September 30, 2011

Richt makes his plea



Yes, Georgia head coach Mark Richt appeared to be providing some comic relief when he stood up during the start of his weekly press conference on Tuesday, to offer a quick lesson in "Fan-101."

But there was nothing funny about his message.

Although the delivery might have been light-hearted, Richt's message was a serious one - that fans can indeed play a part in the outcome of Saturday's game against Mississippi State, set for noon at Sanford Stadium.

"We need a lot of crowd noise. I know the fans know that part, but when the team's no-huddle some times you are cheering and you might not be cheering at the right time. You might get exhausted, so I want to talk a little bit about what we hope will happen in the game," Richt said. "When Chris Relf, their quarterback, gets into his cadence and then he looks for the ball and it doesn't come and then he looks to the sideline. When he looks to the sideline, that's when we need the fans to go berserk, because that's when they are going to try to communicate to the line what they're going to do.
"So we don't want them to be able to communicate well. We want them to have trouble hearing each other. We want offensive linemen to jump offsides. So UGA fan base, that's the time to go crazy. When the quarterback looks to the sideline, after he starts his cadence, he'll look to the sideline and that's when you go crazy and make all kind of noise. Of course if they are down on the goal line, do that every play, every moment."

One can understand Richt wanting whatever advantage he can get. Both teams need a victory Saturday - badly.

Mississippi State (2-2, 0-2) enters the contest looking for its first SEC victory, while Georgia (2-2, 1-1) obviously needs to keep winning if it wants to harbor any chance of an SEC East crown.

It shapes up to be an interesting matchup.

MSU comes into play ranked 26th nationally in rushing offense (217.5 yards) while the Bulldogs are averaging 181.5 per game, led by freshman Isaiah Crowell, currently tied for fourth with Florida's Chris Rainey for most rushing yards in the conference with 411.

The Maroon-colored Dawgs are no slouches, either.

Senior Vick Ballard is right behind Crowell and Rainey with a season total of 407 yards and five touchdowns, having eclipsed the century mark in three of MSU's four games.

Meanwhile, Relf will be attempting to get back on track after two excellent games to open the season, before last week's effort against Louisiana Tech, which saw him throw for 164 yards and the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

Mullen concedes it's a huge game for his squad.

"It's an opportunity to turn the season into a positive and get it going in the right direction with our first SEC win," said Mullen. "Obviously it's going to be a very tough team. Georgia is an extremely talented football team. They've shown that in the close games they've played against Top 10 teams this year and pretty dominating wins over teams they were better than. We'll have our hands full this week. We're going to have to go on the road a play a clean, well-executed football game to get a win."

Mississippi State will need to get its offense back on track.

After gaining 1,176 yards and scoring 83 points in its first two games, the Bulldog offense has been held to 533 yards and 32 points in their most recent two contests against LSU and Louisian a Tech.

"LSU is a pretty good defensive football team and had a good plan for us," Mullen said. "I think when you're off offensively you don't have to be very far off. When you're trying to play two freshman offensive linemen right now, one guy off gets you out of rhythm on offense and can kind of slow you down. Every time we've been taking shots early, we were hitting them down the field. We've been just off the fingertips the last two weeks. Those issues can really start to compound one after the other where you don't get into a good rhythm on offense."

Some of those issues can be traced to some key losses in the offensive line.

The Bulldogs lost senior left tackle James Carmon, who has not played since the first half of the Auburn game while junior right guard Tobias Smith was lost for the season on the opening drive against LSU.

Carmon could be back for Saturday's contest, although Mullen still isn't sure what his line will look like for Saturday's game.

"It's a work in progress," Mullen said of his o-line. "With some of the injuries we've faced before the season and during the season, it's going to be a very fluid situation. We probably won't decide on an actual starting line, the actual starting five until Saturday."

Georgia, meanwhile, hopes to have one of its key missing pieces back for the kickoff against MSU.

Starting Mike linebacker Christian Robinson has missed the last two contests to a foot injury, but has practiced this week and appears he will get at least some playing time.

The Bulldogs will need him, along with some stellar play by the rest of its defense, against a team which last year gave Georgia a lesson in physicality Richt and the team has not forgotten.

"They are a very physical team. Most everybody who watches college football probably watched them play LSU on that one Thursday night. Most of the country got to see that game, and what I saw is what everybody else saw, two teams just having a bloody battle up front," Richt said. "LSU wasn't trying to keep any secrets about what they were going to do. They just lined up mostly in the I-formation and just hammered the ball at them, and Mississippi State was holding up pretty darn well I thought. You could just see all their players and how physical they were in that game. We definitely have one of those games where we better roll up our sleeves and get after it."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at dash@ugasports.com.