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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Richt: No Coaching Changes

Mark Richt said he did not expect to make any coaching changes during the offseason when he spoke with reporters on his regular Sunday teleconference. Here are his comments...

On whether he anticipates making any coaching changes: "I really don't. We're going to get better, and we're going to do a better job next year, I can promise you that."

On whether he is happy the season is over: "I guess we've just got the bar raised so high that anything less than a championship is a disappointment. That's not all bad. I want the Georgia people, the players and the coaches to expect championships. I want that to be our goal, but when you come up short of it, it hurts."

"I guess you have to have a season like this here and there to really appreciate the other ones."

On the bowl game: "We're going to get an opportunity to play on national television one more time, let the country see us play. We want to make a good showing, have a strong finish and help our seniors have their last ballgame be a victory."

On defensive shortcomings this year: "I'm not sure we tackled enough. We had so many injuries early on in fall camp … and we were a little bit more cautious than we had been in the past on tackle-to-the-ground drills. In hindsight we probably missed that."

On making a change on kickoffs for the bowl game: "I think that's possible. I'm not going to say that will happen, but there's a chance of it happening. We've got to get the kick where guys can go cover it and know where it's going to be, and we just haven't been consistent in that area."

"Lindley has been the guy, and he's the next option right now."

On how he will go about evaluating things after the season: "We're just going to start at the top and go to the bottom on just everything that we do and really critique it, be willing to do whatever it takes to get better."

"It's really not a whole lot different than any other season. In the offseason you try to go top to bottom with what you do and how you do it, but it might be with an even finer tooth comb than usual."

"We just have to be real open and honest in our evaluation of ourselves and do what it takes to get better."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Post Game Notes

(NOTE: We'll have tons more coverage at Macon.com later this evening.)

It had already been a long season for embattled Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez, but as the final seconds of the Bulldogs' 45-42 loss ticked off the clock, many fans were already wondering if it wasn't just Georgia's seniors who would be waiving goodbye to Sanford Stadium.

The Georgia message boards have been filled with fan criticism of Martinez since Georgia's loss to Alabama in September, but head coach Mark Richt said he wouldn't be taking the same tone when he evaluates his staff at season's end.

"My thought is that a lot of times when things don't go exactly the way you want it to, then people want to find somebody to blame," Richt said. "I'm not going to do that."

Georgia Tech racked up 428 total yards of offense, including 409 on the ground. Tech converted several key third downs in the second half, hodling the ball for nearly two-thirds of the final two quarters. Roddy Jones and Jonathan Dwyer combined 358 yards on the ground, and the Yellow Jackets had three plays of more than 50 yards.

Still, Martinez argued the game plan was sound it was the execution that was lacking.

"They really didn't do anything that we didn't expect," Martinez said. We knew what was coming but we just couldn't make the plays when we needed to."

Richt said that despite the recent defensive shortcomings, which included big performances by the offenses of LSU, Florida and Kentucky, Martinez's unit had also won several games for Georgia.

While Richt won't be making any rash decisions regarding Martinez's future with the Bulldogs, he said the next few weeks will be filled with reflection on where things went wrong.

"It is a time when you get to the end of your season where there will be reflection on what would I do or what could we do better," Richt said. "You do that game by game, but when you get close to the end you begin to reflect on the entire season and find a way to get better."

-- After the game, Tech's players ran to the northwest corner of the stadium to celebrate with their fans, many of whom were congregated along the wall just beyond the end zone. Tech's players ripped branches from Georgia's famed hedges as mementos of the win, leaving the bushes surrounding the field tattered after departing.

"I just saw people coming back with pieces of the hedges in their mouths, in their ears, and then I looked over to our side, and we had our whole team over there grabbing hedges where our fans were," Georgia Tech safety Morgan Burnett said.

As to whether he thought Tech's players should be punished for damaging the hedges, Burnett said it might be a costly fine.

"I hope not," Burnett said, "because everybody on our team broke that rule."

-- With Saturday's loss, Georgia's bowl future remains up in the air. While there's a good chance the Bulldogs will still head to the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla. despite falling to Tech, bowl officials weren't ready to make any commitments.

"As we all know, football season doesn't end until the last down is played, and that won't be until next week," Capital One Bowl official Billy Crozier said. "Look at last year, all the hypothetical that could have happened. There's more games to be played."

Should Georgia be the SEC team selected for the New Year's Day game, its opponent will likely be either Ohio State or Michigan State. Crozier said either matchup would be intriguing.

"Michigan State was at our Champs Sports Bowl last year and brought a ton of fans, so that would be a tremendous matchup against an SEC team, and so would Ohio State," Crozier said.

-- Richt might be making travel plans that extend well beyond Georgia's bowl destination.
After Georgia struggled on kickoffs yet again, Richt joked that he might have to scour Europe in hopes of finding a kicker with a strong enough leg to help Georgia win some field-position battles.

"We might have to go to Poland or something to find a guy who can kick it out of the end zone," Richt said. "We'll give him two scholarships."

Freshman kicker Blair Walsh booted two kickoffs out of bounds, and Tech began numerous drives with strong field position. It has been an ongoing battle for the Bulldogs, who have booted more kicks out of bounds than into the end zone this season.

"I'm very comfortable with Blair as our extra-point and field-goal kicker, it's just that kickoffs have not really landed where they ought to land on a consistent basis," Richt said.

-- After Georgia Tech scored a go-ahead touchdown following Richard Samuel's fumble on a kick return, Richt called his entire team to a huddle at midfield.

The players formed a semicircle around their head coach, who barked orders from side to side, sending the team back onto the field with a new mission.

"That they weren't going to give up after halftime, that we can't go out there complacent, that we can't lag around," wide receiver Kenneth Harris said of Richt's speech. "We had to have the same intensity we came out with. That's what he was telling us, and we knew that, but they came out and made plays."

The offense followed with four plays and a punt, giving the ball back to Tech, which quickly added to its lead with a field goal.

-- It has been a difficult season for senior tight end Tripp Chandler, who has battled injuries to his shoulder and knee as well as struggling in the passing game. He managed to get a bit of redemption against Tech, hauling in a one-yard touchdown pass on Georgia's opening drive just his fifth catch of the year and his first score.

"It was definitely a special moment for me, and I'm sure it was for my family, especially considering the type of season I've had," Chandler said. "But it really doesn't seem like much now considering the outcome."

-- For Georgia's seniors, their final moments in Sanford Stadium were frustrating ones. Georgia had beaten its in-state rival seven straight times, and for seniors such as Harris and Dannell Ellerbe to conclude their careers with a loss was a bitter pill to swallow.

"It's always tough to walk away at a low point," Ellerbe said, "but to play them, your in-state rival, it's a bad feeling."

Defensive tackle Corvey Irvin was playing his final home game for Georgia, but as a junior-college transfer, he had only beaten Tech once. After the game, Irvin was visibly shaken by the loss and struggled to contain his emotions.

"I'm just hurting," Irvin said. "I'm not used to feeling like this. All my chapters this is the end of my book. I've closed my book, and I wanted a happy ending for my story. I didn't want to go out like this, but you have to have thick skin about everything and get ready for whoever we got in the bowl game."

-- Safety Bryan Evans was on crutches with his right foot in a boot walking off the field. Richt said Evans' injury kept him on the sideline down the stretch, but wasn't sure of the severity.

"He sprained his foot," Richt said, "and just couldn't go anymore."

-- Mohamed Massaquoi tied a school record with three touchdowns in the game. It was the first time it had been done since Terrence Edwards vs. Kentucky in 2002.

-- Matthew Stafford set a career high with 407 yards and five touchdowns in the game.

-- Knowshon Moreno had a career best 74 yards receiving.

-- The 409 yards rushing Georgia allowed to Tech was the most since Vandy racked up 415 yards in 1994.

-- This was just the third non-conference loss for Georgia under head coach Mark Richt. The other two were both in bowl games against Boston College and West Virginia.

-- Notable quote from Corvey Irvin: "We lost our edge in the second half. We had that juice in the first half. We were all over the field having fun. I guess we lost our composure. I don't know if that's the correct word to use, but it sounds good. I guess we thought we had the game wrapped up in our pocket, and we really didn't. Tech came out and fought hard to the end, and we shot ourselves in the foot with bad plays and missed tackles. You can't give a team like that with guys that can go the distance mistakes. Every mistake we made they capitalized off of."

Live Blog: Georgia vs. Georgia Tech

PREGAME:

Handful of quick pregame thoughts...

-- The student section is, at best, half full just minutes from kickoff. Kinda sad given that these seniors are taking the field for the final time at home.

-- Speaking of the seniors, Brannan Southerland isn't starting at fullback. Seems odd given that it's his last home game.

-- Josh Davis is in the starting lineup at right tackle.

-- It's been 42 days since we were last here and the press box food may have been sitting around since the last home game.

-- I've been trying to get my picture with Uga, but to no avail. Last chance for me for the season. Big day. Gotta bring my 'A' game.

-- Both teams got in a little energetic midfield exchange of words before kickoff. Anyone who doubts the intensity of this rivalry should shut up. These guys are excited today.

-- Just a rhetorical question: Would this be Georgia's biggest win of the year? I think it would be. With LSU losing yesterday to Arkansas (and nearly losing to Troy a few weeks back), that win doesn't look nearly as good anymore. Georgia's only other win over a seven-win BCS conference team this year was at South Carolina.

