September 16, 2012

Richt wants Dawgs focused



Last year's meeting at Vanderbilt was one of those rare occasions where what happened after the final whistle, in many ways, overshadowed what happened in the game.

Georgia hung on to beat the Commodores that evening 33-28, but after defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin went face-to-face before leaving the field, what was once one of the Bulldogs' tamer rivalries, suddenly took on a more heated turn.

Saturday night at Sanford Stadium (7:45, ESPN2) the two teams meet again, although head coach Mark Richt said Sunday he intends to remind his team not to let last year's memory cloud their focus this time around.

"I think the biggest thing we've got to do is make sure we concentrate on playing football and not let all the extra-curricular activities turn into penalties and not playing fundamental football," Richt said. "I don't want that to take the place of executing, things like focus or doing the right things. Everyone needs to understand and know their job and take care of business. That's what we need to focus on."

Either way, Richt said the Bulldogs (3-0, 1-0), ranked fifth in this week's AP poll, will need to be ready.

During Saturday night's post-game press conference, Richt seemed to be sending some sort of message when he emphatically stated that his team "will be ready" when the Commodores (1-2, 0-1) visit Sanford Stadium for Saturday night's game.

Sunday, however, Richt said there was no hidden message.

"I think what I said is we would be ready to go, just like I am now, that's all I meant to say," Richt said. "We will be ready and we will have to be. That's how much respect I have for their team. We know it's going to be a battle."

According to Richt, these aren't your father's Commodores.

Under Franklin, Vanderbilt is playing with a new sense of spirit and confidence, something Vandy teams of the past haven't normally shown.

But Franklin is attempting to change the culture in Nashville.

Although some may perceive him as brash, Richt said there's no question Franklin has the Commodores playing with a different sense of self worth than before.

"I don't think there's any doubt that they've been the most talented Vandy teams these last two years that we've played in a while," Richt said. "Coach Franklin has them revved up and ready to go. He's got them believing and playing to win."

The Commodores, who blanked Presbyterian 58-0 for their first win Saturday, continue to be led by the one-two punch of quarterback Jordan Rodgers (30-of -45 for 431 yards and 2 TDs) and running back Zac Stacy (34-258, 1 TD).

"I think they are a stronger team and I think they've got some really good athleticism," Richt said. "When you watch them play they play as hard, fast and physical as anyone. They do what they do very well, they believe in it and you can see that. Coach Franklin is not afraid to take calculated risk to put them in position to win games and it's paying off."

NOTES: Richt said he was "hopeful" that outside linebacker Jarvis Jones will be able to play after sitting out Saturday's 56-20 win over Florida Atlantic to rest his strained groin. … Richt did not have an update yet Sunday night on starting left guard Dallas Lee, who left the game in the second quarter with a sprained ankle. He did say, however, that he was pleased with the work of Mark Beard, who slid over to left tackle with Kenarious Gates moving inside to left guard after Lee left the game. "I thought Mark did a good job out there at left tackle and for the most part he pass protected well," Richt said. "There might have been one (quarterback) pressure off the top of my head, but I thought it worked out really well, actually." … Along with moving up to 5th in the AP poll, Georgia moved up to 6th in the USA Today/Coaches Top 25 poll.