UGA Football

Richt, Bulldogs Preview Missouri Game

Mark Richt
(Photo: John Kelley/UGA)

Georgia head football coach Mark Richt, along with several players, addressed the media on Tuesday ahead of Saturday’s game against SEC East rival Missouri at Sanford Stadium.

They offered the following comments:

Head Coach Mark Richt

Opening statement… 

“I want to thank everybody from AT&T today and the work that you’ve been doing, trying to help everybody stay drug-free, that’s so important. Another thing that you may have realized, or somewhere along the way heard, that Malcolm Mitchell was part of the AFCA Good Works Team, 22 members on that (team). And this morning, he was at Barrow Elementary School thinking he was going to be reading to the young people over there, and they surprised him with the trophy. So he’s part of the 2015 Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team. That’s a great honor for our student-athletes to be thought of in that light, and we absolutely love our men of character here at Georgia.

Okay, let’s move on to Missouri. Coach (Gary) Pinkel has done a great job there. Been there a long time. I guess he’s been there the same amount of time at Missouri that I’ve been at Georgia. Obviously not in our league all those years but has done a great job of leading that program for years. We all know they are the two-time Eastern Division champions the last two seasons. Went 7-1 last year. So they are a team that knows how to win. Last time they were here, they beat us. So we know that we have a great challenge in that regard. We’ll talk a little bit about their offense first. I guess there’s another stat that’s probably worth saying: As a team, just reading up on them — I didn’t like this stat, but the last six times they lost a game, the game after that, they have won six in a row. So the game after a loss, they have won it six times in a row. And so that will be a challenge for us to try to stop that streak.

Offensively, they are averaging 311 yards a game, 117 rushing and 194 passing and they are averaging 18.3 points a game. They are No. 2 in the Southeastern Conference in red zone offense. Their quarterback, I’m not 100 percent sure, are we hearing that (Maty) Mauk is not going to play, or do we know — is there certainty on that? Was not included on the depth chart. So we are going by that, as well. So you never know for sure. But we are assuming that (Drew) Lock, their freshman quarterback will be at the helm. He’s hit 59 out of 92 for 512 yards. He’s got three touchdowns and three picks to this point. (Russell) Hansbrough is a guy who has rushed for over 2,000 yards in his career at Missouri, No. 32. He’s a senior running back and he has 166 yards this year. But the guy leading their team in rushing right now is No. 21 (Ish Witter), he’s rushed for 324 yards to this point. As far as the receivers are concerned, (Nate) Brown, No. 2, has 18 catches for 200 yards. And (J’Mon) Moore, No. 6 has got 16 catches for 205 yards and two touchdowns. Brown has actually got four touchdowns receiving, and then (Wesley) Leftwich, No. 18, has got 11 catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. Their tight end caught a couple balls, as well. Up front, their line has four out of five senior offensive linemen, very veteran group. They are all big men and very capable of doing a great job. That kind of gives you an idea about their offense.

Defensively, some of the statistics are pretty daunting, actually. But they are No. 1 in the SEC in pass defense. They are No. 1 in the SEC in points given up per game with 13.5 points per game. No. 2 in the league in total yards given up, 275 total yards a game. And no one has scored more than 21 points on them this season. So they are doing a wonderful job. Most of the times, things start up front. If you just take their front four, they have got 28 tackles for a loss, 11 sacks and 66 tackles, which is very impressive and again we are talking just the front four. (Charles) Harris, 91, has got four sacks. (Walter) Brady, No. 56 has got six sacks. So just between the two edge rushers they have ten sacks and 20 tackles for loss. Very impressive edge rushers, which they have had for years. That’s just been one of the trademarks of Coach Pinkel’s teams. Their defense in total has 48 tackles for loss, and that’s third in the nation. When we were looking at the third down statistics of the opponents they have played to this point, just a massive amount of third and 10 plus. There’s probably more third and 10 plus than there were all the other third downs put together. So we have got to try to limit the tackles for loss for sure…They don’t give up — philosophically, I know they have got a new D-coordinator, but philosophically, they have not changed a lot in that they do not like to give up big plays. They like to keep everything in front of them. They like to break on the ball and tackle and get the ball knocked out. They just are pretty convinced that people can’t drive the field and stick it in the end zone without getting those explosive plays. And it’s hard to get those types of plays against them. But just a great tribute to how they play the game, and outstanding for years on the defensive side of the ball. When it comes to turnover ratio, they are the same as us. They are plus one right now. Their punter, (Corey) Fatony, is averaging 43.7 a punt. And (Aarion) Penton, their punt return man, is averaging 9.1, the return. Their kicker, (Andrew) Baggett, is 35 points away from the school record for most points in a career. He’s hit eight out of 10 kicks and his longest field goal is 41 yards. Their kick return man, (Anthony) Sherrils, is averaging close to 18 yards a return.