-- More to come after kickoff.

FIRST QUARTER

-- Richard Samuel takes the opening kickoff to the 34. I've had my fair share of complaints about Samuel on special teams this year, but you can clearly see his potential there.

-- Knowshon Moreno picks up 12 on his first carry. For all the talk about Georgia Tech's offense, the untold story of this game is how hard it will be for Tech to slow down the Dawgs' O.

-- The crowd still looks a bit thin, particularly in the student section. I thought this was the most excited fans had been for this matchup in years? I know it's early and it's raining, but if I'm here, everyone else should be, too.

-- Vintage Stafford throws a laser to A.J. Green setting up a first-and-goal at the 2. If this really is Stafford and Moreno's last home game, they look like they're intent on going out with a bang.

-- Bean Anderson is in at right tackle.

-- Moreno came up short twice, so the Dawgs went to the air and Stafford hit Tripp Chandler for a TD. I know Chandler has been a disappointment production-wise this year, but the fact that he is even out on the field right now -- let alone making a big play like that -- says a lot about him. There's not a player out there more banged up and still playing than Chandler. SCORE: Georgia 7, Tech 0. Now we get to see how the defense handles that triple option.

-- And a kickoff out of bounds by Blair Walsh. It's absurd that this is still happening 12 games into the season.

-- Surprise, surprise. Tech's first play is a pass, and it goes for 19 yards.

-- Two illegal shift flags against Georgia Tech in their first four plays. One of the big questions coming into this game, I think, was how SEC officials might call things. Tech decides to go for it on fourth down and Nesbitt's pass went incomplete.

-- Stafford hits Kenneth Harris for 31 yards to the Tech 36. Not sure if Stafford is intentionally getting the seniors involved here, but he's definitely doing a good job of it.

-- Josh Davis is back in and was whistled for a false start, the Dawgs' first penalty of the day. Looks like Anderson might be used in red-zone situations and Davis the rest of the way.

-- Third-and-13 and I'll give you one guess what Bobo does... if you guessed a draw to Moreno, you win! Your prize: A copy of the cocktail napkin Mike Bobo has all his third-down options drawn up on.
-- Nesbitt's pass on third down is overthrown and Georgia gets the ball back quickly. I think far more interesting than watching Tech's offense so far has been watching Georgia's defense. For the most part, so far, the Dawgs have done a nice job avoiding the cut blocks, which has been a huge problem for them this year, and staying on assignment. If Georgia holds Tech's offense in check today, someone needs to take the whole scout team out to dinner for helping prep the D for this game.

-- Stafford had A.J. wide open on second-and-13 but Green stumbled going across the middle and the pass sailed wide. Have to wonder what effect -- if any -- the wet field might have.

-- Here's how Georgia loses this game: Stafford throws a perfect pass... right to Tech's Morgan Burnett, who returns it for a TD. Burnett leads the nation in INTs. That's one of -- if not THE -- worst passes of the season by Stafford. Tech botches the PAT. SCORE: Georgia 7, Tech 6.


-- Nothing doing for Georgia's running game after Moreno's first two runs. The Dawgs need to get something going on the ground.

-- OK, so you're bummed about the pick-six? THIS will cheer you up a bit.

-- Stafford sidearms a pass to Moreno who picks up 15 for a first down. I'm not sure why it took so long for Moreno to become involved in the passing game, but he's shown just how dangerous he can be the past few weeks.

-- False start flag on Georgia. Tech's Robert Hall gives Knowshon a little extra push after the whistle, which Knowshon didn't take too kindly to. Moreno gains 11. End of first quarter with the score Georgia 7, Tech 6.

-- One of the loudest ovations you'll hear at Sanford Stadium for Larry Munson, who is being honored on the field. He's surrounded by reporters as he's presented with an oil painting from the school. The highlight reel of Munson's most famous calls was a nice touch.

-- Stafford hits Michael Moore for a 20-yard gain to the Tech 13. Nice job by Stafford to hit Moore in stride and a great job getting open by Moore, who has shown some real flashes this season. It'll be interesting to see if he can step into a more significant role next season.

-- Virginia and Va Tech tied at 7 in the first. GT has to be doing a little scoreboard watching, despite the supposed focus on the task at hand.

-- Stafford to Massaquoi for a 13-yard TD. Two TDs so far, both to seniors. SCORE: Georgia 14, Tech 6.

-- Well, Roddy Jones seems to be the one guy on Tech's offense Georgia can't stop. He picked up 36 yards on a play in which everyone on the UGA defense forgot to cover the pitch man. Jones has 58 yards on four carries.

-- GT freshman Marcus Wright just laid a merciless block on Rennie Curran that cleared out the entire middle of the field for an 8-yard run by Nesbitt. Impressive. You won't see Rennie get pushed back like that often. First-and-goal at the 4 for Tech.

-- Pitch to Lucas Cox and no one was home for Georgia. Easy TD. Tech goes for two and Nesbitt has nowhere to go. SCORE: Georgia 14, Tech 12.

-- Darryl Gamble is out with a right hamstring injury and is questionable to return.

-- Munson-Zeier, Munzenmaier. Munzenmaier, Munson-Zeier. Hmmm.

-- Yes, those are the things we talk about in the press box.

-- Stafford to Massaquoi for 23 yards. Apparently Mass did such a good job catching the ball, they decided to let him throw. He took the handoff from Stafford and threw down the right side for A.J. Green. A Mass-to-Green TD would've been an appropriate sendoff for Mo, but it was not to be.

-- Stafford hits Massaquoi who splits two defenders and takes it to the end zone. That's four catches for 96 yards and two TDs for Mass in his final Sanford Stadium game. SCORE: Georgia 21, Tech 12.

-- A side note on the receivers: A.J. is now 78 yards shy of setting Georgia's all-time record for receiving yards in a season. Mass is now 174 yards shy of becoming only the third 1,000-yard receiver in team history.

-- Nice play by Demarcus Dobbs to get to Nesbitt for no gain on third-and-3. That's a big three-and-out for the Dawgs. The offense really needs to tack on another score here and give the team some breathing room. Georgia has easily looked like the better team so far, but Tech has been relentless in coming back.

-- Stafford had Green wide open for a TD, but underthrew him, causing him to come back for the ball. Of course, even that was negated by a holding call on Cordy Glenn. Stafford hits Moore on a slant on the next play, however, to get the Dawgs back to the original line of scrimmage.

-- OK, remember how loud I said it was for Larry Munson? That was nothing compared to the boos the refs received for a brutal intentional grounding call on Stafford that backs Georgia up to a third-and-19.

-- Darryl Gamble is back in the game.

-- Jonathan Munzen-Dwyer picks up 11 for Georgia Tech to set up a third-and-8. Nesbitt keeps it but has nowhere to go. Demarcus Dobbs has done a really nice job of getting off blocks and keeping tabs on Nesbitt.

-- Clemson 24, South Carolina 0. I think that adds a lot of credence to my argument that Tech would clearly be the best team Georgia has beaten this year should the Dawgs win today. BTW, Virginia is up 14-7 on Va Tech.

-- Dawgs will start at the Tech 44 with 1:23 to play. I smell a QB draw here somewhere.

-- Consecutive passed broken up by Tech. Michael Johnson batted one at the line of scrimmage, and Mario Butler batted one away from Green on second down. Stafford hit Massaquoi for a 16-yard gain on third down though --- that's 112 yards receiving in the first half for Mass.

-- Green hauls in another first-down reception and gets out of bounds at the Tech 29. Wonder how long a FG Walsh would get a crack at?

-- And it's a Shaun Chapas special -- a big gain, then bounced out of bounds inside the 5. Chapas must've forgotten to take his Claratin this morning because his end-zone allergy is acting up again.

-- Touchdown No. 3 for Massaquoi. Nothing like having your best game in your last game. SCORE: Georgia 28, Massaquoi 18, Tech 12.

-- Mass's three TDs ties a school record. The last time it was done was by Terrence Edwards against Kentucky in 2002. He has six catches for 114 yards today. Think he'll be missed next year? By the way, the Green countdown is now at 65 yards to tie Edwards' school record.

-- This news just shooting down the series of tubes: Sly Croom was fired as Mississippi State's head coach. That was sort of inevitable after yesterday's rotten egg bowl. Something tells me he won't be posting his resume on Monster.

-- Reshad Jones picks off his fourth pass of the season to end the half. SCORE: Georgia 28, Tech 12.

THIRD QUARTER

-- Some halftime numbers: Georgia is 3-of-3 in the red zone, a nice change of pace. They're also 4-of-7 on third-down conversions, an area they had really been struggling in. Stafford was 15-of-22 for 271 yards in the first half. Nesbitt, meanwhile, was 0-for-5 passing after completing his first attempt for 19 yards. In case you're bad at math, that means Georgia has outgained Tech through the air by 252 yards in the half. Overall yardage numbers: Georgia 318, Tech 142.

-- You have to wonder how much better Georgia's defensive stats might look if Blair Walsh could keep his kicks in bounds. Tech's special teams are brutal, too, yet you don't even give them a chance to make a mistake. Just awful.

-- Well, that's how Tech operates. Dwyer for 60 yards, then caps it with a TD run. SCORE: Georgia 28, Tech 20.

