Athens, GA - Mark Richt and the 15th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs look to bounce back from their first conference defeat of the season. Georgia lost to the fourth ranked team it has played in six games this season.
Richt said that the best thing the Bulldogs could do moving forward is to focus on their next opponent, which will be conference foe the Vanderbilt Commodores in Nashville, Tenn. The game against Vanderbilt will be followed by the Bulldogs second open date of the season before Georgia heads to Jacksonville, Fla., for the annual match-up with the Florida Gators.
“The best thing to do right now is get ready to play Vanderbilt and try to get a victory there,” Richt said. “It’s been tough to be able to do that; especially the last time we were there it was quite the game. We were very fortunate to get out of there with a win. We’ve just got to try and take care of that business and then the open date we could probably see how the dust is settling prior to the Florida game. The biggest thing we can do to help ourselves is to get ready for this week.”
After losing Keith Marshall, Justin Scott-Wesley, and Michael Bennett in the road victory over Tennessee the precious week Richt said that, according to Senior Associate Athletic Director for Sports Medicine Ron Courson, the Bulldogs avoided any further injuries against Missouri.
“When I talked to Ron before I left yesterday he didn’t have anything that would cost anybody any playing time at all or even practice time so it looks like we came out of there pretty clean,” Richt said. “[Jonathon] Rumph is the only one [of the injured players] that I can say with confidence is going to practice tomorrow. I’m not sure about Tray [Matthews] and I’m not sure about [Todd] Gurley and certainly not Michael Bennett.”
The 13th-year head coach said that, while sophomore tailback Gurley continues to progress as he rehabs a sprained ankle, the Bulldogs won’t rush him back to the field if he isn’t completely healthy especially after the performances of freshman backs J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas.
“I think what we want is a really healthy Todd Gurley. We want him to be at his best, we don’t want him to go without being full speed because if you do it’s not safe for him and it also can cause another setback that could sit him down even longer,” Richt said. “The goal is to keep rehabbing and then run straight ahead, change direction, and when you’ve got some confidence in that then you put some weight behind it. Whenever he looks healthy enough and feels healthy enough we’ll play him. Whether it’s this week or not, I don’t know if that’s a big factor.”
One of the key factors of the Georgia defense this year has been the amount of freshmen that have been playing on defense. Six true freshmen have started games for the Bulldogs this season including linebacker Reggie Carter, who recorded his first career start against Missouri.
Richt said the amount the freshmen play will correlate with the quality of their play.
“I think little by little they get more comfortable, and little by little they begin to make plays. Right now they’re just trying to break up a ball rather than pick a ball,” Richt said. “We have a good many sacks but I think right now guys are just trying to get the sack and not really think ‘hey, while I’m back there let me see if I can strip the ball out.’ Even last year we had Rambo who if he knew the tackle was secured by some teammates, he’d go in there and try and rip the ball out and you do rip it out once in a while. I don’t know if our guys are really thinking that far ahead of the game as they’re still really just trying to get lined up right, play the right fundamental, and get the guy on the ground. They’re learning and as they go they’ll get more comfortable and they’ll be able to make more plays.”
The No. 15 Bulldogs continue conference play at Vanderbilt on Saturday. The game will kick-off at noon and will be televised live by CBS.