Richt, Bulldogs preview Georgia Tech game
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Richt, Bulldogs preview Georgia Tech game

Mark Richt
Photo: UGA Athletics

ATHENS, Ga. – Georgia head football coach Mark Richt, along with several players, addressed the media on Tuesday ahead of Saturday’s game at Georgia Tech. They offered the following comments:

Head Coach Mark Richt

Opening statement…

“The last two times we have played have been overtime games. They (Georgia Tech) are 3-8 right now, but five of their losses were for a touchdown or less; very close games that they have played against really good teams. They have played one of the tougher schedules in America, and they could easily be 8-3 right now without anything much different.

Offensively, they are scoring 31.3 points a game. They are having 387 yards of total yards per game, 261 yards rushing per game. That’s seventh in America.

Talking about rushing the ball, in the last seven years, they have run the ball for over 31,000 yards, which is No. 1 in the nation. So they know how to run the ball as good or better than anybody in the country. They are averaging 125 yards a game passing. They have gone 236 games without being shut out, so offensively, they have just been getting the job done for a long time.

As far as their rushers are concerned, (Marcus) Marshall, No. 34, is their leading rusher, 77 carries, 614 yards. (Justin) Thomas, No. 5, is their No. 2 rusher. He has 670 yards rushing. He’s also passed for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns.

As far as their receivers are concerned, their No. 1 receiver is (Ricky) Jeune, No. 2. He’s got 21 catches for 480 yards and three touchdowns. Their No. 2 receiver is (Clinton) Lynch. He’s averaging 25 yards per catch. He’s got eight touchdowns. They know how to throw the ball. He’s also the third-leading rusher with 402 yards. I’m talking about Lynch, No. 49, really a fine dual threat.

On defense, they are giving up 26.9 points per game. They are giving up 365 yards a game total yardage, 163 rushing, 201 passing. They have got nine interceptions this year as a team and they are averaging over four tackles for a loss per game, so they do a good job of getting you behind the line of scrimmage.

Their secondary is all seniors. Three of the four seniors are red-shirt seniors, so three fifth-year seniors and another senior back there. Talking about their DBs in particular, D.J. White, No. 28, he’s leading the team with two interceptions, actually tied with Brant Mitchell with interceptions. He has two, as well. But White has seven career interceptions. Jamal Golden has eight career interceptions and he’s second on the team with tackles with 56.

Their No. 1 tackler is P.J. Davis, No. 40. He’s got 73 tackles. He’s also No. 1 with tackles for loss, 6.5 a game, second in tackles for loss is Tyler Marcordes, No. 35. He’s got 5.5 tackles for loss per game and he’s the No. 3 tackler with 44 tackles.

On their defensive front, (KeShun) Freeman, No. 42, 6-1, 240-pound sophomore, kinds of leads the way with the guys up front right now. He’s got 42 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, pass break-up, quarterback hurry, a fumble recovery, a force fumble; been very active up front.

Talking about their kicking game, Harrison Butker, he’s kicked 40 touchbacks so far. That’s one of the best in the country. He’s seven out of ten in field goals. In his career, he’s kicked three out of four over 50, and doing a great job there.

Golden, going back to (Jamal) Golden as a returner, kick returner, he’s averaging 24.5 yards a kick return, which is No. 1 in school history. Their punter, (Ryan) Rodwell, averages 39 yards a punt. He’s got a long of 59, and Golden is also their leading punt returner with 9.9 yards per return.

That’s the report on Georgia Tech. Without a doubt, a big rivalry game, one that like I said, has been extremely close. Just about every time we play, both teams get up for this game, both fan bases get up for this game. Everybody knows how important it is and we don’t run away from that fact.

If anybody has a question, we’ll get it going.”

On how much he spends preparing for overtime situations…

We probably rep more overtime situations in camp than we do on a weekly basis. We work on it specifically on the open date, as well. But when you’re working red zone offense, red zone defense, you’re pretty much working on the same plays that you would call. We work on two-point plays probably every other week or so. The defense works it versus scouts; the offense works it versus scouts. There’s times where we do situational things in the one-minute drill. Like every Thursday, we go offense versus defense, one-minute drill. It might be we need a field goal. It might be we need a touchdown. It might be we’re doing a May Day like running off the sideline kicking the field goal. Maybe we’re practicing two-point plays at the tail end of it, good-on-good kind of stuff. We always do it versus scouts because sometimes we re-emphasize it when we get our ones versus ones and twos versus twos. But the overtime itself, we feel like we’ve got it covered because we’re always working red zone offense and defense along with the two-point plays.”

