Alabama Week: Press Conference Notes

Posted Sep 23, 2008

ATHENS - Georgia head coach Mark Richt and several football players met with the media Tuesday during the Bulldogs’ weekly press luncheon. They offered the following comments:

Opening statement

“It’s a very exciting week for us, no doubt.  We get a chance to play at home again.  We get a chance to play another Southeastern Conference game, which is big.  We are playing a great team—a top 10 team and one that is coached by one of the finest coaches in America.  They are number one in the conference in rushing offense, number two in scoring offense, number three in scoring defense, number three in rushing defense, number three in total defense and number one in fourth down conversions.  They have scored 64 points in the first quarter to zero.  They have been tested, they just have whipped everybody so bad it didn’t seem like they were.  To play a top-10 team in Clemson and play Arkansas they way they did, they made it look like they weren’t tested.  They are a dominant team right now and a very confident team right now.


“Offensive tackle Andre Smith absolutely will be a first round draft pick as I believe Antoine Caldwell will be.  They are two guys who are going to be great pros.  The rest of their line is outstanding.  To run the ball the way they do, you have to be good up front.  Their tight ends are outstanding.  They play both (Travis) McCall and (Nick) Walker.  Walker is their leading receiver at tight end.  We struggled to cover the tight end at South Carolina, so we have to do a better job of that. 


John Parker Wilson is a veteran, senior leader who is passing 60 percent or better.  He is playing extremely well.  (Glen) Coffee, as we all know, is third in the league in rushing, just right behind Knowshon (Moreno).  He is doing a great job and had a real big breakout game against Arkansas, the first Southeastern Conference defense they faced. They have more than one back; (Mark) Ingram is a special back, a true freshman out of the Michigan area.  (Terry) Grant, the freshman last year who started for them, is outstanding.  (Roy) Upchurch is outstanding.  All their running backs are very, very good. 


“They have a freshman receiver that everyone is talking about, the number one receiver out of high school, (Julio) Jones.  He is definitely living up to his billing I would say.  They have three other receiver in (Earl) Alexander, (Mike) McCoy and (Marquis) Maze all making plays for them.  They are an outstanding offensive football team. 


“Defensively, they are one of the best in the country.  Up front they have outstanding players, but I think the guy who is getting the most attention right now is Terrence Cody.  Terrence is 6-5, 365.  He is a beast.  No one has blocked him; no one man has blocked him, and I have not seen any double teams block him either.  He is a problem, and is part of the reason why they are outstanding against the rush.  He can push the pocket back into the face of the quarterback.  The guy in the middle (Rolando) McClain started as a true freshman last year and was outstanding.  He looks like he is in control of the whole huddle and does a great job of communicating.  Our offensive coaches use the term that he will pierce you.  I was asking them about him and they said he will pierce you.  That is how hard he hits you.  He will run right through you.


Rashad Johnson is kind of leading the way in their secondary.  He is an outstanding player.  He might have led the league last year in interceptions.  He is an All-SEC performer for sure.  Their defense plays extremely hard and fast.  They are a pretty big defense.  Their defensive backs are all very good sized.  I don’t think there is one guy starting under 190 pounds. 


“(Leigh) Tiffin is an outstanding kicker.  He has the school record for scoring.  When he kicks off he gets the ball high.  He gets at least a 4.0 hangtime, which is crucial.  (P.J.) Fitzgerald, their punter, is averaging 41.4 yards a kick.  He is doing a nice job.  His only problem, which is not a problem for Alabama, is he hasn’t punted very often.  They are scoring points, and he hasn’t had that many opportunities to punt.


“The guy who is the most dangerous return man that we have seen to this point is (Javier) Arenas.  He is also a corner and an outstanding cover man.  He has four career touchdowns as a punt returner and one touchdown return this year.  He is averaging 18.4 yards per return.  He is also averaging 26 yards per return as a kickoff return man. 


“They are a very dangerous team; a team that is very hot and confident as they should be.  Last year’s game was two teams evenly matched.  It ended up going into overtime.  We made one more play than they did, and that was the end of it.  I can’t imagine it will be any different than it was a year ago.”


On trying to attack the middle of Alabama’s defense…

“When you zone block you really don’t know where it is going to go.  You are going to have a certain aiming point, and sometimes it rolls back and sometimes is stays playside.  We are going to call the plays we have been calling, so we are not going to change that.  Normally you want to block the line of scrimmage before you come up to a linebacker.  Two guys will certainly be working on (Cody) trying to get some movement.  I doubt the movement will be straight ahead.  We might get some lateral movement out of him, because you can create seams horizontally too.  It doesn’t always have to be just knocking a guy back.  I don’t think we will knock him back.”


