Dawgs at home on the road

Mark Richt

ATHENS – Every time Georgia's football team hits the road, each player receives a carefully packed travel bag.

It includes whatever clothes they might need for their ride and their stay at the team hotel as well as the usual travel necessities. For the Bulldogs, the bags might as well include a big ol' chip to sit squarely on their shoulders.

In Mark Richt's six-plus seasons as head coach, Georgia has used an us-against-world mentality to amass a remarkable 23-3 record in opponent's home stadiums.

"It's just the fact that you're going into an environment where you're expected to do bad," senior linebacker Dannell Ellerbe said. "You're expected to lose."

"We're there by ourselves," senior wide receiver A.J. Bryant said. "We're all we've got, so I guess that makes us fight harder."

"Being called the underdog gives everybody another edge," senior running back Kregg Lumpkin said.

Freshman safety Reshad Jones felt the difference before he ever played his first collegiate road game. The No. 12 Bulldogs' pre-game huddle prior to the Sept. 22 Alabama game was the loudest of the season, he said.

"I really felt the extra energy we had," Jones said. "I had chill bumps once I was done saying it."

Georgia (4-1, 2-1) is on the road most of this month, starting with Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game against Tennessee (2-2, 0-1) in Neyland Stadium, where Georgia is 3-0 in the Richt era. After that, it's to Nashville for a game against Vanderbilt, an off week and then the annual neutral site game against Florida.

Georgia won't play in Sanford Stadium again until Nov. 3 against Troy, which isn't bad news for the Bulldogs, considering their winning percentage is better on the road than at home under Richt (88.5 percent on the road, 84.6 percent at home).

The Bulldogs' only losses on the road since 2001 have been to No. 11 LSU in 2003, No. 3 Auburn in 2004 and Kentucky in 2006.

There's no denying that having the Florida game played on a neutral field has played in a big part in prettying up the Bulldogs' "road" record. Georgia is 1-5 against the Gators under Richt, but that game is played in Jacksonville's Alltel Stadium.

When neutral site games are included, Georgia's winning percentage is still impressive, but not as eye-popping. The Bulldogs are 20-8 under Richt in SEC games played outside Sanford Stadium. That 71.4 winning percentage ranks fourth in the SEC.

Georgia's players struggle to pinpoint one reason why they have had so much success in front of hostile crowds beyond their underdog rallying cry. Most players said the preparation for home game and road games is identical, but that's not the way Ellerbe sees it.

"We're with the coaches more (on the road)," he said. "We have more meeting time. The only thing we can do is just meet, so we know everything in and out."

Richt attributes good road play to good quarterback play.

"I think it's the quarterback being able to handle the pressure of the job," he said. "Those are the guys who are affected the most."

His quarterback, in turn, gives credit to the coaches.

"I think coaches do a great job of giving the players confidence," sophomore Matthew Stafford said. "That record should give you confidence that these coaches know how to win on the road."

It's impossible to say if the winning on the road or the belief in winning on the road came first, but Richt has a theory.

"Once you start having some success like we've had on the road, guys start liking it just because we have had success," he said. "They believe we can win on the road. If we were undefeated at home, they would say, ‘Man we love playing at home.'"

Away from Home

Since Mark Richt began coaching at Georgia, the Bulldogs have the fourth-best record in the SEC in league games played away from home. Here's a look at how all 12 SEC teams stack up by road winning percentage since 2001

Auburn 76 percent (19-6)
Tennessee 76 percent (19-6)
LSU 72 percent (18-7)
Georgia 71.4 percent (20-8)
Florida 67.9 percent (19-9)
Arkansas 51.9 percent (14-13)
South Carolina 50 percent (13-13)
Alabama 48 percent (12-13)
Ole Miss 26.9 percent (7-19)
Kentucky 24 percent (6-19)
Vanderbilt 12.5 percent (3-21)
Mississippi State 7.4 percent (2-25)

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