Athens, GA - Coming off its third consecutive victory over Southeastern Conference rival Florida, the Georgia Bulldogs now turn their focus to out of conference foe Appalachian State which travels to Sanford Stadium on Saturday for a 12.30 PM kick-off. It will be the first game the Bulldogs have played at home since their 41-26 loss to Missouri on October 12.
Georgia compiled 156 yards rushing in the 23-20 victory against the Gators largely due to the dominating play of the Bulldogs offensive line. Head coach Mark Richt said that with the exception of two plays at the beginning of the second half the unit had executed everything that was asked of them.
“I thought they played very well, I’m very proud of the job they did,” Richt said. “A lot of outstanding movement up front in the running game, most of the time we protected well, we had the one batted ball to open the second half when we didn’t protect very well, that wasn’t very good, but overall we protected pretty good all day.”
Georgia outscored Florida 23-3 in the first half, including a 73-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Murray to returning tailback Todd Gurley. The Gators answered with 17 unanswered second half points; however, Georgia forced Florida to put with 8:17 left on the clock after a sack by blitzing safety Corey Moore. The Bulldogs offense put together a 15-play drive that ran out the clock including four third down conversions.
“It really was a tale of two halves. It was a great first half where just about everything we could have hoped for happened for us,” Richt said. “We didn’t give up a touchdown, got a couple of great stops on defense, and scored on all but one drive. We get a fourth down stop right before the half and have decent field position and have a chance to put three-points on the board so a lot of really good things happened in the first half. Bottom line there was enough good things happened for us in the first half that when things started to get away from us in the second half we had enough to hang on. The last two possessions of the game were crucial. Our offense had just tried for it on fourth down and didn’t make it, fortunately they had a penalty that set them back a little bit, then our defense got a great stop, forced a punt with over eight minutes to go in the game and that was it. We took it from there offensively and never allowed them to touch it again and that was a pretty amazing finish.”
While still needing Missouri to lose two of their three remaining conference games, the Bulldogs kept themselves in the hunt for a third consecutive SEC East title. Richt said that staying alive in the division race helps to keep everyone in the program motivated as the season goes on.
“It’s so important for us to be in the race, it’s just easier to get up and go to work the next day,” he said. “It’s tougher to fight through a three game losing streak, that’s rough so we’re thankful we do not have to think about that. I guess the biggest thing is we can think about what can be instead of what could have been. It just makes it easier to motivate and makes it easier to get up and get going.”
One of the biggest factors in Georgia victory was the improved play of the defense which allowed only 319 yards, including 174 passing yards which was a marked improvement for the Bulldogs young secondary. Part of the improvement, Richt said, was the ability to have more players sub in throughout the game.
“What’s happened is through injuries, suspensions, and battlefield promotions we’ve had a lot of guys get work back there. We’re not as inexperienced as we were and we’ve got a little more depth when everybody gets healthy so it only makes sense to give these guys opportunities to play,” Richt said. “I think it was very important for guys like Josh (Harvey-Clemons), who I don’t think could have played the whole game if he was in there every time we played nickel, he mostly played base but he still got a lot of snaps and made a lot of plays on special teams as well. We did a good job of spreading it out and letting these guys have a role and understand their role and playing it well so, overall I think it’s helping us. I do think we’re turning a corner in a positive way and we just need to keep the momentum going.”
With the Mountaineers coming to town at the weekend Richt revealed a very personal connection between himself and Appalachian State.
“App State is my sister Mikki, Michelle’s, alma mater,” he said “She had a wonderful time playing volleyball there (in the mid-80’s) and it’s a great place.”
Saturdays contest is scheduled for 12.30 PM ET and will be broadcast live on Channel 2 WSB-TV Atlanta.