So that kind of rounds out the scouting report on them. Again, defending Eastern Division champs two years running and certainly is going to be a game that both teams are hungry for a victory and I’m sure our fans will be able to enjoy a heck of a ballgame under the lights between the hedges. So we are looking forward to that.”

On his relationship with Steve Spurrier…

“Well, yeah, that relationship goes back a lot of years. When I was at Florida State, obviously he was at Florida a lot of that time. I don’t know if he was all of that time but a lot of that time. Some of my memories of Coach is just watching his offenses play. They were running the fun-and-gun as everybody knows over there at Florida, and we were competing against that year after year. As a young coach, you watch offensive football and you learn, and you steal ideas. I can’t tell you how many times we would watch film of what we were doing and decided to put it in there at Florida State over the years.

The other way I got to know Coach Spurrier a little bit better was through the Heisman Trophy awards banquets. I was blessed to coach Charlie Ward and Casey Weldon was runner-up, so he was there, and Chris Weinke won it, along with Charlie. So I was at three of those events and I think Coach Spurrier was at every one of them. I think he goes back to every one of them. Kind of got to know him through that a little bit. I really enjoyed that.

And the other thing that’s kind of meaningful to me, and I mentioned this before, 2006, my wife, we found out she had cancer; she’s doing fine and 100 percent well now on, but he was one of the coaches that picked up the phone and called me and let me know he was thinking about me; and Katharyn, and really appreciated that about him.

He was fun to compete against because you just never know what was going to happen or you never knew what he might say. Some people got real bent out of shape with a lot of things he said. I never really did. I just figured, the thing I liked the most about Coach Spurrier, and as far as a relationship as a fellow head coach, is that he was always just honest about everything. What he was saying is what he was thinking, and he wasn’t going to pull any punches one way or another. I appreciated that about him. So I didn’t always agree with everything he said (laughing) but I never really took anything too personally if he was trying to have little fun here and there. But I would wish him — I texted him this morning, matter of fact, I wish him and his family a wonderful retirement. Coach, you deserve it, and you’ve blessed college football for many years.”

On how he handles criticism… 

“We all have frustrations. I just go back to the things I can control, and I focus on that. Don’t focus on things I can’t control. So the things I can control is how we prepare for the next one. So that’s what I think about it. That’s what I focus on. I focus on our staff. I focus on our team and what do we have to do to win the next one. It’s just like in the middle of a ballgame, if there’s a pick six or a penalty or whatever, something that’s not really great, my goal is not to go find the guy and wear him out. I mean, I may talk to him a little bit about it, but my goal is to say, okay, well, something bad happened, where are we now, what do we have to do to win, and that’s kind of how I treat the season, as well.”

On the ever-changing SEC… 

“It’s amazing how fast things can change whether through suspension or injury or whatever it may be, retirement of a coach, things do change. And that’s the whole thing, it’s changing for everybody. Everybody has issues. Everybody has injuries or guys banged up or they have got somebody who has got an issue off the field or whatever it is, so now you have to manage it and try to find a way to keep everybody focused on the job at hand.And most every coach and player to a certain degree, I think finds comfort in the grind of it, in the routine of it. This is what we’re going to do this day, this day, this day, this day, this day; in order to get all the work in, we have to do it a certain way. I think it’s a little therapeutic sometimes, too, when you’re licking your wounds a little bit.”

On the leadership on his team… 

“I think we have good leaders on this team. I think that we have some really solid seniors, especially. And there’s some other guys who are a little bit younger but experienced enough to have leadership qualities. But I think we as coaches have to help them understand that they have influence and understand — and maybe even help them infiltrate their energy into the team, and understand that they can influence these guys and they need to have faith and confidence that they can — and they need to be unified as they go about it. So those are some of the things that we work on with our guys.”

On the status of Keith Marshall and an update on A.J. Turman… 

“I do believe that Keith is ready to play. I mean, he’s been getting a lot of reps and he has been playing to a certain degree. So yeah, he definitely knows he’s going to have to step up. Brendan Douglas, the same way. We have actually been spending a little more time training Quayvon Hicks, mainly because he’s played a lot of plays in his career and also, we have trained him in the past at that position and he’s got some pretty good running skills. He’s a physical back and he also is probably more proficient as a pass protector, as well. So that’s kind of the guys we go into the game with. But yeah, I think guys get excited when they have an opportunity to play more. I mean, it’s just natural, everybody is working hard to get a chance to play. And you know, sometimes get a chance to start or whatever it is, and I think it just gets their blood pumping just a little bit harder in practice and in a ballgame knowing that they are going to get more reps. A.J. is doing really pretty good. He’s healthy and he’s been working hard, and he’s been giving us a good look on the scout team recently.”

