Richt, Bulldogs Preview The Kentucky Game

Nov. 19, 2013

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

Head Coach Mark Richt
Opening Statement...
"We are getting ready to play Kentucky. Coach (Mark) Stoops and the Wildcats are coming to town. Both teams are coming off tough road losses in league play and hungry for a victory." 

"It's a game that certainly means a lot to us. We are playing at home for the last time and playing hopefully our best game for our seniors and honoring those guys with how we go about our business this week in practice and in the game. It's the last shot between the hedges for everybody this year. We're looking forward to the fans coming out and continuing to support our guys and thanking them for everything they've done."

On comparisons between the loss to Auburn and last year's loss to Alabama....
"I haven't really related them or bunched them together. It was a tough loss, obviously, a year ago and this was a tough loss, as well. This one is a little different in that last year we were trying to get there, so to speak. You're chasing an opportunity to take the lead late in the game, and we weren't quite able to do that. Of course, it was the very last play of the game, or our last play of the game where we couldn't get it in. This game we kind of got there and then it got ripped out from under us, so to speak, and that was tough. But then we get the ball again, and here we go again. We're down there about to sling it into the end zone a couple of times where we could have had a double miracle so to speak. We had our team meeting, and we talked about once we leave this meeting and once we get done with our meetings with offensive and defensive coordinators and special teams coaches, we'll set this game behind us and move on in practice. Once we hit the field, let's get back to work. I saw good spirits, good tempo and good efforts (last night). It was a pretty night, a nice cool night, and everyone was moving around good and doing their job. I think that's the best medicine going back to work. It certainly was a tough game, and I'm sure that in the offseason it may be thought about more than most games, but right now we don't have time for that."

On Chase Vasser...
"Chase has been a good special teamer for us, and he's played some good snaps throughout his career. He's a guy that really got hurt going into the season with an injury this year that kind of kept him out of just about all of camp. While that's going on, you've got other young guys getting in there and getting opportunities and making some plays, and it just didn't work out for him this year, as far as getting a lot of reps."

On Aaron Murray's legacy at Georgia...
"I don't know if it's done yet, but obviously a lot of the book has been written on him and his career. I'll remember him because he is probably one of the better team guys that we've had. We've had a lot of good ones, but I don't know if I've ever even heard him come close to tooting his own horn. It's always been about the team and about deferring credit to other people. It's always been about trying to win rather than get a record. Even coming back was a relatively unselfish act in my mind - to come back and try to help Georgia win, and he's done that. Just from a technical standpoint, he has improved every year, and even that last ballgame. I don't know how many times I've said it, but when you watch the game live, you knew he played good, but you go back and watch the film and you feel like he played even better. He's a pretty spectacular performer. There were some throws that he made that were just pinpoint, and they had to be, but he made it look easy because he kept putting them on the money and kept moving the chains. He kept putting points on the board in the fourth quarter. He's a good player."

On losing three senior offensive linemen after this season...
"I know between the Georgia Tech game and the bowl game, you've got a lot of time to reflect on those kinds of things. I'm not going to say things like that never cross my mind, but I won't bring it up to staff, and I won't be talking to anybody about those things. But you know, those things will roll through my mind once in awhile, but I am one to focus on what's happening this week and next week, obviously, but I know there's a little bit of time in between. Really that bowl game is the end of the year and the beginning of another year. The bowl is a different type of deal than where we are right now, but I do appreciate the job that our senior offensive linemen have done for us. They've played very well."

On Kentucky Head Coach Mark Stoops...
"I don't know him well. I've gotten to meet him just at some of the official events that we're out, but I really don't know him well. He seems like a great guy, and I know he's a great coach."

On whether or not he still pays attention to Florida State...
"It's been such a long time since I've been there. I'm 13 years out of there. I pay attention to what's going on in college football pretty good in the south. I watch what Florida State does, but I watch what just about everybody else does. I'm a voter, so I'm always checking out scores to see who did what. They've had a really good year, obviously."

