I spent two days on Bourbon Street and 10 hours in a car yesterday, so don't be too mean. I'm still recovering.
From UGA Athletics:
University of Georgia junior quarterback Matthew Stafford has been named one of 13 semifinalists for the 2008 Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award, according to an announcement by the award's selection committee.
Stafford, a 6-3, 228-pound native of Dallas, Texas, has completed 141 of 229 passes this year for 1,946 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also rushed for one touchdown against #11 LSU behind a starting offensive line consisting of two true freshmen, a redshirt freshman, a sophomore and a redshirt sophomore.
In addition to passing for a career-high 310 yards during a 26-14 win over Tennessee earlier this season, Stafford leads the Southeastern Conference in passing yards per game (243.3) and total offense (250.8).
He has also directed the eighth-ranked Bulldogs to have the top-ranked total offense (431.2 yards/game) and passing offense (258.8 yards/game) in the league while holding down the second-best pass efficiency in the SEC.
Stafford and the 12 other semifinalists were evaluated and selected according to their quarterback skills, athletic ability, academics, character, leadership, sportsmanship and reputation as a team player.
The 13 semifinalists will contend for the award until the list is narrowed to three finalists on Nov. 24. All finalists will be in attendance in Orlando, Fla., where the O'Brien winner will be announced during The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards Show airing Dec. 11. The recipient will be honored Feb. 16, 2009, at the 32nd-annual O'Brien Awards Dinner at The Fort Worth Club in Fort Worth, Texas.
Fans are able to vote for semifinalist candidates once daily at VoteOBrien.org. The voting will continue throughout the semifinalists and finalist rounds with 5 percent of the final tally coming directly from the fan vote.
ESPN has been granted a six-day selection for games of Nov. 8. A selection will be made by Sunday, Nov. 2..
ESPN/ESPN2 will televise either Florida at Vanderbilt or Georgia at Kentucky on either ESPN or ESPN2 at 8:00 p.m. ET. The game not selected by ESPN/ESPN2 will be televised by Raycom at 12:30 p.m. ET. The team that wins the Georgia-Florida game will be on ESPN/ESPN2 at 8:00 p.m. ET.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 8:
Raycom -- 12:30 ET:
Florida at Vanderbilt OR Georgia at Kentucky
CBS -- 3:30 ET:
Alabama at LSU
ESPN/ESPN2 -- 8:00 ET:
Florida at Vanderbilt OR Georgia at Kentucky
There was a lot of hype leading up to the Alabama game this season, but nothing like this. From last year's controversy to Florida's wins in past seasons to Tim Tebow's Heisman and Urban Meyer's grudge, there's plenty of easy stories for the media to publicize this week, and quite frankly, I'm not looking forward to hearing about any of them. It's a big game because two of THIS YEAR'S best teams will play with control of the SEC East hanging in the balance. To spend the whole week talking about a post-touchdown penalty is to completely ignore what makes this week's matchup great.
So, in order to make sure we're all on the same page about what I think we should be talking about this week, here are a few rules I've set for myself as we get set for Georgia-Florida '08.
I. I will not talk about the celebration.
Kudos to Mark Richt for putting gag order on himself and his players in regards to the event which shall no longer be named. It's meaningless, it's history, it's already been parsed as much as any play in college football in the past decade. This has been the single most overhyped sports story that doesn't include the words "Brett" and "Favre."
II. If anyone gives out Tim Tebow's cell phone number, I will not call him.
Unless I'm aware of an emergency circumcision that needs to be done in the middle of a Peruvian jungle. I mean, who else would you call in that situation?
III. I will ask Clint Boling if he thinks Florida is a good team and if he's excited for the challenge this week.
It will be good to actually ask a question an offensive lineman will answer.
IV. I will not partake of cocktails at the Cocktail Party.
Unless, of course, someone aks nicely, offers to buy or there's a large group of women who find sports writers sexy. I'm not holding my breath on that last category.
V. I will not mention Georgia's all-time lead in the UGA-UF series.
Seriously Georgia fans, it just makes you look silly to talk about that. Did you know the Cubs also have more wins than any other National League team in history? Lotta good it's done them for the past century. If you want to talk smack, I suggest this:
Q: How do you get a UF grad off your front porch?
A: Pay him for the pizza.
VI. I will also not mention Florida's record against Georgia while Steve Spurrier was still coach.
The man coaches the Chickens now. It's been seven years. Let it go.
VII. I will be very jealous of the folks celebrating back home after the Phils win the Series.
In the meantime, I need to find a place around here that sells Yuengling and makes a legit cheesesteak.
VIII. I will link to anything that involves funny beards.
Well, well, what do we have here? These beat the heck out of my Phillies playoff beard.
IX. I will not assume Dannell Ellerbe is going to play.
Ellerbe's return has been the rough equivilent of the new Guns N Roses album -- constantly rumored and never happens. And just like "Chinese Democracy," there's really not much reason to get too excited anyway. Darryl Gamble is the better player right now and Slash is working on solo projects.
X. I will make at least one Urban Meyer or Tim Tebow joke every day this week.
Did you hear Urban Meyer is only dressing 20 players for the game on Saturday? He told the rest of them they'd have to dress themselves.
OK, OK, one more... How many Gator freshmen does it take to screw in alightbulb? It's a trick question. That's a sophomore course.
11. I will learn Roman numberals higher than 10.
I just need them to make five more Rocky movies.
From UGA Athletics:
Georgia redshirt sophomores Darryl Gamble and Knowshon Moreno have been named Southeastern Conference weekly award winners, according to an announcement by the league office on Monday.
Gamble was named the Defensive Player of the Week while Moreno was named the Offensive Player of the Week for the second week in a row after their performances in the Bulldogs' 52-38 win over #11 LSU in Baton Rouge.
Gamble, a 6-2, 247-pound linebacker from Bainbridge, Ga., picked off two Tiger passes, including one on the first play from the line of scrimmage, and returned them both for touchdowns. Gamble's feat tied the school and SEC record and also tied the NCAA record for linebackers.
He also finished as the team's second-leading tackler with a career-high 13 stops, including a tackle for loss. He is currently second on Georgia's defense with 45 tackles.
Moreno, a 5-11, 208-pound tailback from Belford, N.J., recorded 163 yards rushing and one touchdown on 21 carries during the Bulldogs' win over LSU. This was Moreno's 11th career game rushing for more than 100 yards.
Moreno, who averaged 7.8 yards per carry against the Tigers, is 75 yards shy of becoming only the second player in school history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons (Herschel Walker had more than 1,000 three years straight). He currently sits at the No. 8 spot in career rushing yards with 2,259. Moreno is second in the SEC in both rushing (115.6 yards/game) and scoring (9.0 points/game).
This was Moreno's third SEC Offensive Player of the Week award of the season and Gamble's first of his career.
The No. 8 Bulldogs travel to Jacksonville, Fla., to face No. 5 Florida in Jacksonville Municipal Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 1. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. EDT on CBS. All Georgia games are broadcast live on the Bulldog Radio Network on AM 750 WSB in Atlanta and on both 106.1 FM and 960 The Ref in Athens. The radio audio also can be heard worldwide on both georgiadogs.com, the official website of UGA Athletics, on XM satellite radio and on Touchdown Radio Productions.