-- Matthew Stafford looked like a pinball in the end zone on third down, but his pass to a wide open Mo Mass fell just short. Tech's pass rush has been solid today. That three-and-out follows the script for Georgia that ends in a disastrous loss. The Dawgs need to do something to flip this momentum. That probably means a turnover.

-- Tech starts its drive on its own 44. Man, Georgia's been at a field-position disadvantage pretty much all year. Darryl Gamble is being looked at on the sideline again.

-- Tech's Anthony Barnes is literally being carted off the field (on a highwire). Tech's linebacking corps was already depleated, and it doesn't look like there's much chance Barnes returns.

-- Speaking of injured linebackers, Dannell Ellerbe looks to be in a good bit of pain on the sideline as he stretches what could be a leg cramp.

-- Corvey Irvin makes a nice tackle on a QB keeper on third-and-2, but Tech will go for it on fourth. Nesbitt keeps again, and this might be close. Got it by the nose of the football. Measurements always amuse me because every aspect of it is so arbitrary.

-- Second-and-10, Nesbitt goes to the end zone. Two flags: Asher Allen clearly interfered with the pass, and the Dawgs were offsides as well. Automatic first down for Tech to the UGA 8-yard line.

-- Tech springs it out laterally and Georgia can't keep containment. Roddy Jones dives in for the touchdown. Nesbitt keeps it for the two-point conversion to tie the game. Ugly turn of events for Georgia. It will be interesting to see how the defense comes back on Tech's next series. Will they react like they did at Florida where they hung their heads? Or will they come up strong like they did in the fourth against Kentucky? Either way, the offense probably needs an answer. SCORE: Georgia 28, Georgia Tech 28.

-- Tech's dancing on the sidelines. Not hard to see why. All the momentum is over there right now.

-- Richard Samuel fumbles the kickoff, recovered by Tech at the UGA 22.

-- I've seen this team play all year, so I felt comfortable saying Tech would score on their first play. They, of course, did. This defense does not react to adversity. They roll over. They've done it all year. SCORE: Georgia Tech 35, Georgia 28.

-- Richt has the entire team huddled at the 50 yard line. I've not seen this before. He's going from side to side barking orders before the team splits up. This should be interesting.

-- Logan Gray just went after Tony Garside on the kick. Not sure what that was all about. Georgia gets the ball at its own 34. The offense needs an answer here.

-- Massaquoi continues his dominance with a 10-yard gain. Moreno, on the other hand, has had very little running room after his first series of the game.

-- Stafford scrambles and runs out of bounds on third down. Georgia will punt. This is a game-deciding drive, I think. The defense needs to make something happen here. A Tech score could be the final nail in the coffin -- for the Dawgs today and maybe Willie Martinez's career here.

-- Tech has outgained Georgia 138-11 in total yardage so far this half.

-- Demayrius Thomas and Prince Miller exchanged some words. There has been a ton of back-and-forth between these two teams today.

-- On third-and-4, Roddy Jones goes outside and finds all the room in the world. It's a gain of 62 -- Tech's second 60+ run of the half. Ug-ly. Jones has 153 yards on 11 carries.

-- Nesbitt completes his first pass since Tech's first play of the game -- to a tackle. It's technically considered a rushing play, which brings up a fourth-and-1 at the Georgia 11. Tech will go for it...

-- ... And no they won't. Tech calls a timeout and comes back out with their FG unit. Blair connects to boost Tech's lead to 10. SCORE: Georgia Tech 38, Georgia 28.

-- Georgia fans probably wish Mo Mass could play defense right now. He picks up 11 more yards to give the Dawgs a first down at their own 31.

-- And add another 13 to that. He has been a one-man wrecking crew today. I guarantee you if they lose, he won't be talking about his big day though.

-- Holding against Georgia sets up a first-and-20. It's hard to fault fans for being upset. Every week, with the exception of Arizona State and to a lesser extent LSU, it has been the exact same story. This team has made zero marked improvement over the course of the season, and that has to fall onto the coaching staff. I've said all year I didn't think any significant overhaul of the staff was in order at year's end, and maybe it's not. But I do think after this is all said and done, Richt needs to take a long look at this year and find out where things went wrong, and if he's only pointing to the injuries and the "tough" schedule, he's doing everyone involved with this team a big disservice.

-- Screen pass to Moreno (why don't they do that more?) gets back to the Georgia 46 to set up a crucial third-and-9. Stafford's pass intended for Harris is broken up and Georgia will punt.

-- If this really is Knowshon's final game at Sanford Stadium, it won't be one he wants to remember. He has just 62 yards on 16 carries in the game.

-- Third quarter numbers: Georgia had 35 yards of offense. Tech had 201. Yikes.

-- Big stop by Georgia on third-and-6. The one thing Georgia has done a good job of doing is containing Nesbitt, but Dwyer and Jones have had a field day. The Dawgs' defensive MVP today has probably been Akeem Dent, who has managed his assignment against Nesbitt extremely well.

-- Logan Gray returns the punt to the Tech 41. That may have been the break Georgia needed. This is a must-score situation. BTW, the Jumbotron scoreboard is turned off. I can tell by the position of the sun, however, that there is 11:39 remaining.

-- Va Tech beats Virginia 17-14, so no ACC title game for Georgia Tech. Seems like something they should announce over the PA.

-- Another 9-yard completion to Massaquoi. That's his 10th reception of the day. 10-157-3. Wow.

-- In a shocking turn of events, Massaquoi can't come up with a low pass from Stafford. On fourth-and-short, Stafford comes up just short on a QB keeper up the middle to bring up fourth-and-inches.

-- Knowshon Moreno goes around the left end and takes it to the house. He was bound to make his presence felt eventually, and that was a huge play. He dragged Mario Butler into the end zone with him. SCORE: Georgia Tech 38, Georgia 35.

-- Nesbitt keeps and is tackled by Ellerbe. He's slow to get up, laying on his back as trainers attend to him at the 35-yard line. Nesbitt has 19 passing yards today and 33 rush yards. Jaybo Shaw in the game now.

-- Shaw keeps and picks up one. It's third-and-4, and the crowd is as loud as they've been all day.

-- Pitch to Jones picks up the first down. I can't figure why Tech doesn't run that every play. Georgia has yet to stop it. First-and-10 at the Tech 43.

-- Two straight runs up the middle pick up a combined three yards. Third-and-7 at the Tech 45.

-- Once again, the pitch goes to Jones and once again, no one is home. He picks up 11 and then breaks a tackle along the sideline, taking it to the end zone for a touchdown. What exactly was Georgia's defense doing during the bye week? Because they seem like they have no idea how the triple option works. Jones has 214 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns. SCORE: Georgia Tech 45, Georgia 35.


-- Apparently all the talk about assignment football the past two weeks was just talk. Whoever has been assigned to Jones today might as well have just stayed at home and kept his uniform dry. Just awful.

-- Moreno keeping things interesting. Another screen pass gains 22 yards. Moreno has 50 yards on three receptions and 144 all-purpose yards.

-- A hold against Josh Davis pushes Georgia back another 10 yards and negates a first-down grab by A.J. Green. Stafford's next pass is batted and nearly picked off but falls incomplete to set up a second-and-20.

-- Massaquoi catches the ball at the 45 and wills his way to the 38. This kid is the only reason Georgia is in this game. 11 catches for 180 yards now.

-- Personnel confusion forces Georgia to use its second time out with 5:07 to play.

-- That screen pass works like a charm. Moreno bobbled the reception, which may have cost him the score. Nevertheless, the play gains 24.

-- Caleb King gets his first carry since missing a block against Florida. He gains 1, and Stafford throws incomplete to Goodman in the end zone to set up a third-and-9. Given Blair Walsh's struggles, this is probably four-down territory.

-- Stafford to Green for the touchdown. Man, you really have to wonder how good this team might have been with a defense that was able to live up to the offense's lofty standards. That South Carolina game when the D bailed out Stafford and Co. seems like a long, long time ago. SCORE: Georgia Tech 45, Georgia 42.

-- That TD pass puts Stafford over 400 yards for the game. Meanwhile the special teams continue to play poorly. Tech will start its drive at its own 44.

-- Tech has struggled in two areas this year: Turnovers (they've averaged three fumbles a game) and special teams. Today, they've had great field position throughout and their only turnover was Nesbitt's Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half. He's back in the game, by the way.

-- Nesbitt keeps and narrowly picks up a first down on a third-and-4. That was probably the stop Georgia needed. I'm headed down to the sideline for the rest of the way.

Senior Moments No. 8: Mark Richt

All this week, we've been showing videos of Georgia's seniors sharing their favorite memories of playing at Sanford Stadium. In our final post, head coach Mark Richt talks about what this year's senior class has meant to him.

A special thanks to Doug Stutsman for the great work collecting these videos and to Ryan Gilchrest at the Macon Telegraph for getting them online. The series of tubes would never work so well without good Internet plumbers.


In case you wanted to catch up on the previous videos in the series, you can find them here: No. 1 -- Dannell Ellerbe, No. 2 -- Corvey Irvin, No. 3 -- Andres Williams, No. 4 --CJ Byrd, No. 5 -- Brannan Southerland, No. 6 -- Demiko Goodman and No. 7 -- Ramarcus Brown.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Catching Up With... Kelin Johnson

Georgia has won seven straight games over in-state rival Georgia Tech. Former Bulldogs safety Kelin Johnson was a part of four of those wins, and he's now breaking down the game and talking with other UGA athletes on his two Web series -- Kelin's Keys and Kelin's Korner.

