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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Post-Game Notes: Cox Manages Shoulder Injury

For the second straight week, rumors swirled about whether Joe Cox would be able to take the field on game day. For the second straight week, he did.

This time, however, Cox turned in a winning performance in spite of a nagging shoulder injury, helping to lead the Bulldogs to a 41-37 win over South Carolina.

“He handled it tremendously,” wide receiver Tavarres King said of the controversy surrounding Cox leading up to game day. “He handled all the things coming at him, came out confidence in himself and confident in us. We put our confidence in him, and you saw what happened. He just balled out.”

Reports surfaced Thursday that Cox might not be able to play Saturday, and that Logan Gray would step in as the team’s quarterback. Cox admitted that he is suffering from a shoulder injury, but he said the severity was overstated.

“It’s not something that’s getting worse and worse and worse,” Cox said. “It’s been the same the whole year, and I get enough treatment on it to feel good enough to play, and it’s going to be fine all year.”

Cox completed 17-of-24 passes in the game for 201 yards and two touchdowns, but it wasn’t all highlights. His interception early in the fourth quarter was returned for a touchdown by Eric Norwood, pulling the Gamecocks to within one.

“I knew we were going to throw the ball, and it was one of those things where I could work either side. I kind of saw Norwood and was like, hmmm, but I decided to throw it anyway and he made a good play.”

Beyond the interception, however, Cox was the leader Georgia needed, tailback Richard Samuel said, and the win was a nice reminder of why he’s the Bulldogs’ quarterback.

“He has to be the leader of the offense, so he can’t let the critics get to him,” Samuel said. “This win was a good one for him.”

BETTER, BUT NOT GREAT

Samuel critiqued his work a week ago as “not a winning performance,” but he saw some improvement this time around.

Samuel touched the ball 18 times and tallied 87 yards, scoring his first touchdown of the season.

“I would grade my performance as an improvement from last week,” Samuel said, “but there’s still I need to do, more I need to get done as a running back.”

WHOLE LOTTA POINTS

The 78 points scored in the game Saturday marked the highest combined total since 1970 for a Georgia-South Carolina game.

No team had topped 20 since 2003, and last week the two teams mustered just 17 total points, so the high scoring came as a big surprise to head coach Mark Richt.

“It was close, but all those points were very uncharacteristic of the game,” Richt said. “I know our offensive coaches are thrilled and our defensive coaches are probably not. But everybody was thrilled to get that victory.”

TYSON COMES THROUGH

Richt said he doesn’t usually expect much on extra-point tries. It’s natural, he said, for players to assume it’s a free point for the opposition.

That’s not how defensive tackle DeAngelo Tyson approached South Carolina’s final point-after attempt Saturday, however, and his block of Spencer Lanning’s kick proved to be crucial in forcing the Gamecocks to go for a touchdown at the end of the game, rather than booting a field goal to tie.

“A lot of guys don’t want to give effort,” Richt said. “Extra points, they’re like, ‘Well, shoot, we can’t get it, why should I play hard?’ He decided to play hard on that play and forced the kick to be blocked.”

KICKING IT OLD SCHOOL

Fans have clamored for long kickoffs by Blair Walsh for two seasons, but Richt has been hesitant to let the sophomore stretch his leg and aim for the end zone.

The plan changed a bit Saturday, however, and it met with marginal success. Walsh did boot two touchbacks, and South Carolina started four drives following kickoffs inside its 20, but Richt noted that the Gamecocks also returned one of Walsh’s low liners for its best field position of the night.

“Blair’s got a strong leg,” Richt said, “but I do want the fans to understand this: The one kick they returned the farthest, he drove it trying to drive it in the end zone the way everybody wants, kick it as far as you can and don’t worry about hangtime – he drilled it flat, and they returned it to the 50. If you drill it far enough, it’s great, but if you come up short and they decide to return it, that’s the result and we’ve got to understand that.”

HE’S A LEADER

Rennie Curran saved the day against South Carolina for a second straight season, slapping away a Stephen Garcia pass to end the game.

But it wasn’t what Curran did at the conclusion of the contest that may have had the biggest impact. It was what he said before it.

Richt said his team was down all week, admitting even he was in the dumps a bit. But Saturday, Richt said, Georgia played with more energy than he could remember in a game, and some of that could be attributed to their star linebacker.

“Rennie talked to the team before the game and promised them all he was going to play with every ounce of energy he had and with all his heart,” Richt said, “and sure enough at the very end, he makes the play.”

Curran finished the game with a team-high 15 tackles, tying his career best.

JOE DID HIS PART

Branden Smith’s 61-yard reverse was among the many highlights of the night, but it might not have happened if it wasn’t for Cox handling his role on the play.

After handing off to Carlton Thomas, Cox had to block South Carolina’s defensive end to give Smith time to get around the edge, and it was a close call, the quarterback said.

“The funniest thing was me trying to block the defensive end,” Cox said. “I just said I do not want my guy to make the tackle on this. As soon as he got by me, I just kind of backed up and saw (Smith) hit the hole, and as soon as he hit it, he was gone.”

