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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Post-Game Notes: Smith Shines in Rare Opportunity

Branden Smith hasn’t had the football in his hands often the past few weeks, but offensive coordinator Mike Bobo wanted that to change Saturday.

So when the two spoke earlier this week, Bobo asked a simple question of his speedy cornerback-tailback hybrid.

“I asked him how many touches he would need to get in the end zone,” Bobo said. “He told me one.”

Smith delivered, taking a direct handoff and rushing around the right edge for a 52-yard touchdown in the first quarter – his second score of the season – helping Georgia to a dominant 38-0 win over Tennessee Tech.

“We haven’t ran that since the first game, and I try to make something happen,” Smith said. “I had one man to beat, so I tried to squeeze myself in there.”

Smith’s work on offense has been limited since his 60-yard touchdown run against South Carolina in Week 2, so he wasn’t anticipating many chances this week. Against Tennessee Tech, however, Smith had three carries and finished as the team’s second-leading rusher with 72 yards on the ground. He saw action at cornerback, too, making one tackle, which Bobo figures is enough to keep Smith’s focus on the that side of the football.

“I’d like to get him full time but they won’t give him up,” Bobo said. “But he’s going to be a special player for us. He works extremely hard, he’s a very conscientious kid, tough kid. He’s got to put some muscle on but he’s tough and plays hard and physical.”


While Smith’s big-play ability was on display, he was hardly the only runner to score big numbers Saturday.

Georgia racked up 304 yards rushing in the game, with Smith, freshman Washaun Ealey and first-time starter Caleb King each totaling more than 70 yards on the ground.

“Pretty much this whole year people have been down on our running game, so to come out and get over 300 yards, that’s a good look for us and it brings good momentum for the next game at Auburn,” King said.

Georgia entered play last in the SEC in rushing offense and 99th nationally, so the breakout performance came as a bit of a surprise, even against an FCS opponent like Tennessee Tech.

Head coach Mark Richt said he expected more of a balanced attack, but with the backfield producing so consistently, the game plan shifted and Georgia ended up running the ball on 39 of its 57 offensive plays.

“We’ve got a little competition there, but those guys are running hard,” Bobo said. “You saw guys breaking tackles today, we’re getting more confidence up front, and we’re on a roll now. Confidence has a lot to do with what you’re doing as a football team, and those guys get a little confidence and that’s good.”

The mix at tailback was encouraging, too, King said. With six players fighting for time at the position, none with starting experience prior to this season, it’s been a blank slate for the ground game. But as the season has progressed, King said he thinks the coaching staff is finally getting a feel for how each runner can compliment the next.

“From the beginning you could tell everybody just had a raw talent, so I knew it was going to be hard for everybody to find their position and their fit to do what they do, but by the end of the year, you’re seeing what happens,” King said. “We’re jelling together, and I think we’re going to be good.”


For two seasons, Richt has seen the flags fly for his team. Georgia ranks among the most penalized programs in the country, and this week, Richt had seen enough.

He issued an edict during practice that any player who was flagged for a penalty during Saturday’s game would be immediately benched – a stern warning that, as it turned out, resulted in an awful lot of substitutions against Tennessee Tech.

“I might have gotten them so tight that they couldn’t hold still,” Richt said. “It sends a message, but it also might get guys as tight as they can get.”

Georgia was flagged for 11 penalties in the game for a total of 86 yards, and each time the player responsible for the infraction trotted to the sideline and took a seat on the bench.

It was frustrating for the players, but it may have been downright bewildering for the coaches who were forced to make routine substitutions.

“It was a little bit difficult but obviously we’ve got to do something to stop the penalties,” Bobo said. “Those are hard to overcome and will cost you, and they cost us touchdowns (Saturday).”

Six of Georgia’s 11 penalties were for false starts by the offensive line, and that was a result of some particularly loud yelps from the Tennessee Tech front four.

Quarterback Joe Cox said one of the Golden Eagles’ defensive lineman would bark similar cadence to his snap count, and it was causing Georgia’s linemen to flinch with regularity.

“It was tough to get used to, and I think they figured we’re pushing them back every time we do this, so let’s keep doing it,” Cox said.


As promised, Richt sent backup quarterback Logan Gray onto the field for a full series in the first half, but the results weren’t exactly what fans had hoped for from Georgia’s second-string quarterback.

Gray’s first drive followed five straight scoring drives led by starter Joe Cox and it ended with an interception in the end zone after Gray threw into double coverage. It was the game’s only turnover.

“It happened, and I had to move on from it,” Gray said. “Throwing a pick in the end zone is not what I wanted, but I was glad to get back in the game and try to make some more plays, and I felt comfortable as the game went on, and it was good to get some back-to-back snaps.”