I caught up with Kelin earlier this week to talk about the upcoming game against Tech, proper press box decorum and the fashion sense among Georgia's secondary.

David Hale: When you were playing, you were always a go-to guy for good quotes. I'm not too surprised you're doing some media work now talking about the games. Talk about the projects you're working on and how did you get involved with them?

Kelin Johnson: When I got cut from Seattle, I went home for about two weeks, and I wasn't getting any calls, so I started thinking it was time to at least start on another chapter of my life that I really wanted to focus on when I got done playing football. My major is speech communications, and I only had a couple of classes left, so I'm back in school and doing those things. I told Coach Richt I wanted to get back in school, and that was no problem. I came back and met with Damon Evans and Coach Richt and said I wanted to get started with some speaking engagements and they sent me over to (sports information director) Claude Felton, and Claude made some calls to all the news channels in the area, and a lot of them said, "If you ever wanted to get in the business, give me a call."

Claude introduced me to the people at CSS, and we started doing Kelin's Corner, where I go and interview students around campus that are student athletes that have their own accomplishments. I go around and interview them and challenge them to their sport. The other thing I do a show with the football team where I break the game down and after that give the keys to the game for next week, and that's how we came up with Kelin's Keys. Both shows are doing really well right now. It's a good look, I'm a former player from Coach Richt's era, and so I can connect with the guys who are still there now.

DH: Now when we were up in Lexington covering the game, you had a little run in with the sports information staff up there for cheering in the press box. How difficult has it been for you to keep your emotions in check now that you're covering the team rather than playing for them?

KJ: It's been real tough. It's just been one of those situations where I have to respect the rules and the regulations. I might not always have to agree on some of them, but that's just some things in life you have to deal with. Being a motivator and being a defensive captain last year, I just feel like my heart is still there. I feel Coach Martinez's pain when things don't go right, I feel Coach Richt's pain when things don't go right because I'm still connected to the program. I want to represent that 'G.' But I actually have gotten better. When I first started, I couldn't sit down in the press box. I was always up looking at the TVs, watching the play-by-play, making comments and stuff. They were like, "No cheering, you can't cheer." And I was like, "What? What are you talking about? That's ridiculous. How are you going to tell me not to cheer?" But I've learned to deal with that, learned to respect that, and I think it will help me. I'm always so expressive, I was taught to always go be aggressive, and now I have to take it back and take things in in a calm way. You can't always be aggressive, you have to handle some things in a calm way. So I think it's been a difficult part for me.

DH: Georgia Tech's offense presents a number of problems for the Bulldogs' D. What do you think the keys to stopping the triple option are?

KJ: It's going to be a very hard project. In 2004, I played against Georgia Southern (which ran the triple option), and that was probably the most difficult offense to prepare for, and we had a long time to prepare for it. You had Thomas Davis and Greg Blue back there, but being a young safety against that offense, an option quarterback, it's hard to stop.

If you're going to stay sound in the game, it comes down to your defensive ends. If your defensive end does not have the best game of his life on Saturday, it's going to be a long day. Your cornerbacks and your safeties, believe it or not -- I'm not talking about the passing game, I'm talking about the running game. You don't see a lot of corners having a lot of tackles in the running game, but our corners are going to have to play real aggressive and get off blocks. Our safeties spinning down into blocks, they're going to have to be key. The corners are going to be one-on-one with a receiver, but they're also going to have the option pass they have to worry about.

I think if our D-ends are not strong and our corners and safeties are not aggressive, it's going to be real hard to win that football game.

DH: You talked about the defensive ends, and that hasn't been a big strength for Georgia. The older guys like Jeremy Lomax and Rod Battle have suffered through injuries and the younger guys haven't come along quite as quickly as you'd like. Do you think they'll be ready for the challenge this week?

KJ: They're going to be as ready as they'll ever be. It's not a question of experience. It's the last game of the season. They don't have any choice but to be ready. They have to be ready. They have so many assignments, but that's why you have two weeks to prepare. I know Coach Martinez has pushed the scout team offense a whole lot. If the scout team doesn't give a great look to our defense, we're selling our team short. We're selling our defense short, and it will be exposed Saturday.

DH: There have been some times this season where the D hasn't really dealt with adversity that well. With the way Tech's offense works, there's bound to be some adversity this week. Do you think the Dawgs can react and regroup this time around?

KJ: It all depends on what type of mood the guys are going to be in. They have to create an atmosphere that we're going to bend, but we're not going to break. That's what it comes down to with that defense for Saturday's game. Georgia Tech's offense is made, its build to break the big play at any given moment. That is how the offense is designed, because if one guy (on defense) messes up, it could be a touchdown or a big play. So the defense has to be relentless, they have to hit hard, play assignment football -- that's key when you're coming up against a system like that.

Georgia Tech's quarterback, if you can take away his spot, you can take away their offense. He reads every snap. Every play of the football game, every snap he takes, he's going to be reading the defensive ends, he's going to be reading the tackles, he's going to be reading the safeties. If you get to him, hit him hard, force him to make bad decisions, hopefully Georgia Tech will not progress in their offense.

DH: It seems like over the past few years, the rivalry with Tech hasn't been at the top of people's list of biggest games around here. What would continuing the streak of seven straight wins over Tech mean for the Bulldogs?


KJ: It says a lot. You want to keep the streak going, but it's not only about the rivalry. It's the Georgia season on the line. It's a matter of pride, your identity, and you're also fighting for recruiting. Georgia's up against it, going to a good bowl game. If you lose this game, you might not go to the bowl game you'd like. It's a lot on the line. I could care less about the rivalry. I care about my former team winning and having the confidence going into the bowl game.

DH: Any predictions for a final score?

KJ: I don't have a prediction. Just as long as we score more points than them, that's all that matters.

DH: OK, well then clear this one up once and for all -- who is the better dresser, you or Asher Allen?

KJ: Asher knows he can't touch this. It's like MC Hammer, man. He can't touch this. Come on now. I will give my hat off to him though. He's a very good dresser. He's got a bright future ahead of him.

Senior Moments No. 7: Ramarcus Brown

Georgia's final home game of the season is Saturday against Georgia Tech, meaning the Bulldogs' seniors have one final opportunity to run between the hedges in front of the Sanford Stadium crowd. All this week, we'll feature a video interview with one Georgia senior talking about his time in Athens, his favorite memories of playing at Georgia and the games that made his time as a Bulldog great.

Today's installment is with cornerback Ramarcus Brown.


* Video courtesy of Doug Stutsman.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Georgia Holds Morning Practice

From UGA Athletics...

University of Georgia head football coach Mark Richt put his team through a one hour, 40 minute Thanksgiving morning workout Thursday as preparations continued for Saturday's annual game with Georgia Tech in Athens.

We followed our normal schedule for a Thursday putting some finishing touches on our preparations, said Richt.

Georgia (9-2) enters the contest with an opportunity to record its sixth ten-win season in Richt s eight years with the Bulldogs. Meanwhile, Tech (8-3) can improve it s bowl possibilities while still being in the hunt for a berth in the ACC championship game.

"This game is about the rivalry, said Richt. It s one of the oldest rivalries in the country. It's for the championship of the State of Georgia which is motivation enough. Georgia Tech played a terrific game against Miami last week and we expect them to give us nothing but their best on Saturday.

Richt also said that redshirt sophomore reserve center Kevin Perez will be suspended for two games as a result of an early Thursday morning DUI charge in Athens. His actions were not acceptable standards of behavior and he ll pay a price for his poor judgment, said Richt.

Georgia players who live close by were given the opportunity to be with family for the Thanksgiving afternoon meal and many will bring along teammates as guests for the day.

"It is a day to be thankful and I want to wish everyone in the Bulldog Nation a very happy Thanksgiving, said Richt.

Georgia will resume preparations Friday morning. Kickoff is set for 12:10 p.m. EST and will be televised nationally by CBS.

Black Friday Chat Reminder

Hey just a quick reminder to UGA fans looking to take a break from the mall and Walmart on Black Friday -- I will be cohosting a live online chat with Macon's Georgia Tech beat writer Coley Harvey at 2 p.m. over on Macon.com.

If you have any questions about the UGA-Tech game, you can submit them any time and we'll answer them tomorrow.

You can submit your questions, participate in the chat or read the transcipt later all by clicking HERE.

Happy shopping.

Senior Moments No. 6: Demiko Goodman

Georgia's final home game of the season is Saturday against Georgia Tech, meaning the Bulldogs' seniors have one final opportunity to run between the hedges in front of the Sanford Stadium crowd. All this week, we'll feature a video interview with one Georgia senior talking about his time in Athens, his favorite memories of playing at Georgia and the games that made his time as a Bulldog great.

Today's installment is with wide receiver Demiko Goodman.



*Video courtesy of Doug Stutsman.

Thanksgiving Links (11/27)

Happy Thanksgiving, folks. This will be my only post for today, but just in case you needed something to keep you from your turkey-enduced coma (and Titans-Lions sure won't do it), here's a quick batch of links that should serve as a nice side dish. You should probably avoid spooning gravy onto your computer though.