On takeaways from the Auburn game...
"There are a lot of things - angles or just doing a better job of pad level defensively. It's just fundamental things. You've got to play a little bit lower, you've got to maintain your gap a little bit and not get moved or create too much space for skilled runners to get through, and guys need to wrap up better. Pass protection-wise, we started out having a hard time with the speed rush, and I thought we did a pretty good job of getting some chip ins by our tight ends and our backs a little bit. We did some quick-game stuff. Obviously, at the end of the game, you've got to know to knock a ball down in that situation. You know, we had a timeout prior to that. I'm in there, Grantham's in there - we're all in there. I could have easily said, `Hey guys, if the ball's launched deep, bat it down.' I could have said that. That's a good reminder for a young bunch of guys back there. I, quite frankly, didn't think it was a time where they were going to launch one. To me, there was enough time to move the chains, so we weren't thinking that they were going to launch a bomb into super deep coverage. You shouldn't really throw a post into that look. You've got two or three guys deeper than the guy, but they launched it and we didn't bat it down. I certainly could have said, `Hey if that ball is anywhere where you can knock it down, don't think about a pick, but think about knocking the ball down because it ends the game.' I had my chance to coach that up and didn't do it. We bat it down (in practice) every Thursday. In the moment of truth, the ball is coming right to you and you're thinking about getting it. Josh (Harvey-Clemons) is trying to defend the play. He's looking at the ball. He's not really sure where the safety is. He knows where the safety was running to, so he was trying to knock the ball down or trying to defend the play. It was kind of a weird deal."

On Auburn's game-winning touchdown on Saturday...
"There was a post and a dig, and quite frankly, he (Nick Marshall) could have hit the dig. He may or may not have gotten the first down, depending on if we rallied fast enough to tackle, and then continue to move the ball down the field. At that point and that far away, we weren't thinking that it was time to launch it. Now if he'd have been somewhere around the 50 or 55 yards away, we know Nick has a strong arm. If it's just a couple seconds to go, you're thinking this is the last play and they're going to launch it for a Hail Mary. It wasn't really a typical Hail Mary situation, so that's part of the reason why we're sitting there. We're not thinking that, but certainly if the ball is around midfield and there's just a couple of ticks left and maybe one or two shots, you're saying `Hey, be ready to bat it down when they throw it up there for grabs.' It just wasn't a typical time to throw a Hail Mary. I don't think it was a Hail Mary. It wasn't like everybody ran down field and they were trying to throw a Hail Mary - it was a dig route and a post and some other concepts underneath to read. Usually if the deep ball is there, you throw it. If the safeties are deep, you throw the dig, but he let it rip and it turned out to be a good thing for them."

On addressing the loss to Auburn with the team...
"I always tell the staff and the players to think about what we can learn from this and how can we make sure that it doesn't happen again. I always have to look at what I could have done better, and the coaches have to look at what they could do better and the players are the same way. What can you do better? Instead of saying what he could have done better, we say what can we do internally to do better? I was there. I could have said, `Hey, the ball is up in the air, bat it down.' I didn't do it."

On continuing to develop defensive consistency...
"I'll just say this - I was pleased with how we finished that last game. Other than that one play, there was a string of some great defense being played, just to allow us to get back into the game without trying to do some desperation onside kick. The way the game was going, even after the first touchdown, you're wondering if you should kick an onside or not. The goal was not to do that, especially the first time around, and with the defense getting that three-and-out, we had the faith to kickoff again. The other thing was just kicking off deep. Our coverage team did a spectacular job down the stretch when we were kicking the ball off at the end. We got them on the ground inside the 25, and one time they had the penalty so I think they started on the 10. When it was really counting the most, play after play after play, our offense, defense and special teams were kind of great until the one play. Other than the one play, we played pretty darn good as a team in general."

On the strengths of the defense...
"I think they're playing hard as heck and trying to get better."

On the hit that Aaron Murray took on the final play of the game...
"I watched it. It was a hard hit, but I don't even know what targeting is anymore sometimes. I'll look at this one and it is, and I'll look at another one and it's not, and I'm wondering what is the difference. I think it's been a very difficult thing for everybody to define, and I do think it will be the number one rule that will be addressed to try to figure out what's the best way to move forward. It's been confusing and problematic in a lot of ways. Even taking away the ejection but keeping the penalty - there are so many things to it that it's hard to manage. There's got to be something done with it. We're doing our best to try to teach how to tackle properly without taking away aggressiveness and just taking away a guy going to tackle somebody. Early in the year, I think we had some situations where our guys really weren't sure what to do at the moment of truth. So it's almost like you're learning how to play football again back in the perimeter, which is tough, because everything's happening fast. I haven't even seen the one that (Kentucky) had, but apparently their safety is missing the first half of this game because of a targeting play."

On his satisfaction level with behind-the-scenes interactions with SEC staff regarding officiating...
"I think the transparency is very good. Steve Shaw will say if they blew it, or he'll say if it's a good call. It's not like every single time he agrees with what happened out there. I think it makes us feel better to hear that something really should have been called or it shouldn't have been called. We use it maybe to feel a little bit better about those things, but they try to use it to teach their guys to do better in the future."