On pass protection against Georgia Southern…

The majority of the time we have pass-protected well. The times we didn’t, we had a couple — I know we had two missed assignments that just got us in trouble. There were a couple times we just got whipped. As far as a guy just getting beat, that happens from time to time, as well. But most of the time we protected pretty good.”

On his career winning percentage against Georgia Tech…

I know how important this game is to our fans. I know how important this game is to our team and our coaches. It’s the last regular season game of the year. There’s a lot of reasons why the game is important. Just like when losses sting, I mean, victories are what you’re looking for. Like I’ve said in the past, I’m usually mostly thankful for victories. It’s the way the series has gone and I’m — any time we win a game, I’m proud of the team, I guess I can say that.”

On Hunter Long’s performance and status of Greg Pyke…

Greg’s been practicing. Hunter, he’s struggled in some areas, just getting a lot of reps for the first time in a long time. I guess since probably his first start at center would be my guess. I can’t remember another time he started, played the whole game. But considering it was his first shot out of the cannon and had to wait so long to do it, he did a nice job. We’re glad that we had him. But as far as Pyke, he did practice yesterday. If he keeps getting better, he’ll be ready to play.”

On LB Leonard Floyd…

Well, we just put him where we felt like we needed him the most, against different opponents and in different games and sometimes it had to do with linebackers depth, and we had Reggie Carter go down and we didn’t know about the true freshman being just ready early on. Now they are more ready to play snaps and it’s freeing him up to play in his natural position, which is the edge, whether it’s defensive end in a 4-3 or outside linebacker in a 3-4 or even sometimes being in a nickel, which is basically a glorified outside linebacker when you’re versus three receiver looks where you can be in coverage but also pressure from the outside.

I think he’s much more at home outside. I think it’s pretty easy to see that. But the one thing about him, that I really respect is just how much the guy loves to play. If you just watch the guy, and see how excited he gets about making plays or even if he misses a play, how disappointed — he doesn’t hide anything. His body language tells you exactly how he’s feeling. I just really like the way he gets out of it.

I’m really proud of him becoming one of the finalists for that (Butkus) award. It’s a big deal.”

On how the offense has performed…

I think, like even the last three games, we’ve decided to huddle. We’ve decided to slow the game down a little bit. Decided to try to control the ball a little bit more. You know, do things that aren’t really sexy when it comes to football, offensive football, but things that we thought were going to help us win. I’m proud of everybody being able to do what we felt like we needed to do that was in the best interests in terms of this team to win games. I think in that regard, we are doing the right thing.”

On how he structures this week with no school and the Thanksgiving break…

“We did have some academic work done. Yesterday and today, blocked out about an hour and a half, two hours for guys that need to get ready for projects or tests or whatever it was, when we get back to school. So that was the only academic responsibilities that we’ve had so far. But what we did with our times, for meetings and practice, we basically just did exactly what we do every other Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Tomorrow morning, as you know, we practice in the morning and try to get out of here somewhere around 11 or 12 to give guys a chance if they are within striking distance to go home for Thanksgiving, get them all back in town Thursday night. Then we’ll do a very normal Friday operation. The only thing different is as we are traveling to Atlanta, we’ll stop. One group will stop somewhere in the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Group Hospital, I’m not sure which hospital — Scottish Rite, I think that’s where we’re going. We go to the children’s hospital and then we’ll go to Shepherd’s Center, as well. That’s typical. I think the defense is going with the kids and the offense is going to the Shepherd’s Center. I’ll probably go to Shepherd’s Center, as well. I think we’ll see Devon there, won’t we? Devon Gales will be there, so we’re looking forward to seeing him and everybody else.”

On quick starts against Georgia Tech in Atlanta…

“To me, I don’t remember many games that weren’t close. I think they are all close. And I don’t know, we just line up and play ball and try to win the game no matter where we’re at. I don’t think much about if we’re home; if we’re away. We certainly have to account for crowd noise and we’ll be prepared for that. But other than that, it’s just another time we’re playing Georgia Tech.”

On how the Georgia Southern game helped his team prepare for Georgia Tech…

“Yeah, they are different. I think the thing with schedule, in the off-season I’m kind of looking at the season. I think my thoughts were that we probably would gain a lot from that, but as we got closer to the game and just studying the film and watching both offenses, they are a lot different. They both run option, but they are very different in how they go about it. But again, like I’ve said, the fundamentals of defeat blocks the fundamentals of being responsible for gaps, the fundamentals of assignment football when it comes to option, those things do carry over. But they do it just different enough where it’s not like, let’s do it exactly like we did last week. It’s not like that.”