-- I have a story today on how Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno are dealing with what could be their final homes games along with some draft analysis from ESPN's Todd McShay.

-- The Telegraph's Coley Harvey has a great story comparing Knowshon Moreno and Jonathan Dwyer.

-- 960 the Ref talks with Kevin Butler in its latest podcast.

-- The AJC's Tim Tucker reports on Corvey Irvin's final farewell to Sanford Stadium, while his paper compares and contrasts UGA and Tech.

-- Some other nice nuggets from the AJC folks, who have worked their butts off this week -- Tripp Chandler has worked hard to stay on the field, Tech's D will have a tough time with Georgia's passing game, and Mohamed Massaquoi has become one of the Dawgs' true leaders.

-- Mark Weiszer blogs that UGA can't overlook Tech's passing game.

-- With Felix Jones heading to IR, the Cowboys have signed former Bulldog Tra Battle.

-- Georgia Sports Blog talks about ESPN haters and thinks there should be a lot less of them around here after the new TV deal kicks in.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wednesday Practice Notes (11/26)

Corvey Irvin isn't ready to leave.

The senior defensive tackle who transferred to Georgia from Georgia Military College last year said he feels like he just arrived in Athens and would like to accomplish a lot more before leaving.

"I wish I had another year to come back next year and play again," Irvin said. "I've got some good experience under my belt, I know what I'm doing, I know what it takes. I'd really shock some people if I had another year."

Irvin has already surprised some people with his play this season. After senior Jeff Owens went down with a season-ending knee injury in Georgia's opener, Irvin stepped into a starting role and has excelled throughout the season.

Now, instead of simply moving on to a life outside of football, his experience this year has his thinking about making it at the next level.

"I got invited to the Senior Bowl, so I'll go there, work hard, train and do my thing there," Irvin said. "Hopefully I get a shot at the next level and continue my football career."

-- Georgia head coach Mark Richt said he doesn't expect to be going after many of the same athletes at Georgia Tech will on the offensive side of the football now that Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson has installed the triple option offense.

While Richt uses a pro-style offense that aims for a balanced attack, Tech runs the ball almost exclusively, meaning wide receivers spend more time blocking than pass catching and the quarterback might throw just a few times a game.

"I would think on the offensive side of the ball, the recruits we might go after would be different, there'd be less crossover," Richt said. "The defensive players we'll be competing for, I would say we'd be going after the exact same guy."

When it comes to grabbing those top defensive recruits, Richt said, one thing that isn't part of his sales pitch is Georgia's seven-game winning streak over its in-state rival.

"I don't think I've ever mentioned it," Richt said. "I think the kids care more about where they see themselves fitting into your system. They all want to know what are your plans for me here? I don't think (the rivalry) crosses their mind that much."

-- After Kentucky's Randall Cobb helped scorch the Georgia rush defense three weeks ago, Irvin called a players-only meeting to set goals for their next game against Auburn. Among the intentions for the Bulldogs' defense was to hold the Tigers to fewer than 100 yards on the ground.

Irvin and company fell just short, and against a Tech offense that thrives on the running game, it might be a lofty standard for this week, too. But Irvin said this time his defense isn't going in with any set goals. He just wants his teammates to play hard, and that will be enough to get the job done.

"We're just going to go out and play football," Irvin said. "If we go out and play football, everything else will take care of itself."

INJURY UPDATES

-- Right tackle Justin Anderson was expected to miss Saturday's game against Georgia Tech, but Richt said the redshirt freshman has moved around well in practice this week and will be available to play.

"I don't think (Anderson) will start, but he'll be able to play," Richt said. "He'll be dressed and ready."

Richt said Josh Davis is likely to get his second consecutive start at right tackle this week, although the final decision will be made by line coach Stacy Searels.

-- Tight end Tripp Chandler has been cleared to play also, but his injured knee will likely limit his playing time.

"(Trainer) Ron (Courson) believes he'll be dressed and ready to play, but (tight ends) Coach (John) Lilly will have to determine how much he thinks he can help us," Richt said of Chandler.

-- Linebacker Darius Dewberry (shoulder) and fullback Justin Fields (knee) each underwent surgery earlier this week with mixed results.

Richt said Dewberry is wearing a protective shoulder harness designed to keep the injury cool and stable, but just two days after the surgery, Dewberry looked good.

"Dewberry is such a tough guy," Richt said. "He was just kind of smiling like nothing happened to him."

Fields' surgery on his ACL met with some complications. Doctors found damage to the cartilage in his knee which needed to be repaired and delayed the ACL reconstruction. Richt said it will be four to six weeks before the second surgery can be performed.

"That hurts," Richt said. "He was pretty down about that when I talked to him (Tuesday) night."

-- Richt also noted that the rehab for Jeff Owens and Trinton Sturdivant has gone very well so far, but that he doubted either would participate in full-contact drills during spring practice.

Scouting the Jackets

I exchanged a few quick questions with the Telegraph's Georgia Tech beat writer Coley Harvey to get a rundown of some of the essential Yellow Jackets info heading into Saturday's rivalry game. You can read more of Coley's Tech coverage HERE. Coley and I will also be hosting a UGA-Tech chat at www.macon.com/ugachat on Friday. You can submit questions to either of us now, and we'll answer them on Friday.

In the meantime, Coley answers a few of my questions here...

DH: Tech's triple option has found plenty of running room even in the games they have lost. What are the keys to slowing them down, and do you think there's a way to beat them even if they rack up 300+ yards on the ground?

CH: Yes, there's definitely a chance that Georgia Tech can be beaten even if it rushes for more than 300 yards. Take the Yellow Jackets' 28-7 loss against North Carolina, for example. In that game, Georgia Tech rushed for 326 yards, and sophomore B-back (running back) Jonathan Dwyer even had an 85-yard touchdown run. So even though the Yellow Jackets were able to break through for some big plays, they couldn't seem to translate them into points. Georgia Tech racked up more than 500 yards of total offense in that game, and for roughly three quarters, the defense held firm. So what happened?

One word: Turnovers. They've been the bane of Georgia Tech's existence this season, and (for the Yellow Jackets) a nasty by-product of the triple option offense new Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson has brought to The Flats. Now, they'll correct the turnover problem one day, but this year it's been a problem, and the North Carolina game was no different. On four occasions in that contest, the Yellow Jackets fumbled the ball, losing possession twice on two clutch moments late in the game. Had they held on to the football better, the Yellow Jackets may have been able to translate that loss into a win.

Keeping with the North Carolina theme, Georgia's defenders should probably watch tape of the game Tar Heels linebacker Mark Paschal had in that game. Flying all over the field, Paschal ended up with 10 total tackles, and had eight in the first half alone. At middle linebacker, Paschal was one of the players the Yellow Jackets struggled to get around. If the Bulldogs are to be successful against the run, Georgia's linebackers should hope to play as well as Paschal did.

DH: It seems like the Tech offense gets all the headlines, but the defense -- particularly the front four -- look really good. Are people focusing on the wrong thing heading into this game?

CH: No, I think there's a definite concern about the offense and the challenges it poses to Georgia's fast defense. Against an equally speedy Miami defense last Thursday, we saw just how poor a team can look when they over-pursue players, overrun routes, and fail to get in the proper lanes. So there definitely is valid emphasis being placed on Georgia Tech's triple option offense. But in that same vein, the Bulldogs have to be just as worried about the Yellow Jackets' front line than anything else.

Georgia Tech's defensive line is arguably one of the best in the country with All-ACC tackle Vance Walker and end Michael Johnson leading the load. Both are likely to be top-round draft picks next April, with some placing Johnson as high as No. 3 on the draft projection board. Senior defensive tackle Darryl Richard is another formidable player on the defensive line who is getting some considerable looks from NFL scouts, as well. Then there's the often forgotten member of the line, the young Derrick Morgan. Just a sophomore, Morgan has been dubbed by head coach Paul Johnson at times this season as "possibly the best player on the defensive line." And that's not a joke. At times this season, Morgan has been among the country's leaders in sacks and tackles for loss. He's even gotten his hand on a field goal attempt, blocking a long try to win Georgia Tech's game against Gardner-Webb.

While each member of the defensive unit is hungry for a win Saturday, there may be very few Yellow Jackets who want one more than the members of the defensive line. As seniors, Johnson, Walker and Richard have never beaten the Bulldogs and are sure to be playing even faster and even stronger than they have all season. Georgia fans, definitely keep an eye out for how well Tech's defensive line matches up with the Bulldogs.

DH: On paper, this is a big rivalry game, but Georgia has won every meeting since Mark Richt got to Athens. What's the attitude in the Tech locker room toward this week's game? Has Paul Johnson made it a focal point of the season?

CH: In all honesty, David and the rest of the BulldogBlog Nation, for Georgia Tech, priority No.1 this season is to "Beat Georgia." Of all the goals the Yellow Jackets have plastered on the walls of their locker room (and they've seen a large share of those goals already come true), the biggest one is for them to beat their rivals in Athens.