While Richt said the coaching staff thought the play could be successful, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo put all the credit on Smith.

“That’s Branden Smith making plays in practice,” Bobo said. “We just wanted to get the ball in his hands.”

O LINE IMPROVES

Last week, Bobo said the offensive line turned in an adequate performance, but not good enough. This week, the results were much improved.

“I thought the line played well,” Bobo said. “We got movement blocking and I thought we pass protected well.”

Well, except for one play.

Late in the fourth quarter, Stephone Gilmore came around the left side and had a beat on Cox’s blind side. He hit the quarterback hard, and Cox fumbled the football backward. Thomas managed to cover the football, however, preserving a field-goal attempt by Walsh that turned out to be the difference in the game.

“You could see it coming, but thankfully Carlton Thomas hustled and made that play,” Bobo said. “It saved the football game.”

KING FOR A DAY

Tavarres King got his first career start Saturday and turned in an admirable performance. King finished the game with three catches for 27 yards – far from an impressive output, but a crucial upgrade from a week ago when Georgia’s receivers other than A.J. Green combined for just 10 yards.

“He earned that position,” Richt said of King’s start. “He blocked his tail off the last game, and he came to compete every play. Last week we tried to reduce it to too small of a group of playmakers, and this week we said we’ve got to get more guys involved, and Tavarres was one of them.”

INJURY NEWS

Rod Battle left the game with a knee injury, and Richt said he wouldn’t know the extent until an MRI could be done Sunday. Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said Battle’s absence proved big in the game.

“We were playing Cornelius a lot, we had to bounce Marcus Washington back and forth from linebacker to D end, and we played a lot of plays in the first half,” Martinez said. “We were trying to keep everything in front of us, and (Garcia) scrambled a bunch of times to make a couple different plays. We struggled to contain him.”

Linebacker Nick Williams also missed the game with a hamstring injury Richt said he suffered during practice this week.

LOTTA WORK FOR THE D

South Carolina ran 49 plays in the first half – nearly a full game’s total, Martinez said – and Georgia’s offense saw just 3:41 of possession during the first quarter. It was all part of an odd game in which the Gamecocks ran 30 more plays than the Bulldogs, 83 in all.

“I don’t think that’s every happened, period,” Richt said. “But that’s what happens when you turn it over, have a fake punt against you, their mode of operation to kind of pick away, and they were able to do that extremely well.”

EXTRA POINTS

-- Freshmen receivers Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten saw their first action of the season.

-- Junior Kiante Tripp saw his first snaps at defensive end after moving from the offensive line during the offseason.

-- Cornelius Washington recorded his first career sack in the first half and was in on another sack by Akeem Dent.

-- Brandon Boykin’s 100-yard kick return was the longest play by a Bulldog in Sanford Stadium history and set a team record for longest kick return.

-- Georgia’s 252 return yards in the game was also a school record.

-- Walsh connected on his second 50-yard field goal of the season in the first half.

-- Georgia allowed a safety when a snap went over punter Drew Butler’s head. It was the first safety against Georgia since 2006.

-- Georgia is now 22-5 under Richt after a loss.

6 comments:

Carter said...

Stellar work as always, Dave.

I'm emotionally spent and still battling indigestion.

Guess we'll have to wait another week for Earth Tones to come together like Voltron.

Knowshon4Heisman said...

I'll say it again about Cox, i just don't think he's dropping back far enough when he lines up under center for a pass. That almost cost the game when he threw that INT. I would think the more he backs up, the better view he'd have.

jferg said...

suprisve mvp has to be Dowtin. I saw his jersey all over the place last night.

DH,
Can you do a little digging into why our "nfl" DTs aren't making more plays? i just assumed that one of those two would get to the qb on a fairly consistent basis. yet, it seems as if so far this season, they are getting shut down. thoughts?

Last thought--Branden Smith is Champ Part Deux (sp?)...what a stud. I am stoked about the coming years with all of these young uns...Smith, Boykin, Dowtin, Charles, TK, RS, our entire o-line...love what the future holds!

JasonC said...

RE: Kickoffs
1. If you take the 2 touchbacks and the big return and average them, the average starting position is the 30, which I am sure is better than we did last year with FUBAR-sideline kicking.
2. Dave, please ask Richt if he which he thought was the biggest contributor to that long return: the flat kick or the coverage not staying in it's lanes.
3. What about the times we did try to hang it high on the 10 yard line, what were the results then?

I remember a time in Richt's first season when he screwed up the Auburn game with a poor decision and he took the blame. I may not have liked the first decision, but I could stand by him for accepting responsibility. The problem that I have, and that I think many other Dogs have, is that there is very little owning up to problems by the staff. Instead, we get excuses.

Steve said...

I'm still suspicious of Cox's arm. I admire him gutting through it, and he played a good game, but something just doesn't look right. There is just no zip on his passes.

Anonymous said...

People who doubt Cox are idiots. He doesnt have Staffords arm, but the kid is a good QB. Other than the horrendous pick-6, he played great.

BTW Hale, Gamble got the other sack not Dent. Great work as always otherwise...