On the status of WR Isaiah McKenzie and what he brings to the team…

“He’s kind of been feast or famine. He’s had some great returns. He’s had some great runs and then of course the fumble that cost the touchdown could have — I mean, was a big factor in the game. But as far as his health, he did not practice yesterday. We’ll see what he does today. I think Ron (Courson) is going to get him out there and see how he’s doing and then make a determination, if he practices, and if so, how much of the practice he’ll go. So it’s up in the air right now for him.”

On the squib kick last year against Georgia Tech…

“Well, the thought was, there’s not much time left, if you kick it deep, they are able to set up a return, there’s a chance they could hit one. They would be more organized to practice that than the squib. But we were covering kicks good just about all year at that time of the year. I should have just trusted our ability to go down and kick it deep and get them on the ground. And so by having the squib and them getting decent field position, obviously they got the one play, and the kid scrambled it just enough, just enough to give them a chance to kick it. I mean, if we’d have kicked it deep and tackled them, it would have been a lot harder to do that. If we’d kicked it deep and scored a touchdown, everybody would say, why didn’t you squib. It goes back and forth. Just I really think if I had to do it again, I would kick it deep and just see if we could get them on the ground a little bit farther away from that goal line. But as far as — a lot of people would say, you should do that. So it just depends on how it ends up I guess.”

Junior QB Greyson Lambert

On if current players told him about the rivalry…

“They just told me little things here and there. Obviously, last year we’ve heard a lot about since I’ve been here. I probably learned a little bit more about the rivalry as a whole, the trophy and the trophies that the seniors get and just everything that goes into the game.”

On if last year’s game impacts this year’s game…

“I don’t know. I wasn’t on the team then. I do know that this is a big game for us.”

On playing in Virginia’s rivalry with Virginia Tech…

“It was a Friday night game and it was the only game on TV. We were both 5-6 so the winner goes to a bowl. We also didn’t like each other. It was one of those games where everyone meets at midfield and the refs are trying to hold us back from fighting. It’s a big game. Playing in a game like that where it might get a little chippy and dirty, those are the fun ones and the ones you remember.”

On if he is familiar with any Georgia Tech players…

“I’m familiar with some of the defensive players just from playing against them. Not in a sense that we know each other, but scouting and preparing for them. A lot of their secondary is back from last year. I’m familiar with their style and their defense.”

Senior OT Kolton Houston

On how much last year’s loss to Georgia Tech stuck with the team…

“It stuck with me a lot. Just in the program’s standpoint you have to wait a whole month for that next game. All of last December you had to just stick with that loss to them.”

Senior OLB Jordan Jenkins

On being five tackles for loss away from second all-time at Georgia…

“That’s something that’s really big for me. I talked last week about trying to leave my name in history like Achilles in the movie Troy. Getting that, that’s something big for me because I never really set any records at my high school. We had a losing season and I don’t even think they kept track of our stats.”

On facing an option-based offense for the second consecutive week…

“That definitely came to my mind. I was like ‘Alright, I’ve got to play my job, play my technique’ because if I do I can end up with a few TFLs if I play my hardest and not get confused in my assignment.”

On Leonard Floyd’s impact on the defense…

“(His production) is definitely something I like seeing. Having him at middle backer, it tosses some things out but it doesn’t help out with the protections. I might catch a few more double teams with him there. Now that he’s back they can’t pick one side (to protect). They have to pick their poison. When they pick one side, the other side is going to win. It’s definitely fun having him rushing on the other side because I know someone else is rushing and the quarterback isn’t going to get out of the pocket.”

Senior ILB Jake Ganus

On the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry…

“I’ve heard the way they lost last year, to lose to your rival like that in overtime, on Senior Day, it’s probably the worst way that a football team can lose. I kind of feel that through everyone. No one really talks about it, but I can just tell as we go through meetings when Tech gets brought up it means a lot to them. Obviously it means a lot to me now. I feel sick from that game and I wasn’t even here. It does mean a lot to everybody and I’m really looking forward to it.”

On if he expected to have the success he has had at UGA…

“I had been working for something like this. I didn’t know how it was all going to play out. I just worked as hard as I could this offseason, this spring and summer. I had a really good fall camp to put myself into a position to have a good season. I think I’ve kind of exceeded my expectations a little bit, but I’ve worked hard and I do believe that hard work reaps benefits. I just work hard and good things happen.”


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