Coming into the season, very few pundits, bloggers and beat writers (me included) gave Georgia Tech a chance this season. Some figured the Yellow Jackets would win just three, four, five, maybe even six games. (On the extreme end, I personally thought they'd be lucky to win seven) The reason was simple: No one believed that in the first year of a drastic transition to a rare offense, that the Yellow Jackets could have any bit of success. So expectations were low for the Yellow Jackets coming into the season. They hoped for an ACC title berth, but it wasn't the top priority. They felt, if they could just get out of the season and upset the preseason No. 1 Bulldogs, regardless how many wins they had, that one victory would give the season great value. So to answer your question, yes this is the focus for the Yellow Jackets. To describe the mood in the locker room, though, I'd call it calm. Surprisingly, there's a lot of smiling and laughter among the players, but even in their cheer, there's a serious vibe around this week's preparations. Amidst their calm, there's a businesslike focus; a confidence, if you will. It's as if each player believes that this will be the year that they can finally beat Georgia.

DH: A lot of people seem to think this could be Tech's year to pull the upset, but the ACC hasn't been particularly strong and Tech hasn't looked great on the road. In your opinion, how good is this Tech team overall?

CH: Darryl Richard said it best after the Miami game (I'm paraphrasing so forgive me): €Ε“The conference is so up-and-down this season it's like everybody's playing hot-potato with the trophy. Hopefully they'll keep playing, and let it fall as we sit back and watch. €

There is no surprise that the ACC has seen great parity this season, and has increasingly drawn the moniker of a conference that is no longer one of the nation's best. Sure, that's no secret. But the real secret is that fact that there are teams in this conference that have the potential to be really good. Of all the college football I've watched this year, I'd argue that Georgia Tech is really good overall. I'm not sure if the Yellow Jackets are truly worthy of a top 10 consideration right now, but top 20? Yes. Top 15? Maybe.

The offense is good, it's tricky, but Jonathan Dwyer is arguably (overall) the best running back I've seen this season. And I'm saying this after having watched Knowshon in person three times. Yes, Knowshon is athletic, and has some excellent field vision, but for Dwyer to move the way he does with his size, and after having to learn a brand new offensive scheme, I'm convinced that there are some intangibles that he has that Knowshon doesn't. That's why, of all the position battles Saturday, I'll be most intrigued to see how the running backs perform.

In addition to sound offense, the Yellow Jackets have an excellent defense, with a strong defensive line and a young, pass-happy secondary.

In terms of the road record, most of Georgia Tech's stronger opponents this season were games scheduled away from Bobby Dodd Stadium; Virginia Tech, Boston College, Clemson, North Carolina. In those games they were 2-2, winning and losing in some hostile environments. In fact, of the crowds they faced this season, their win over Clemson was probably the wildest, as a loud, exciting fan base roared on the Tigers in the first week under interim head coach Dabo Swinney. Of course, in Athens, the crowd is sure to be even more intimidating, but I'm thinking they'll be prepared for it. For one, it's not far from home, and for two, a large smattering of the capacity Sanford Stadium crowd is sure to be wearing White and Gold, as well. As road games go, this will be the most neutral feel the Yellow Jackets have likely had all season. All of this is to say, don't be surprised if Athens turns into Upset City come late Saturday afternoon.

DH: What do you think are the two or three keys to a Tech victory and what's your prediction for a final score?


CH: Keys:

1) Cause Georgia to Make Mistakes:

As the Yellow Jackets have struggled with turnovers, we've seen the Bulldogs struggle with penalties this season. There have been cases like during the Vanderbilt game when Georgia could not seem to spot committing pass interference violations. There have been other cases when Bulldogs have committed unnecessary personal fouls. Georgia ranks 118th out of 119 FBS teams with 98 penalties this season. And whether you love him or hate him, Georgia fans, Paul Johnson is a very savvy head coach, and he is sure to find a way to exploit that statistic. If he can find a way to frustrate the Bulldogs into committing senseless penalties, he may also find a way to frustrate them into missing assignments and blowing coverages. This could all lead to a big day on the ground for Jonathan Dwyer, quarterback Josh Nesbitt and Paul Johnson's offense.

2) Enter Georgia's Backfield Frequently:

For a victory Saturday, the Yellow Jackets have to completely disrupt Georgia's passing and rushing games by getting into the Bulldogs' backfield frequently. Georgia Tech is 14th in the country in sacks, coming away with 2.73 per game. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Yellow Jackets' veteran front put tons of pressure on Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford early. And if they're able to do that, there's also a good chance that the defensive linemen and linebackers will be able to get to Knowshon Moreno before he escapes the backfield.

3) Enjoy the Moment:

Georgia Tech wasn't supposed to be in this position. It wasn't supposed to be No. 18 entering this weekend's contest, and it wasn't supposed to be in a spot where it could potentially upset the Bulldogs. So with nothing really to lose, the Yellow Jackets should play just that way and just enjoy the big-game atmosphere the rivalry will bring. Winners of seven-straight games, the Bulldogs are feeling the pressure to win a little more, as they are expected to extend the streak, and prove their higher national ranking. With less on the line, don't be surprised to see the Yellow Jackets play as if there's no tomorrow.

Prediction: Georgia Tech wins 27-20.

Senior Moments No. 5: Brannan Southerland

Georgia's final home game of the season is Saturday against Georgia Tech, meaning the Bulldogs' seniors have one final opportunity to run between the hedges in front of the Sanford Stadium crowd. All this week, we'll feature a video interview with one Georgia senior talking about his time in Athens, his favorite memories of playing at Georgia and the games that made his time as a Bulldog great.

Today's installment is with fullback Brannan Southerland. I'll have more on Southerland in Friday's Telegraph, too.



* Video courtesy of Doug Stutsman.

Wednesday Links (11/26)

Didn't get any links up yesterday due to a rather hectic schedule, so a few more than usual today...

-- I have a story in today's Telegraph on the importance of Georgia's defenders sticking to their assignments -- something they haven't necessarily done a great job of this season.

-- The brilliant Mr. Coley Harvey looks at the same issue from Georgia Tech's side of things .

-- The Bulldogs' hoops team finally looks like its offense is clicking. Man, if Trey Thompkins is this good without having practiced, what's his potential look like? (BTW, Syracuse!)

-- The Dallas Morning News would love to see a Texas Tech-Georgia matchup in the Cotton Bowl. I'll be honest, that might get kinda ugly for Georgia's D. Of course, what's more fun in a bowl game than watching a 51-48 game?

-- Chip Towers writes about the friendship between Mike Bobo and Georgia Tech's Brian Bohannon.

-- More rivaly relationships: The AJC's Larry Hartstein has a story on Tech's kicker, Scott Blair, whose sister was a member of UGA's equestrian team.

-- Falcons broadcaster Wes Durham talks about Tech's offense and Jonathan Dwyer in this podcast with 960 the Ref.

-- Total UGA talks about Tripp Chandler's battle to stay on the field this season.

-- Check out Kelin Johnson's keys to the game this week. We'll have more with Kelin here later this week.

-- ESPN's Chris Low is predicting a shootout at Sanford Stadium on Saturday, with the Dawgs prevailing by four.

-- Vince Dooley will be honored in an early morning dedication ceremony before the Tech game. Georgia's seniors will be honored prior to kickoff. And now Larry Munson will be honored during halftime on Saturday.

-- Speaking of Coach Dooley, he passes along some tips on stopping the option. Meanwhile, Thomas Stinson writes about the key matchup between UGA's O-line and Tech's D-line.

-- Georgia Sports Blog has more on the Syracuse-inspired catastrophe happening in South Bend.

-- I think Bruce Pearl is pretty universally likable -- what with the orange blazers and all -- but apparently there's one person with an axe to grind against the Vols' coach.

-- And finally, Reason No. 1,847 why I hate Andy Reid.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

No-hio State

If you were keeping your fingers crossed for a Georgia-Ohio State showdown in the Cap One Bowl, this won't come as good news.

Oregon State's star running back Jacquizz Rodgers is doubtful for the Beavers' game against Oregon this Saturday. OSU needs a win over the Ducks to clinch the Pac-10 title, thus putting them in the Rose Bowl. The ripple effects of an OSU win would likely put USC in the Fiesta Bowl and push Ohio State out of the BCS picture (with the other at-large bids going to a one-loss Big 12 team, the SEC title game loser and Utah).

If Ohio State doesn't head to a BCS game, it will almost certainly go to the Cap One where Georgia already seems like a near lock. Should Oregon State lose, however, USC would claim the Pac-10 crown, Ohio State heads to the Fiesta, and Michigan State or Iowa would be the Bulldogs' likely opponent in Orlando.

Rodgers, a freshman, has racked up 1,253 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns for Oregon State this year.

Tuesday Notes (11/25)

Rennie Curran has watched enough film of the Georgia Tech offense to have learned one indisputable fact. At some point Saturday, the Yellow Jackets are going to get a big play against the Georgia defense.

Tech's triple option is designed to cause confusion and gash the opposition, and Curran said there's a good chance that will happen on a few plays in this year's game. The key, he said, is to be ready for it.

"That type of offense thrives off of misdirection, confusing guys and making them get frustrated," Curran said. "If you really don't know your keys and your assignments, it can really make any one of their athletes extra good. If you start looking around, looking for the ball, it can make their offense look really good."

Against Florida earlier this month, the Gators turned a few big plays into a rout when Georgia's defenders began hanging their heads, defensive tackle Corvey Irvin said. Against Tech, the Bulldogs need to keep their focus regardless of any early success the Yellow Jackets might have.

"We just can't get frustrated when something goes wrong." Irvin said. "We've just got to have thick skin about it and get ready for the next play."