On whether or not the SEC should make public their review of officiating from each game...
"There are so many calls. What a hard job to officiate a game like that because there are so many things that happen that could get called or not called. Things happen super fast. I don't think it should be public, quite frankly. I think the way they do it is the right way to do it. There have been some times where they've come out regarding something monumental and said some things that maybe should have been done differently, but I don't think it's healthy to have that as a public conversation."

TB Todd Gurley
On sending the seniors out with a bang...
"We want to win regardless. It's a conference game so we definitely want to finish off strong and get a win for the seniors."

On what QB Aaron Murray has meant to the team...
"Aaron has been awesome. Just being here for as long as he's been here he's done so much for this team and the university and it's going to be hard to replace him next year. He's definitely the best quarterback in SEC history. The record says it all."

On whether or not Murray's legacy will be tarnished by a lack of championships...
"Sometimes the best don't get championships, especially in college football where you lose one game and it's kind of all over. Stuff happens and he's just been great even with all the injuries [to his teammates]. I don't think he's missed a game since he's been starting. For him to fight through everything for four years straight is crazy."

ILB Amarlo Herrera
On the talent returning on defense next year...
"We will be a whole lot better. Everybody will have a full year of experience of playing football and being in the game and being in a tough situation. That's good for us. A lot of these guys have been in tough situations. We've been in tough situations, we've been in heart-breaking games, so when you deal with that and you know how it feels you don't want to be in that position again."

On making the transition to the college level...
"When you come from high school I don't think the game is as long and I don't think it's as physical, and you're probably the best player on the field. You haven't played college ball before and you don't know what it's like until you get out there."

On what will help the defense improve next year...
"Everybody will have a full year of experience. With that full year you understand the game a lot better. You understand what you have to do to be on a championship pace and win a tough game. You know what you have to do in a tough environment to come out on top."

On if the expectations were too high for the defense this year...
"No, we're Georgia. We win around here. It doesn't matter if you're a freshman straight out of high school, we're supposed to win."

TE Arthur Lynch
On being a senior and playing in his last home game this Saturday...
"It's been a good ride. We've proven a lot of things to ourselves and other people about what kind of team we put on the field every week. I think the record doesn't really show as good of a team as we have, it's just kind of how the chips fell throughout the season and you can't really do much about that. I am excited, but it's going to be kind of depressing and sad at the same time because I have so many memories and so many close friends here. It will be a special moment."

QB Aaron Murray
Reflecting on Saturday's loss at Auburn...
"I would rather get blown out than lose a game in that kind of fashion so it's tough. It's tough for all of us, but I think we've had some tough losses this season and we know how to come back and get back to work and get ready for another opponent."

On how he felt about his personal performance in spite of the loss...
"There were definitely things I missed here and there. A couple of checks, some throws I wish I could have gotten back, but like you said, the most important thing is whether we win or lose. Personal performance is second best after that. I wasn't thinking 'I played well today,' I was thinking 'I can't believe we just lost that game.'"

On if he's proud of his durability...
"I am definitely proud of the way I've been able to play this long. It's been a little bit of luck, too, because I've definitely taken my share of shots that you see end people's seasons all the time. But no matter how I'm feeling, if I have even a remote chance of playing I am going to make it happen."

DL Garrison Smith
On playing his last game at Sanford Stadium on Saturday...
"I will definitely feel [the emotions] but I'm going to try not to. It's definitely going to be emotional because it's your last game but it's not really a sad feeling. It's just your next step in life. You're moving onto your next place."

On what his career at Georgia has been...
"These four years have just been life. Life is full of ups and downs. You're going to have sun sometimes and then sometimes you're going to have storms. It's a rollercoaster; you never know what's going to happen but you have to just deal with it. We're going to have good years and bad years but that's just life, you're going to have good days and bad days."

On this season in particular...
"This isn't the year of the storm. There have just been a few little thunderstorms. There haven't been any monsoons or anything. There aren't any typhoons going on. Unfortunately we've had the injury bug, and that's tough. Not just for this season, but for the players that are hurt. That's what is most important. No player ever wants to deal with injuries and my heart goes out for those guys. It's hard to win any game when you lose so many key players, but you still fight and compete in every game and we're still in every game. We have so many young guys that we're dependent on and they just don't have the experience. It's just tough but at the end of the day I'm proud of everybody. I'm proud of this team. I don't have any complaints, I'm just proud of this team."



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