Richt, Bulldogs Preview The South Carolina Game
Coach Mark Richt

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Oct. 2, 2012

ATHENS-----Georgia head coach Mark Richt and a delegation of football players met with the media during the Bulldogs' weekly press luncheon on Tuesday. They offered the following comments:

Head Coach Mark Richt
Opening Statement...
"Here we go. We used to play South Carolina earlier in the year, and now it's game six for both of us. Normally when we play South Carolina, both teams are undefeated in league play because it's always been the first one, but this year both teams have found a way to stay undefeated. So I know it's definitely an exciting time for their program and for our program. We all know that ESPN College Game Day is going to be there, so that's usually a pretty good sign that it's a big ballgame. A lot of people are going to be watching and are going to be very interested in what happens, so we obviously have a lot of respect for South Carolina. They've beaten us the past two seasons, and of course they finished either in the top five or top ten last year. They've had some really outstanding years and breaking records left and right. I don't think they've lost an SEC Eastern Division game for quite some time, so they're used to winning and winning in this league. I'm very impressed with what they're doing.

"Their offensive linemen are very outstanding run blockers to run the ball as well as they do with (Marcus) Lattimore and Connor Shaw. They're able to run the ball extremely well in the fourth quarter at the end of ballgames. We haven't had a whole lot of success in the past slowing Lattimore down, so that will be a great challenge for us.

"Of course, you've got Coach (Steve) Spurrier leading the way. I just read in their media release that he's looking for his 250th win as a head coach. That's a lot of ballgames and a lot of victories. He's one of the best coaches in the country, and he has been for years. I've got a lot of respect for Coach Spurrier, as well. I know their atmosphere is tremendous, and their fans know how to do it. We'll have the crowd noise to be dealing with, so there's going to be a lot of hype. It's one of those games that most kids dream about playing in, so here it is right about the halfway mark of the regular season. We're going to find out who is going to keep pace in the Eastern Division race. It's a big one."

On the team's attitude about the game...
"It's going to be our job as coaches to try to get them to focus on the things that will help us win, which is the game plan, playing hard, and just being very fundamentally sound with blocking and tackling. We're just trying to keep the focus on the process of getting better like we've been trying to do all season long and not focus too much on what the game means. I don't think I'll have to say too much about that, but I think it's going to be pretty obvious to them how big of a game it is, so let's focus on the things that can help them play well." 

On the play of the Georgia defense against Tennessee...
"Tennessee blocked pretty good, period. Sometimes you get movement and they create good space for backs, and they make good runs. There weren't a lot of missed assignments. We had a couple of big runs against us earlier in the season when we didn't really fit properly, and I'm not saying we fit perfectly every single time, but a lot of it was that Tennessee's offensive line just got after us pretty good. They moved us around a little bit, and especially in the fourth quarter when they're down a couple of scores, but they're staying patient with the run because they're having success with the run. We've got to do a better job of being able to defend the run, especially when people are down on the scoreboard. You'd think we could get them in a position where they felt like they had to throw the football, but there was enough time on the clock and they had enough success running the ball that they felt comfortable doing that."

On Steve Spurrier and South Carolina's offense...
"When I was at Florida State we were doing things a little bit differently too. We came to this league and tried to do certain things as far as no-huddle, some pace stuff, some spread stuff. We found out that first of all I don't think the league was interested in going fast back then. Another thing was when it came to matchups there weren't a lot of times we were outmatching people with our skill people versus their defensive skill people. I learned in a hurry that style points don't really mean much. Winning and losing is what means the most in this league, and I think our fans appreciate a good three-point victory as much as a 20-point victory. I think Coach Spurrier is doing what good coaches do and that is take your personnel, find out what they do best and give you the best chance of winning regardless of what you might think is a fun and exciting thing to do. Winning is more exciting than chunking the ball around the yard if you are not getting the victories."

