September 11, 2009

Bulldog focused on South Carolina

What's past is past.

That's been pretty much the sentiment of the 21st-ranked Georgia Bulldogs, who say they have put last week's loss to Oklahoma State out of their mind and are focused solely on Saturday night's SEC opener against rival South Carolina.

"We can't let Oklahoma State beat us twice," sophomore cornerback Brandon Boykin said. "That's the past; we've got to turn the page. I think we have."

Head coach Mark Richt agrees.

"Bottom line is we aren't worried about that. We're worried about preparing for the game and focusing on what truly will help us win," he said. "Focusing on those things doesn't do you any good. What does you good is preparation."

While last week's defeat at the hands of the 5th-ranked Cowboys was certainly disappointing to most in the Bulldog Nation, a win over long-time rival Steve Spurrier and his Gamecocks (1-0) would go a long way to healing most of those wounds.

"We'll play it with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. I know it will be exciting to be home for our players," Richt said. "We are looking forward to our Dog Walk and getting the guys excited about the game. The night atmosphere certainly adds to the atmosphere. It's the first Southeastern Conference game. The SEC has begun and we are looking to go 1-0."

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in the game that will be televised on ESPN2.

The game is expected to mark the first home start for quarterback Joe Cox, who Richt said would open up under center after sources told UGASports that backup Logan Gray practiced entirely with the first team and Wednesday and "appeared" that he "could" get the call against the Gamecocks. Gray was seen working with the ones and Cox with the twos during the three periods the media was able to watch Wednesday's workout.

Richt said he has confidence in both quarterbacks.

"He (Gray) can run our system. We had planned to get him in the game mostly in the red zone area, and we did get him in there one time during the first drive of the game. Unfortunately we didn't get in the red zone very often, so we didn't use him," Richt said. "Right now Joe is definitely the No. 1 guy and we'll see if and when Logan will get in there."

As for any specific plans for Gray, Richt didn't say. Last week, Gray took one snap on offense during the Bulldogs' lone trip inside the OSU red zone.

"That's what we had planned last week," Richt said. I'm not saying for sure what we have planned this week. That was the plan last week."

Spurrier joked that he hopes his offense has some ideas.

The Gamecocks won a 7-3 slugfest from North Carolina State in their opener Sept. 3, and Spurrier is hoping for a better showing, although history tells us Saturday's contest will be another low-scoring affair.

The wining team in this game has not scored more than 20 points in any of the last five contests and that has only happened once in the last 8 meetings.

Of those games, six of the last eight Georgia-South Carolina contests have been decided by seven points or less. The Gamecocks won by five (14-9) in 2001 and by four in 2007 (16-120, while Georgia posted a six-point victory in 2004 (20-16), a two-point triumph in 2005 (17-15) and a seven-point margin last season (14-7).

"Usually, we've both got pretty good defenses and we've not been real sharp offensively the early part of the year," Spurrier said. "But our defense has played Georgia very tough for some reason. We haven't done very much against them, either. There usually aren't many turnovers, and with strong kicking games, the fact the other team has to drive the whole field, those games are sometimes lower scoring on offense."

Stephen Garcia has settled in as the Gamecocks' starting quarterback.

The sophomore completed 13 of 22 passes for 148 yards and one interception against the Wolfpack and saw brief action against the Bulldogs last season when he made college debut, getting into three plays.

But it's the Gamecocks' defense that really has the Bulldogs concerned.

Linebacker Eric Norwood and defensive end Cliff Matthews are two of the best in the SEC, especially Matthews who had two sacks last week and is expected to be matched up against Georgia left tackle Vince Vance, who takes over for Trinton Sturdivant who tore his ACL last week.

Offensively, Richt hopes to see significantly more intensity than he saw against the Cowboys.

"We definitely need a strong intensity level. I don't know if we weren't intense as much as we didn't play with the speed and we didn't finish blocks like we should," he said. "By no means were we horrible; we were close, but we just need that extra effort on each play to block a little bit longer or where if you block a little bit better you are going to create a little more space. That little space can mean all the difference in the world between a guy getting tripped up and a guy going to the house.

"I don't want to cause any panic or anything; it' not that at all, but we want to see a little more fire come out of there. I think they played with good effort, but I think they could give greater effort. By no means did they play with any intensity. They played pretty hard, but they need to play harder."

Defensively, inebacker Rennie Curran wants to start seeing some turnovers.

Georgia did not secure a single one against the Cowboys, who used three Bulldog mistakes to account for 10 of their 24 points.

"We could have done a lot better on turnovers and put some points on the board," Curran said. "We fought hard and played a full four quarters. It was a learning experience. It was a good day for the defense, but we have a long way to go. We definitely took a step in the right direction."

NOTES: Linebacker Darius Dewberry will sit out the game with a pulled muscle. … Defensive end Kiante Tripp (shoulder) will play, according to Richt. … Running back Caleb King is listed as doubtful. … Dawg Walk is scheduled for 5 p.m.

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