On Ben Jones facing Terrence Cody…

“We have a true freshman on him?  That’s not good.  Ben is a tough kid, but I have not seen anyone who will be a match for this guy on Saturdays or Sundays.  He is a beast when you talk about big, strong guys.  McClain is a big man, downhill run through you kind of guy.  He is a confident player right now.  A year ago he was a freshman figuring it out, but now a very confident player.”


On seeing the Alabama-Clemson game in person…

“I wasn’t really surprised at how good they looked because I have a lot of respect for them.  Going into your second season you tend to hit the ground a little faster than the year before.  I really wasn’t surprised by much that I saw.  I didn’t see that much.  I was way up in the stands and my eyes aren’t that good. “


On ESPN College Gameday…

“I don’t think there is any doubt that them being on campus elevates your game, and creates an awful lot of awareness and publicity for your program.  It’s a very positive thing if Gameday shows up to your place or if you are at a game where they are.  It means they figure you are one of the top, if not the top game of the week.  Most people agree that them being there is significant.  I think it is.  It’s not going to help us win, but it’s significant that they are there.  As far as generating excitement, it is going to generate excitement for our fans, our players and it’s a good thing.”


On the blackout…

“I’ve always been kind of big on black.  It’s usually my color of choice.  This (red shirt) is the only shirt I had in the closet today when I got up.”


On the emergence of A.J. Green in the Arizona State game…

“A.J. had one great game statistically.  It’s not like it has been that way every game.  I think he has played well every game that he’s been in there.  I think he has played well every time the ball has been thrown in his direction.  From a statistical standpoint that was a big game.  I hope people forget about Mohamed Massaquoi, but I don’t think they will.  A.J. and Mohamed out there really help us.  If you have just one great receiver and nothing else, you can easily roll your coverage and double up a guy and it’s over with.  Trying like mad to get the ball to a guy who is double covered is not smart.  You need two receivers who are outstanding and you need a runner.  We have a runner.  It’s tough to stop everything if we are doing it well.  We have a proven quarterback, but we are still playing a bunch of youngsters up front.”


On Georgia having a spread offense from a vertical standpoint…

“That’s what you hope.  A lot of people who spread expect the quarterback to be part of the running game.  We don’t expect our quarterback to be a big part; a small part but not a big part of our running game.  Of course Stafford has had some big runs in his career.  If you can run the ball well enough to get people to say I have to get my safety down in the box, then you are single-coverage outside.  If you are single coverage outside and you have a receiver who can make you really nervous about being in man coverage, then they are more apt to say we have to double this guy.  If they double them then they can’t get everyone in the box.  It’s a dilemma if you have a strong running game and an equally strong passing game.  That’s what we talk about when we talk about trying to be balanced.  Right now we are as close to that as we’ve been since I’ve been here.”


On whether Georgia is an undisciplined team with respect to penalties…

“You can say it if you want but I don’t believe that.  I think we are playing real hard.  If you jump offsides it’s because you are anxious to get off on the snap.  You want them to be anxious on the snap.  If you hit a quarterback later than you should you are at least running 100 miles an hour trying to harass the guy, which is what you are trying to do.  There are things like that going on.  You don’t want to take away the aggressiveness of your team, but you have to play within the rules; you have to be more disciplined.  You have to not allow a penalty to continue a drive for them or stop a drive for you.  In that regard, we haven’t done a very good job.  We discipline that stuff, but we don’t say quit playing hard.”


Senior flanker, #1 Mohamed Massaquoi

On the passing game with A.J. Green opening up the running game for the Georgia offense…

“Really, the running game is opening things up for us. (Green) is a great guy to have on the outside. He’s so talented and able to do so many things. He’s just enjoying the game right now and his play is showing it.”


On wearing the black jerseys…

“The black jersey gets the fans involved. It kind of gets everybody excited leading up to the game. But more importantly, we still have to go out there and prepare. The black jerseys are not going to win the game for us. We still have to be out there playing as hard as we can.”


On last year’s Alabama game…

“It was a classical SEC game. It was one of those games that go down to the wire. It was smash-mouth football with both teams playing hard. It was on of those things where you learn a lot when you get a victory like that. It helps the team grow closer. It helps you continue to push through tough times.”


Junior quarterback, #7 Matthew Stafford

On facing Alabama’s defense…

“It’s going to a challenge for us, but we’ve played some good defenses so we understand what it takes. It takes a lot of hard work in practice this week and coming out and playing with a lot of energy and fundamentals.”


On if the national attention for this game adds anything to practice…

“It brings energy. We are playing a really good football team who is hot right now on national T.V. and on a big state. It means a lot in the SEC and in the country, so we know we have to be ready to play.”