On Georgia's defense against the run vs. Tennessee...
"If you look at Tennessee's line, they are pretty stout. They are big, they're physical, they have a bunch of starts under their belt. A year ago they didn't have a lot of experience, now they do have a lot of experience. They executed well and they physically took it to us to a certain degree. Do I wish we would have played the run better? Yeah. If I thought we were playing a team that didn't have the ingredients to run the ball well I would have felt even worse. People wanted to talk about our defense and whether it was going to be a great defense. What I said was what I'm most concerned about is when the game is on the line are we going to be able to make the play in the moment of truth. You can have great defensive stats, but if you didn't get that one stop at the end of the game, you still might have great stats for the day but you lost. You didn't stop them when you needed to. I was more concerned about are we going to stop people when we have to stop them, when it means the most. I think that happened in the Missouri game, and I think it happened in the Tennessee game defensively. I'm pleased with that."

On whether he thinks Georgia will see more of Marcus Lattimore...
"I think the closer the game the more you're going to see Lattimore. They've had some games where some were close, but they ran away in a lot of the games. I don't think they felt like they had the need to do that. I'm sure coming off the injury they wanted to take their time and be wise. From what I've seen just from the first game to this past game, I think he's gaining confidence in him and they're gaining confidence in him that he's well and back to 100 percent. Sometimes when guys rehab they work harder than they do if they don't have an injury. I think his conditioning is tremendous, and it always was good. I was watching last year's game (against South Carolina), and his biggest runs came in the fourth quarter. He had more than 100 yards rushing in the fourth quarter. They were quite frankly able to run the ball when everybody knew all they were going to do was run the ball. That was a little bit of a problem. A lot of it has to do with their blocking, a lot of it has to do with his ability to find it and break tackles and have enough endurance to be even more effective in the fourth quarter than the first quarter. As everybody else is giving way a little bit, he's still going strong."

On Aaron Murray...
"We have a lot of confidence in him period, and we're going to call a game that's going to put a lot in his hands like we have been. Even at the end of the first half of this last ballgame, there wasn't a whole lot of time. They decided to kind of have a squib kick, and we got the ball around the 35. At that point with 37 seconds you might say let's not throw a pick and give up another turnover. They are scoring 20 points in the second quarter and things are going bad, so you might say we've had enough. Let's just go to halftime and regroup. I told Coach (Mike) Bobo, let's go try to score. Murray did a really nice job of moving us down the field and getting us in position to get those three points. I think psychologically those were important points for us. I don't know if I would have done that last year. I definitely wouldn't have done it his freshman year. I guess that gives you an idea of the faith I have in him as a head coach."

On Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall playing together and their recruiting process...
"They almost sold us on it. I think they had the thought of playing together and being roommates and being friends throughout college. They got to know each other, they liked each other. They weren't afraid to be on the same team, and I think they had a dream of maybe one day sharing the load wherever they went. For it to happen the way it's happened so far this year I can't imagine them dreaming it up any better than it's been. The reasons why it's happening, of course some if it was the attrition that we had, but some of it is the fact that they're very coachable, teachable. They are very serious about learning what to do. They know they have a great talent base. They are different in their styles, and I think that's effective. I would imagine that they could only get better at what they are doing. I don't know if the results will be better, but they'll definitely become better players as time goes on."

On Rhett McGowan returning punts...
"Rhett will start out as our punt return man in all situations. He was kind of our midfield punt returner. If the punt was somewhere around midfield, he'd get his heals at the 10-yard mark and be the guy to decide whether to fair catch it or let it go over his head. He's got some reps doing that, and he's had a couple of reps out in the middle of the field. We're going to allow him to be the primary punt return man in this game and see how it goes."