Gray rebounded after getting more work in the second half, and while he didn’t lead Georgia to points, he did finish a respectable 4-of-5 passing for 25 yards, and Bobo said he liked what he saw from his backup quarterback overall.

“Logan has been working extremely hard to get better and become a complete quarterback,” Bobo said. “It’s good to see him play today and get some extended time. The first half, the throw, I think he waited a little too long. The second half, he was able to get up in the pocket, make some throws, move in the pocket and have a couple nice runs.”


With the success of the ground game, Georgia didn’t need to throw the ball often Saturday, but when it did, the tight ends were the primary targets.

Orson Charles, Aron White and Arthur Lynch tallied seven of Georgia’s 14 receptions Saturday, including a 23-yard touchdown grab by Charles.

“I think we took what the defense gave us,” Cox said. “We have good tight ends and if they’re going to cover our receivers and leave our tight ends open, I have no problem throwing it to them.”

Lynch’s two catches were the first of his career, and the seven receptions by tight ends were the most by the position since Leonard Pope and Martrez Milner combined for nine catches against Auburn in 2005.

“I’m pretty sure we have something to look forward to when we watch film, and I just can’t wait to go to practice, just knowing that the coaches trust in us throwing the ball to us,” Charles said.


Without A.J. Green, who missed Saturday’s game with a bruised lung, Richt hoped that a few of his young wide receivers would step forward with a breakout game. That didn’t happen, but he said that may have been more a matter of opportunity than a lack of production.

“We ended up just not throwing so much, so it was less opportunities for those guys,” Richt said. “But from what I heard in the blocking area and I can’t think of a ball that we dropped that hit our hands, they did well.”

Georgia quarterbacks threw just four incompletions, but wide receivers accounted for just five receptions. The leading receiver in the group was freshman Rantavious Wooten, who had two catches for 17 yards while making the first start of his career.

It wasn’t exactly the performance he was hoping for in his rare opportunity to shine, but he still chalked it up as a successful day.

“I would have liked to do a little bit more, but as long as we get the W, that’s all I care about,” he said.


Freshman defensive end Montez Robinson saw plenty of action with starter Justin Houston sidelined, and he made the most of his opportunity.

Robinson finished with five tackles and two sacks in the game, both career highs. It was a big performance for a player who Richt admitted hadn’t been completely comfortable in Athens yet.

“I hope this feels more like home now for him,” Richt said. “Montez is a very, very talented kid, and we wouldn’t have played him this year if we didn’t think he was a special guy, and I was so glad to see him get a couple sacks.”


-- This was the first homecoming shutout for Georgia since 1981 when the Bulldogs blanked Kentucky 21-0. It was the first shutout overall since 2006, a 34-0 win over UAB.

-- Tennessee Tech mustered just 55 total yards on 47 plays, the second lowest output ever by a Georgia opponent. The ignominious record belongs to The Citadel, which totaled just 39 yards against the Bulldogs in 1953.

-- Georgia’s 21 points in the first quarter were their most in an opening frame since 1998 against Kent State.

-- Defensive end Cornelius Washington got the first start of his career, subbing for injured Justin Houston.

-- Safety Quintin Banks left the game with a hand injury. Richt said he was not immediately aware of the severity of the injury.


rbubp said...

I think we can stop talking aboutr Logan Gray playing at any point when it matters the rest of the year. He was terrible. If Joe Cox had and does get hurt anytime this year it's curtains.

I hope Aaron Murray is as good as advertised.

Dawg '85 said...

We may not have looked like "RB Univ." yet this year, but we are definitely "TE U"... since the days when Norris Brown/Clarence Kay made me walk on & walk off in '81... DH, I'd love to see some info on UGA TE's in the NFL over the last 20 yrs... the White/Charles combo will be a huge asset for a 1st year QB next year and will help keep coverage on AJ honest. Our pro style O will continue to attract blue chips at all O skill positions.

Not too many questions were answered against a soft foe in TT, but NO QUESTION Branden Smith is a playmaker... teach him when to down the ball in his own endzone... and get him to the corner running and it's 7!

Biggest disappointment today... Rambo should have played WHOLE game instead of "Bryan "Mall Cop" Evans!

Carter said...

Good work today, Hale.

I read the live blog while listening to the radio.

Don't know if you caught it, but during the first half Loran interviewed AJ on the sidelines. When asked what he thought of the game, AJ replied, "Man, its boring out here."

Dawg '85 said...

One other note... I'm sure Senator Blutarsky can confirm/deny... but I think James "The Godfather" Brown did the halftime in that shutout against KY in '81... if not, I hold a certain distiller from Lynchburg, TN responsible!

Anonymous said...

richt needs to retire if he thinks winning against a high school team means he is doing good

JasonC said...

Valuable insight anonymous, thanks.