On last year’s “Blackout” against Auburn

“I remember when (Auburn) was out there for warm-ups it seemed like half the stadium was full, so we’ll see if we can get it all the way full for warm-ups this time. It was awesome. It was loud every time Auburn touched the ball, and I would assume it’ll be louder this time. It should be a pretty fun game to play in.”


On the impact of the “Blackout” being that it will not be as big a surprise as it was last against Auburn…

“We didn’t in the Sugar Bowl either, and we still had it. It’s definitely something that gets us going just because we get the crowd involved in something. It’s something that they can participate in and it gets us fired up. If they are getting going and getting loud out there, it is definitely going to get us going.”


Redshirt sophomore tailback, #24 Knowshon Moreno

On the hype and attention of playing in a big game with Alabama and the additional coverage the game has with ESPN’s College GameDay in Athens…

“Coming to college you always wanted to play in the these big games, but at the same time, when you are here and it’s going on you really can’t let the surrounding things get to you. You can’t really think about that. If you start thinking about your surroundings, about GameDay, and about things of that nature it’s going to get you beat. I think our team is gong to do a good job of just not thinking about everything around us and just thinking about us as a team.”


On facing Alabama’s defense…

“It’s going to be a challenge. They have some big linebackers and some big defensive linemen that can really move around and make plays. It’s going to be a contest. We really have our worked piled up for us this week, so we have to stay focused.”


Sophomore Rennie Curran, #35, WLB

On the buildup to Saturday’s game against No. 8 Alabama…

“There’s no way you can’t be high on emotion with this game, knowing what’s at stake in the SEC and how competitive it is. With it being a night game and wearing our black jerseys, it’s going to be an awesome atmosphere. It’s going to be high in emotion and high in intensity. We got two good teams, good defenses, good offenses; it’s going to be awesome.”


On deserving to be ranked near the top of the polls…

“It gives us another platform to make a statement to the nation that we deserve to be among the best in the nation. We are going to have to continue to prove ourselves and improve and stay focused. Alabama is a great team with great competitors and athletes.”


Redshirt Sophomore Reshad Jones, #9, FS

On the buildup to Saturday’s game against No. 8 Alabama…

“I think it is more exciting being a late game. We’ll have more people watching this game. Under the lights at Sanford Stadium between the hedges, it doesn’t get any better than that. Wearing the black jerseys will definitely get us hyped up and it’ll get our adrenaline rushing.”


On Alabama’s offense…

“They have the No. 1 rush offense in the SEC and I know they have a great offensive line. I know they’ve got five running backs and all of them are legit, they are all good. We need to stop the run.”


Redshirt Sophomore Darryl Gamble, #50, WLB

On the defense’s improvement in the last few weeks…

I know Alabama is going to run the ball. We’ve been doing a pretty good job of stopping the run this year, but it will be a good test for us. All the guys are taking on blocks and a lot of people have been showing up and I think as a whole we are playing together.


Senior Andrew Gulley, #69, DT

On seeing significant playing time on the defensive line…

“It’s definitely awesome. Last week was the first week that I’ve ever been in the game when we were still in the mix of things. It was exciting to get to go in. That first play (against Arizona State), I was pretty nervous. The stadium got silent and I was just watching the guy I was supposed to attack. Once the first ball was snapped, I just relaxed and played.”


On how he decided to attend Georgia…

“My dad is in the army so we moved around. Our family is from Georgia, and I always liked the ‘Dogs. I wanted to go to a big school. Then, one of my friends said, ‘You should try to walk on.’ The first year was rough learning all the techniques but I’ve caught on and was able to help the team a little bit.”



Senior Corvey Irvin, #90, DT

On wearing black jerseys and College GameDay coming to campus…

“That’s going to be big; it’s going to be some type of motivation with the blackout, the black jerseys and GameDay, but all those things aren’t going to win us the game. It’s going to be up to the Georgia offense and defense to execute the scheme and play real good football against Alabama.”


On the buildup to Saturday’s game against Alabama…

“I know there is a lot of energy with all the students asking about it and the coaches and players getting excited. This is what you play for and this is why you come to Georgia: to play the big games like this and we will see what we are made of.”


Junior Asher Allen, #2, SC

On working to eliminate penalties…

“We’ve got to stop that; I think in big games that could hurt us. I think a lot of those plays were a result of aggressiveness; the calls could have gone either way. We have to look at that and grow and try not to make the same mistakes.”


On Alabama freshman receiver Julio Jones

“He’s a big body guy and he goes and gets the ball. He’s really physical so it’s most definitely going to be a challenge to slow him down.”

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