On helping his team’s 3rd-down percentage… 

“Well, first thing, last night, as a matter of fact, we looked at every single one of them for the year, all the third down conversions, the good and the bad, and tried to find the common themes and threads and things that we might be able to do better. I’m not going to get into a lot of details because it may give a hint to what we might be trying to get accomplished. But I think you’ve just got to look at it in totality, and that’s what we did. There was a couple times you’re in in the game, and you’re running out the clock in a three-minute offense or something like that. There’s a few of those thrown in there. But for the most part, even if you took those out, statistically, it’s not been what it ought to be. And we’ve had too many three-and-outs. You get three-and-outs, you lose momentum offensively. You put your defense back on the field faster than you want to. So we’ve definitely have to get better at that. That’s a huge point of improvement that we’re trying to make. And last night was third down night, and I can promise you, we stayed up another hour, hour and a half than normal, just first of all, like I said, reviewing every one of them, critiquing every one of them and then going to try to get the plan.”

On how playing Sony Michel affects the playbook… 

“I think a lot — we are not reinventing our playbook. We may emphasize some things more than others and just how much of a load Sony will take on, it will definitely be — he’ll be the primary guy. But how does that translate into number of carries and all that kind of thing; I think the key to that is really keeping an eye on him and just seeing how he’s doing. Like I said before, with a lot of TV time-outs, like a CBS game, you get four in each quarter and then you get four floaters throughout the game. So if you say go six plays and put the other guy in for three; or every third series, the other guy goes in — well, as the game is being played, it may not be the wisest time to do it. You may just have a TV timeout and it’s time to put the other guy in by what you design; but your No. 1 guy is ready, fresh, there’s no point in doing that. So you just have to keep an eye on him and make the move when needed.”

On Trenton Thompson’s performance vs. Tennessee… 

“He did. Trent, he does a really good job of using his hands and getting separation from the blocker and being able to shed him and go make a play. D-Linemen, it’s hard to find guys that can get off blocks, and because of him using his hands the way he does — and he’s not perfect by any means. He’s still a work-in-progress for sure. But Coach (Tracy) Rocker has really helped him develop some good fundamentals. And he came in with some good stuff, too, now. But he’s certainly perfecting it, and he’s making an impact. He’s starting because he deserved to start. We didn’t promise him anything in recruiting. You come in and earn it, and he did.”

On Missouri starting a true freshman quarterback… 

“It’s not easy. Matthew (Stafford) took his lumps a bunch. I remember a couple ballgames, it was rough. So I think it’s tough to start a true freshman for sure. I think if guys can come in in mid-year, it gives you a little bit more of a chance if you have a spring prior to it. But whether that happens or not, you just can’t simulate the speed, the sounds, the sensation of playing in front of that many people, not only in the stands but on national TV; and the attention that is brought on about it. Being able to manage your social life; being able to manage academics. It is a bunch; even the most talented guys and the most mature guys, they hit a wall somewhere along the way and you’ve got to help them through it.”

On the traits of this Georgia team… 

“They play hard. When you play hard, it gives you a chance. We weren’t having a lot of missed assignment problems, but this last ballgame, we had more than most. So we’ve got to look at ourselves and say, are we giving them too much? And if we are, we need to make sure that we reduce — you know, when you reduce learning, you usually increase the ability to play fast. The more certain a guy is of what he’s supposed to do in all situations, the faster he can play. And that’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to react fast. You’ve just got to play with your — being able to turn loose your God-given ability. If you’re thinking too much, then you can’t do what you’ve been given naturally I guess. It almost has to be second nature to you. That’s why freshmen quarterbacks have a hard time being great, because there is a lot of things to learn. And some of the best passers in the world, if they are thinking too much, they don’t throw as accurately because they are just not able to anticipate like you need to and all that. I think the biggest thing that gives me hope that we can get where we want to get is how hard everybody is playing and how hard everybody is trying to do what we are asking them to do. They have been coachable, teachable, playing hard as heck, and we appreciate that about them.”