That, too, comes back to preparation during the week, Curran said.
If Georgia knows what to expect, regrouping and adjusting won't be as big a challenge.

"I feel like even if there are a couple things busted here and there that we can go on the sidelines and regroup and take care of those things," Curran said, "as long as we get it right here in practice this week so there's nothing that surprises us."

-- Right tackle Justin Anderson's injured foot is feeling better this week, head coach Mark Richt said, and the redshirt freshman hasn't been officially ruled out for this week's game against Georgia Tech.

Richt said Anderson could get some work against the scout team in practice, and if he continues to improve, he could be available for Saturday's game.

"We'll see how he holds up, but he moved around pretty good (Monday), and we're going to at least give him a shot against the scout team," Richt said.

-- Curran said he knows just how important it is for his Bulldogs to beat Georgia Tech, but the criticism he's heard from fans after Georgia's first two losses has already made this a long season.

Curran said he tries to avoid fan message boards and criticism of the team on the radio, but admits curiosity often gets the better of him. While most of his teammates don't admit to checking in on fans' comments, he said most of them still do.

While Curran said the criticism particularly of defensive coordinator Willie Martinez has been difficult, his teammates haven't let it get to them this season.

"Nobody really stays talking about that stuff," Curran said. "We're all young athletes. We all have lives. When we step on the field, it's all about business, and in the locker room or when we're in classes and all that, we're just regular guys. I think people forget that sometimes."

Richt Talks Tech

From Tuesday's media session with Georgia head coach Mark Richt...

On Georgia Tech's offensive success against fast and athletic defenses
"I think certain types of players are going to try to make the play whether or not he is designated to make the play. When you play this offense you have to have discipline in your assignments. Certain guys are assigned to certain parts of this option, and if a guy tries to do someone else's job then you have problems. I think sometimes guys get a little impatient and they want to go get the quarterback or go get the pitchback and it may not be his assignment. That might be part of the problem that guys feel like they can use their athleticism to go make a play rather than do what they are assigned to do."

On the success of Georgia Tech's triple option offense
"This offense has always succeeded. I think what got it out of the high school ranks a little bit is the fact that most high school associations don't let you block below the waist, and the cut block is a very big part of this system. Of course it's still legal to do in college ball. A lot of the high school coaches realize that if they can't implement the cut block, it's going to be tougher to make it go. I don't know if there is ever a time when the system itself, if implemented properly, hasn't had success. There have just been other offenses that have gained more attention and maybe become more fashionable, but I don't know if this system has every failed at any time. It's going to succeed probably even more because no one else is doing it and defenses are scrambling to get a feel of how to defend it. Coaches might know how to defend it but you have to rep it. Your players have to get used to it. It's just a whole different mentality than a lot of defensive play. That is definitely an advantage for Georgia Tech right now."

On the cut block and whether it should be allowed

"The cut block on our level of football is designed to always be done where the blocker is faced up on the defender. It's not designed where you can come from outside-in and cut somebody below the waist. If somebody comes from the outside working his way in, you are now allowed to block below the waist. Even on any kicking down there are no blocks below the waist. It's just too dangerous. If it's done properly, then I think the cut block still ought to be in the college football game."

On preparing for Georgia Tech after winning the last seven games in the series

"I don't think we've ever had one bit of trouble respecting Georgia Tech and preparing like mad for Georgia Tech and this year is no different. If you look at the scores, for the most part they have been very, very close games. There is no reason to think anything other than it's going to be a battle royale."

On when Richt realized the intensity of the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry
"Before I accepted the job I knew how crucial it is. When I was at Florida State it was always Florida State and Florida playing and Georgia and Georgia Tech playing that same weekend. It was ACC versus SEC, so I was very mindful of what was going on. Playing against Georgia Tech for all those years while at Florida State we had a pretty good appreciation for them. It wasn't like I had never crossed paths with Georgia Tech before, just not as a Georgia coach. I had no trouble figuring out that it was a huge game."

On the difference between the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry and the Florida-Florida State rivalry

"I think the tradition is deeper here in this rivalry than the other one. Florida State didn't even start playing football until the late 1940s. Florida State and Florida didn't play on a regular basis until sometime after that. I don't think they have played half as many as Georgia and Georgia Tech have. When you play a team 100 times there is all kind of history and good and bad blood mostly bad. It's just a little deeper in the tradition of the game."

Rivalry Game Goes Green

From UGA Athletics...

The University of Georgia has partnered with Georgia Power who will provide Green Energy for the game. It will be the first time that electricity for a University of Georgia football game has been generated completely by renewable sources.

"The University of Georgia is an emerging leader in research on development of renewable energy sources, and we are significantly lowering energy usage on campus through conservation and use of alternative sources," said UGA Athletic Director Damon Evans. "Using electricity from the Green Energy program fits well with our commitment to energy conservation and we are pleased to join with Georgia Power in this innovative program."

By using environmentally friendly Green Energy, UGA will help protect the environment, conserve natural resources, help promote the use of renewable energy in Georgia and support domestic energy self-reliance.

"Georgia Power looks forward to providing Green Energy for one of the great annual match-ups in college football," said Chris Womack, Georgia Power's Executive Vice President of External Affairs. "This partnership demonstrates the University of Georgia's commitment to the development of renewable energy in the state."

The electricity for the game will displace traditional forms of energy such as coal and natural gas from the power grid. The majority of the electricity in Georgia Power s Green Energy program currently comes from the Seminole Landfill methane gas facility in DeKalb County.

Since Georgia Power began the Green Energy program in October 2006, almost 4,000 customers have committed to purchase in excess of 18 million kilowatt-hours of Green Energy annually. Residential customers can purchase 100-kilowatt-hour blocks of Green Energy for $3.50 per block, which is added to their monthly electricity bill.

Senior Moments No. 4: CJ Byrd

Georgia's final home game of the season is Saturday against Georgia Tech, meaning the Bulldogs' seniors have one final opportunity to run between the hedges in front of the Sanford Stadium crowd. All this week, we'll feature a video interview with one Georgia senior talking about his time in Athens, his favorite memories of playing at Georgia and the games that made his time as a Bulldog great.

Today's installment is with safety CJ Byrd, one of just two UGA seniors to start every game this season.




*Video prepared by Doug Stutsman.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Practice Notes (11/24)

Rennie Curran watches every Georgia Tech game he can to see his good friend Jonathan Dwyer run the football.

Both players grew up outside Atlanta, and Curran said Dwyer's skills rival anyone in the SEC including his teammate, Knowshon Moreno.

"He does some impressive things," Curran said. "He's a power runner, and he can run you over or juke you out just like Knowshon can."

Dwyer has racked up 1,184 yards rushing this season just 60 fewer than Moreno and has topped 100 yards in all but three games this season.

"The stats don't lie," Curran said. "He's put up big numbers, and he's as likely to do it against us as any team. I think he'd be fine in the SEC."

Dwyer will present a significant challenge for the Bulldogs' defense, which has struggled to slow opposing running games during its past four games.

The key to stopping the Georgia Tech sophomore, head coach Mark Richt said, is to stop him early. Once Dwyer finds himself in space, he becomes a tough target to tackle.

"We have to get to him before he gets started because he is an agile tackle-breaker with good speed," Richt said. "(Dwyer) looks every bit of 228 pounds, and he carries it well. For him, if you don't get him at the line of scrimmage, it's going to be tough to get him down."

-- Moreno was named a finalist for the Doak Walker Award on Monday along with Michigan State's Javon Ringer and Iowa's Shonn Greene.

Moreno leads the SEC in rushing through 11 games, averaging 113 yards per game and has 16 touchdowns. Earlier this season he became only the second running back in school history to top 1,000 rushing yards in consecutive seasons.

"It's an honor just to be named for that award," Moreno said. "Those other backs are great backs who are definitely capable of winning."

Making the honor more impressive is the parts surrounding Moreno. Georgia's offensive line has been decimated by injuries this season, but Moreno said his teammates have done the dirty work that has helped him find success.

"That's what it comes down to," Moreno said. "As an offense, that's why it's such an honor. It's nice to have that much rushing and be up for those awards, but at the same time, everybody's doing their job just to get (me) there."

Moreno would be just the second Georgia running back to win the Doak Walker Award, joining Garrison Hearst, who won the trophy in 1992. The winner will be announced Dec. 11.

-- When defensive tackle Jeff Owens went down with a season-ending injury in the Bulldogs' opening game of the season, his backup, Kade Weston, figured to step into a much larger role. Thanks to lingering injuries of his own, however, Weston's season has been far from productive.

Weston underwent surgery just days before Owens' injury, and while he has played through the pain all year, he has never been able to play at full speed.

"Coming off the surgery, that was really the hard part because it still wasn't 100 percent," Weston said. "I'm trying to come out there and help the guys as much as I can."

Weston said his teammates have been supportive, but he admits his 12 tackles this season make for a disappointing tally considering the role he had hoped to play.

"I'm not satisfied," Weston said. "I could have done a lot better. But I can't expect to do too much with a bad knee. You can only do as much as the knee will allow you."

UGA-Santa Clara Live Blog

This isn't going to be nearly as detailed as our football live blogs have been, but I'll try to keep up a bit with it. I'll preface, however, by saying I'm still working on my football notebook for today, so we'll see how it goes.

