Athens, GA - Coming off a 56-20 victory on Saturday evening at home against Florida Atlantic, the Georgia Bulldogs will return to Sanford Stadium this Saturday to take on SEC opponent Vanderbilt.
The Bulldogs currently stand at 3-0 on the season, including a 1-0 record in conference play, while the Commodores (1-2, 0-1 SEC) picked up their first victory of the year on Saturday with a 58-0 rout of Presbyterian.
“We’ll be ready for Vanderbilt,” said head coach Mark Richt on Sunday evening. “We have a lot of respect for them, and we know it will be a battle. They have a lot of belief, and they’re playing to win it. They’re doing a good job of it.”
Vanderbilt redshirt junior Austyn Carta-Samuels made his first start at quarterback on Saturday against Presbyterian, going 13-for-20 with 195 yards and a touchdown, while running back Zac Stacy carried the ball eight times for 174 yards and a touchdown.
“I think they’ve got really good athleticism,” said Richt. “When you watch the film, they’re playing as hard, as fast and as physical as anybody. It’s not like they’re doing something no one else is doing, but they believe in it. You can see it. (Head coach James) Franklin isn’t afraid to take a calculated risk to put his team in position to win games, and I think it’s really paying off.”
When asked about All-American linebacker Jarvis Jones, who did not play in Saturday’s game against Florida Atlantic due to injury, Richt said, “I would be hopeful that Jarvis could play (against Vanderbilt). Sometimes the pulled muscles can set you back. You just never know how long it takes for something to heal, so we’ll just have to wait and see. We would definitely like for him to play, that’s for sure.”
The Georgia offense set a school record for yards in a game on Saturday with 713, and they also put up 40+ points for the third consecutive game. When asked to describe his thoughts on the progression of the offense from last year to now, Richt said, “I felt like we already had a solid core of wide receivers that could make plays for us, and it’s good to see (Rantavious) Wooten and Marlon Brown come through. I wasn’t quite sure how the tight end position would come around, but I think Arthur (Lynch) gave a good example of what he could do.”
Richt also expressed confidence in his backs, noting that “I’m pleased with our battery of backs, and I really see the offensive line coming together. We’ve got a ways to go yet, but I see a lot of improvement and continuity. I think we have a lot less missed assignments than a year ago. And (quarterback Aaron) Murray is about what I had hoped for. We know he started slow a couple of times, but overall I think he’s played very well.”
A pair of Georgia freshmen backs each rushed for over 100 yards and a touchdown apiece against Florida Atlantic, as North Carolina natives Todd Gurley (111 yards, 1 TD) and Keith Marshall (104 yards, 1 TD) became the first Georgia freshmen duo to accomplish such a feat in the same game since Danny Ware and Thomas Brown did so in 2004 against Vanderbilt.
When asked to describe the recruiting process and the friendship that Gurley and Marshall now share as they compete for time at tailback, Richt said “I think both of these young men went to the place they thought was in their best interest, and that was Georgia. I think it’s a bit unusual in that they play the same position and ended up being roommates, but I would imagine that they will be friends for life. Then to play as freshmen and have a game like this past ball game, it just seems like everything fell into place. I really think they hold a lot of the same values and their families hold the same values, as well.”
Richt also acknowledged the room for improvement on defense, noting, “I think we’ve given up more big plays than we’d like to this year. Teams have made big plays, and that usually happens on a missed assignment. It’s somebody trying to do somebody else’s job, and then all of the sudden his responsibility gets exploited. We have to be more disciplined early and in the gap control. When you bust assignments and it breaks open a big play, that’s where you have problems. But it’s also something that is very correctable and we’ll work hard on that this week.”
Kickoff for the game against Vanderbilt next Saturday at Sanford Stadium is set for 7:45 p.m. on ESPN2.