On kicking rugby style with punter Collin Barber… 

“Well, if we put this punter in and all he did was rugby, and then we put him in and all he did was traditional, then we tell them what we’re doing. That’s part of it. You want a guy that can do both. There are certain pressures that they will bring if they know you are in a traditional punt. They could pretty much get you to set your protection a certain way because everybody in the country, if you’re in the shield, you do it about the same way. Everybody knows, hey, I can get them to turn this way and punt it or whatever. But also, there’s certain looks you can get overloaded on and make it more difficult to protect, but if you have the element of being able to rugby it at any given moment, then some of the pressures that may hurt this shield punt scheme, it doesn’t even faze the rocket — we call it rocket, but the rugby kick. So you’ve got to mix it in. Now we did a bunch of it this last game, obviously, and some of it had to do with the protection issue and some of it had to do with just trying to get balls out there that are hard to handle, because they had a really good return man. We know, like I spent a lot of time with Coach (Mike) Ekeler on punt return and block; and the teams that rugby, that ball is just so unpredictable where it’s going to bounce and all that. It’s hard to set up a return. So if you have a really great return man, it’s harder to set up a return. Now the one that he got some yards on, that ball ended up being up the in the air,  if you remember, and really it didn’t have enough height. Some people rugby and get it high and drop it where you want it and some do that little nasty thing where you don’t know where it’s going to bounce. So either way, you’ve either got to get great height and land it where it needs to be or strike it where it bounces around but still get it in the area of the field that you’re trying to cover. But the reason why we’ve done some of the rugby is to be less predictable in how we protect.”

On the rivalry with Missouri… 

“Well, the more you play somebody, the more it becomes a rival game, and the more they ruin your plans, the more you want to get after them. They have done well. We need to do a good job against this team because they are real solid, and they do the things that you need to do to win games and sometimes it’s not super flashy, but they find a way to get it done more times than not. So as far as a rivalry, it’s hard to say it’s a true rival game yet but anybody in the Eastern Division becomes a rival here in a hurry.”

On reducing Sony Michel’s kick returns… 

“We don’t see (Isaiah) McKenzie being ready. It has not been totally finalized how we are going to manage Sony. We could either keep him on the teams he’s on and just not have him go every time that team goes out; or me take him off completely from a couple and allow the other guys to get reps and get good at it. There may come a time in the ballgame where we’ve got to have, whatever it may be — we may be punting, if we get this guy on the ground, we win. Well, Sony’s probably going in the game, so I’m not going to sit here and say he’s off of all the teams.”

Senior ILB Jake Ganus

On Missouri quarterback Drew Lock…

“As a defense we do a pretty good job of switching stuff up, showing different coverages and blitzes. We also need to make sure that we know what to do and don’t overcomplicate things. He’s inexperienced but a great football player and a great athlete, so just try to switch things up and try to confuse him.”

 

On the defense changing without Jordan Jenkins in the game…

“I don’t think it changes too much. I think Davin Bellamy does a good job when he gets in. I think everyone saw him, he had a heck of a game against Tennessee. I think we’ve got a bunch of different guys that can plug in in places. Jordan (Jenkins) is an amazing football player, and obviously when he’s not in, he’s missed. But we have some other guys that can step up and make plays.”

 

Sophomore TE Jeb Blazevich

On the offense’s struggles on third down…

“We’re just not getting it done, it’s as simple as that. We’re not getting the first down after that. I think there’s a million different reasons why but we just have to figure out the one that works and we have to figure out what works for us. Myself, as a player, I just have to be the best that I can be and not worry about everything else.”

 

On the offense’s mindset in overcoming the injury to Nick Chubb…

“I know we’ll be okay. But just Nick as a guy, I know we’re praying for him. I know God does certain things a lot of times to mold us and test us. James chapter one talks a lot about that, but all I can say is please pray for Nick, pray for encouragement and healing. But all I can say about that is we’re more concerned for him as a person right now, not as much as a player. We’re going to miss him on Saturdays too, just him being around there. He’s going through a tough time right now.”

 

On Missouri’s defense…

“They’re a great defense. We definitely have a good challenge in front of us. I feel like a lot of it last year was I didn’t know what to expect necessarily, but now having that year under me I think I can prepare a little bit better. It’s still going to be a good matchup. I think their defensive line is good. They still rely on that movement, but they have a new defensive coordinator in there so I’m interested in seeing how it compares to last year.”

Senior WR Malcolm Mitchell

On criticism that the team is receiving…

“I don’t ever act like I’m oblivious to the things that go on. Now I don’t listen to everything that people say. Nor am I on social media searching for what people are saying. I do my best to be the best teammate I can possibly be. I go to whatever measures are needed to make sure that happens on my part. So whatever we face in the future or going forward, you accept it regardless of whatever it is and you keep striving to be the best you can possibly be.”

Senior DT Sterling Bailey

On facing Missouri the past two seasons…

“The way I see it is all that is in the past. It’s a new year in 2015. We are a new team and anything can go.”

On using pervious matchups against Missouri for preparation this year…

“Just how to prepare. They still run some of the similar things, but it’s more of what we do and how we execute more than what they do.”

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. David

    Oct 14, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    Play Bauta!

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