-- Through five minutes, Georgia has a 9-8 lead -- not exactly a scoring frenzy. Albert Jackson is playing after missing Friday's game and has looked good so far. Trey Thompkins his making his first apperance of the season, too.

-- 12:37 left in the first and Thompkins has his first basket of the year, a mid-range jumper that gives Georgia an 11-10 lead. Thompkins definitely looks out of shape, however, and has seemed a bit reluctant to get physical in the post.

-- If you were to do a shot every time someone made a basket tonight, I'm fairly certain no one would leave drunk. 13-10 Georgia with 9:46 left in the half.

-- Ben Dowdell on Santa Clara just threw down the ball after a backcourt violation. The ball bounced over to the press table, where I made as nice a rebound as anyone on Georgia has so far. I'd also like to remind Dennis Felton that I have four full years of eligibility remaining. Tied 13-13 with 7:40 remaining in the half.

-- 6:27 left and Santa Clara has a 15-13 lead. Your offensive stars so far: Albert Jackson for UGA and John Bryant for SC -- both of whom have six points. Combined, the two teams are 12-of-39 shooting, including 0-5 from beyond the arc.

-- Terrance Woodbury finally finds his stroke, hitting a long jumper to put the Dawgs up 17-15 with 3:25 to play in the half. Those were his first points of the game.

-- To call this crowd sparse would be an insult to wide open spaces. I'd estimate roughly 500 people here. I can't for the life of me figure why the NIT organizers would send two teams across the country to play in front of no one.

-- Woodbury hits from 3 to give Georgia a 24-16 lead. The Dawgs are on an 11-1 run having finally found their shooting touch.

-- Santa Clara hits a 3 in the final minute to pull within five at the half. OK, Georgia notes to finish.

-- Rocking out to some Van Halen at halftime. Terrance Woodbury's 0-of-5 start to the game did to Georgia's offense what Sammy Hagar did to Van Halen, but his 3-of-3 finish was much like David Lee Roth's reunion with the band. Hopefully the hot streak lasts longer than Roth's second stint with VH.

-- Some other numbers: Albert Jackson is 4-of-6 shooting and leads the Bulldogs with four boards; Trey Thompkins played nine minutes in the first half, which is about 8 minutes and 40 seconds more than I was expecting; Georgia is shooting 35.5 percent for the half, but that's better than Santa Clara's 28 percent; Rebounds are even at 20 apiece; UGA has seven turnovers, SC has 11.

-- Georgia's backcourt in the first half: 3-of-12 shooting. That's not going to get it done.

-- I know the whole "Sopranos" finale really pushed "Don't Stop Believing" back into the national consciousness, but for my money, "Separate Ways" is definitely Journey's best tune.

-- Jeremy Price hits his first basket of the game. He has really struggled with his shooting so far this season. But then again, who hasn't?

-- 29-all four minutes into the second half. The spread on this game, should you care about such things, was Santa Clara plus six. I would have been all over that. Oh, sorry... 31-29 Santa Clara.

-- Just in case you're interested in such things (although for completely different reasons), Syracuse is up by six on Florida with 3:30 to play. Go Cuse.

-- Chris Barnes gives Georgia the lead once again -- 33-31 with 14 to play. No signs of Thompkins in the second half. He's brutally out of shape from all the preseason injuries. Prior to this weekend, he had not participated in a full practice since arriving at Georgia.

-- 12:30 to go, and Thompkins is back in.

-- From Georgia's game notes: "Travis Leslie: Surprisingly, he is Georgia's top surprise this year." That was from Georgia's game notes. Surprisingly.

-- Now, I'm willing to consider that Santa Clara is just terrible on offense, but Georgia's D has actually looked pretty solid with eight steals and seven blocks. The Dogs are being outrebounded, however, 25-20 so far.

-- Santa Clara's John Bryant is easily the biggest guy on the court. Unfortunately for them, they also have three other players on the court right now who would not meet the height requirement for several of the more thrilling rides at Six Flags.

-- Cuse, baby! This already gives us more big non-conference wins than we had all last year. Why didn't you come back for a second season Donte Green?!? Georgia's up 38-34 with 9:40 left to go here.

-- Some guy on Santa Clara named Calvin Johnson just hit a bucket to cut the Dawgs' lead to three. Somewhere Reggie Ball is saying, "Oh, that's what it looks like when Calvin Johnson scores on Georgia."

-- If anyone wants to come on down to Stegeman to catch the final 8 minutes, there are still plenty of great seats left.

-- Just a nice note from the out-of-town scores: Loyola of Chicago, who beat Georgia last week, just lost to Cornell. Smart kids up there at Cornell.

-- Thompkins hits two from the line, giving him 8 points for the game. All things considered, this hasn't been a bad performance for the freshman, who you really couldn't have expected much from before tip off.

-- Woodbury has 12 now, tying him with Bryant as the game's high scorer. He has disappeared for large chunks of the game, though, and what Georgia needs -- given all the youth on the roster -- is for him to be more consistent.

-- Twenty-four turnovers in the game for Santa Clara and they are still only down 3. Also, did you know Santa Clara is the Broncos?

-- I thought the Packers had a good defense. Drew Brees has officially sunk my fantasy season (although, to be fair, Jason Witten, Frank Gore and Santonio Holmes have been the true culprits).

-- Two more from the line for Thompkins gives him 10 for the game and gives Georgia a seven-point lead with 2 minutes to play.

-- Albert Jackson hits two from the line. Those are just his third and fourth points in the half after playing a major role in the first-half scoring. One minute to go and UGA has a 7-point lead.

-- Swansey misses two from the line. Um, what exactly is he supposed to be good at again? A Santa Clara travel gives the ball back to Georgia, while SC's bench is yelling to foul Swansey. Instead they get Woodbury, who'll go to the line for two with the Dawgs up four and 35 ticks left on the clock.

-- SC hits two at the line to pull back to within four. Corey Bulter will shoot two for Georgia. 21.3 left in the game. I wonder if there's even one Santa Clara fan here that isn't related to someone on the team.

-- Butler hits two, Jackson plays some fantastic defense on Bryant, and the Dawgs run out the clock to preserve a 54-48 win.

It was ugly -- as they all have been so far -- but unless MVSU pulls a total 180 from their game against Arizona earlier today (they shot 22 percent for the game) Georgia will be off to a 5-1 start. Win's a win I guess, but this could get ugly against Illinois and Virginia Tech in the next couple weeks.

Gym Dogs Voted Preseason No. 1

From UGA Athletics...

The Georgia gymnastics team will begin the 2009 season in a familiar place in the rankings.

The Gym Dogs have been chosen as the No. 1 team in the 2009 Preseason Coaches Poll. Georgia, which has won four consecutive NCAA titles, received 26 of the first-place 33 votes to outdistance No. 2 Utah.

We re honored to be ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll, said Georgia gymnastics coach Suzanne Yoculan, who is entering her final season. It s a compliment and it s an honor we certainly appreciate. At the same time, we know it s a long season and we have to work hard every day to put ourselves in position for the poll that matters the most the last one.

Georgia will face 11 teams in the preseason poll, including six from the top eight spots. The Gym Dogs will entertain No. 23 West Virginia, No. 2 Utah, No. 6 Alabama, No. 15 Auburn, No. 3 Florida and No. 8 Michigan. Georgia has road dates against No. 4 UCLA, No. 7 LSU, No. 12 Arkansas and No. 25 Kentucky.

The Vault: Tech Week

Back when I covered Georgia for the Albany Herald, our small staff size required that my work week consist of more than just Bulldogs football during the season. When Georgia was off, I had to cover other area colleges, including Florida State, Auburn and Georgia Tech. I also had to write a twice weekly column on whatever I pleased -- but usually about college football.

So, in my backlog of non-Georgia coverage, I have a few stories I've written on Tech over the years. I came across two of them today, and figured they might be a fun read for all you Bulldogs fans who enjoy reflecting on all the Yellow Jackets' failures over the years.

This first piece is a column I wrote prior to the 2006 season. As you'll remember, Tech had a solid roster of veterans and was a favorite to win the ACC. Georgia had no idea what to expect following the departure of D.J. Shockley and the possibility of starting a true freshman at quarterback. My point in this piece was that, if Tech was ever going to upstage the Bulldogs, 2006 would be the year. We all know how that turned out.

Of course, at the end of that season, Tech did manage to play for the ACC championship against upstart Wake Forest. For any of you who might wonder about my hated for covering games in Jacksonville, the '06 ACC championship game added quite a bit of fuel to that fire. The final score -- 9-6 Wake -- hardly did justice to just how bad the game was. Afterward, I wrote a column paying tribute to poster boy for bad games, Mr. Reggie Ball.

It was less than a week after I wrote that column that Tech announced Ball would miss his final game -- the Gator Bowl -- because he failed to make grades for the semester. I still consider that one of the most heart-warming stories I've read.

Of course, to avoid any perception of bias or conflict of interest, I try to avoid opinion writing on college football these days. I will say, too, that I actually really like Chan Gailey as a person, and I love watching games at Bobby Dodd. So don't pigeonhole me as a Tech basher by any means. Saying Reggie Ball stunk was really more of a fact than an opinion anyway.

In any case, hopefully you'll enjoy this look back and be sufficiently excited for Tech Week '08.