On Georgia's special teams...
"We've blocked two punts, we had a fake tried on us and we stopped it, we have had excellent kickoff coverage. Our punt team, if you go strictly by statistics as far as net punt, it's not that impressive, but that first punt of the year where we knocked it about 57 yards and they had a 20-something yard return, since that time there have only been 18 return yards for the next four games. We're not allowing big returns. We're punting the ball high and getting guys under it and getting a lot of fair catches, which is outstanding. We've made all but one field goal, two over 50. I know our extra points have been an adventure. No doubt we have to get better at that. Kickoff return has actually been pretty solid other than the one kick where the ball ended up on the one-yard line last week. Other than that we've fielded it pretty well. We've had people bloop-kick it to us, and a lot of times your average goes down when they bloop it to you and you get a five-yard return, but you get good field position. I think the special teams as a whole are getting a bad rap. I do know that we've not fielded the punts very well. We've had some mistakes there. That's part of the reason why we're allowing Rhett to go ahead and do that. Overall I think we've had some pretty good special teams play. We did have the one kick return for a touchdown, which was big. We haven't had a punt returned for a touchdown. We've had a couple of good returns, but nothing spectacular. Overall it's been pretty solid. There are a few things that stick out that makes you feel like everything in the special teams is going wrong, but it's not. We have six different units. The majority of the units, I think, have done pretty well. If a guy gets benched from being a return man, that's not fun for him. These kids understand what's going on. The other thing is they have to be ready. Malcolm, he may return two for touchdowns this game. It just depends on how things go in the ballgame. You just never know when your opportunity will come again and you have to be ready for it."

On Todd Gurley returning kickoffs...
"We do think Malcolm (Mitchell) has the potential to be a big return man as well. We think he and Gurley both have big play potential as kick return men, so we're just kind of letting them share the load a little bit."

On the plan for Malcolm Mitchell in practice this week...
"Monday and Tuesday are offense, and Wednesday was kind of the defensive day and it still is. There may be a couple of times when he may do some offense if the defense is working on base defense and he's not getting any reps at that moment. Thursday we've kind of tried to split some of his reps. He's primarily an offensive player and he's in a state of readiness on defense. Not only has he been a kick returner, punt returner, but he's also on our punt team. He's been running down there trying to force fair catches too."

On Marshall Morgan's 50-yard field goal against Tennessee...
"It was a heck of a kick. It was a great hold. Adam Erickson had a great hold. The fact that the operation was a little bit slower because of the snap might have helped us make the kick. They had a middle block and they had (Justin) Hunter jump and try to block it, and he's really in pretty good position to do that. But by the time we kicked it he was kind of on the way down. I don't know how much clearance there was, but if the ball would have been there at the height of his jump, I'm not sure he wouldn't have gotten a piece of that. It turned out pretty good. It's tough as a kicker to make a 50-yard kick and the timing of it be a little bit disrupted, so it shows the power he's got in his leg. We just have to get him comfortable and consistent."

On whether Jamie Lindley would get an opportunity to kick extra points...
"He gets reps there, but overall if Lindley has been `Mr. Automatic' he probably would have gotten an opportunity by now. In practice he just hasn't been `Mr. Automatic' either, so I think we are better off right now just sticking with Marshall and allowing him to just get used to doing it without even thinking about it. Right now it has still been a problem. We've had a high snap, and of course the one that was blocked, it was a low-trajectory kick, but we also had some penetration through there. We can't allow that, although I will say that that nose guard Tennessee had was a giant. He was a beast. If you have nine extra points or field goals and he's trying to blast through every time it's hard to keep him out every single time. That's what you want to do, it's your goal, but you have to give credit to them as well. They are a pretty physical bunch."

On Georgia's offense...
"We have executed well. We haven't had a lot of missed assignments. The majority of our guys have played or at least practiced a while in our system. When your quarterback can get you in the right play most of the time or the right protection most of the time or if he reacts property to a blitz and gets it to the right guy without a chance of getting a sack, or guys are mostly catching the ball, you have a chance to be efficient. If you have a young QB and you have to call a play and kind of live with it sometimes, you have to guess right sometimes and sometimes you guess wrong. You run into some bad situations if you can't trust your quarterback to get you in the right stuff. Murray is a guy who gets us in the right plays most of the time and the right protections most of the time. He reads out coverages well. He's been very accurate overall. That pick six, when it happened I had no idea the ball was tipped and I wasn't real thrilled about that. I didn't let him know coming off the field, but I wasn't really happy about it. I didn't realize until the next day or maybe late that night that the ball actually did get tipped at the line of scrimmage. It was a good read and it looked like it was probably going to be a pretty good throw. So he really hasn't made many bad decisions with his throws."

On adjusting to having all the starters back on defense...
"Any unit, the more they play together and practice together, I think the better they communicate and the better they play. Just like an offensive line, we always want to try to establish that front five as soon as you can because the longer they play together the better chance they have of working in tandem and getting their assignments right and their communication right. There is a lot going on, a lot of adjustments being made and the more everybody plays together the better chance you have to execute as well."

On Georgia's offensive line...
"This game will definitely be the best gauge. South Carolina's defense is playing great. They are not playing good, they are playing great. They are kind of used to playing great. They were pretty darn good last year and the year before and the year before that. They've just got a tradition now that has built up over time that they believe. It's obvious that they believe, and they should. They are really good at what they do, so our guys will be challenged with the edge players, the rush. They are also very physical against the run. Their inside guys are physical and their outside guys are physical and their linebackers are big, strong and experienced. Then you have a guy like (D.J.) Swearinger, who is a big hitter at safety, so without a doubt this is the biggest test for our offensive line."

On the top-10 matchup as a coach...
"It's fun, it's exiting. It's nice to be in the middle of the college football world. A couple of years ago when we were 6-7 it wasn't very long into that season where no one really cared what Georgia did on any given Saturday. It's not a lot of fun, it's not where you want to be. Last year we kind of got enough rolling where we got a chance to play in some big games and we got to start playing sometime other than noon and that was nice. Now we are in position where everybody is going to know what goes on this weekend. Everybody is kind of curious. Everybody is talking about it. That's good. We can't focus on it, but that's a good place to be."

QB Aaron Murray
On the importance of the South Carolina game...
"We're excited. This is one you circle on your calendar in January. Watching the film of last year's [loss to the Gamecocks] is one of those things than makes you want to push through the spring and summer workouts. It still hurts. I think we've picked up some momentum the last five games and we need to keep working just as hard in practice and make sure we're ready to go."

On South Carolina's defense...
"They've got talent all over the board, especially in that front four. Watching them on film, you can see they don't do too much in terms of blitzing. Those are the best defenses - when you trust your players to just make plays and they do that. They do a great job of getting pressure on the quarterback without blitzing and with just those four guys. We've got our work cut out for us this week when it comes to preparation and making sure we're ready."

On the Georgia offense...
"We've been pretty balanced all year long when it comes to running and passing and quick passes and cutting guys. Right now as an offense it's probably hard to get a grasp on what we're going to do. I think Coach Bobo and Coach Friend will make sure our guys are ready to go."

On last year's loss to USC...
"That was a tough loss last year, but this is a new season and a new team and a completely different look. We're a heck of a lot better than last year in every way. We need to put that behind us and go back and watch film in preparation of this Saturday's game. It's painful to watch that but this is a new team and we're ready to go forward."

WR Tavarres King
On South Carolina's defense...
"They have a chippy defense and guys who are going to get after you. They have a great defense, and it's going to be a challenge for our offense this weekend. We're looking forward to it. It's why you play the game."

On Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley...
"They are doing a phenomenal job, especially being as young as they are and not knowing what they are getting into. They have handled it well, and they are very mature for their age. They are going to have extremely successful careers here."

On whether last year's loss to South Carolina still stings...
"It stings a lot. I feel like we had a lot of self inflicted wounds. It hurts, because we hurt ourselves so much. We made so many mental errors. That's something we are trying to eliminate this year - mistakes and errors and not beating ourselves."

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