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  • ATHENS – Coaches will always tell you that they never look ahead, that they never look past the next opponent. That hasn’t been the case with Georgia in regard to Georgia Tech. In fact, the Bulldogs have been preparing for the Yellow Jackets at least once a week throughout the entire season, and several times during the preseason as well. Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who had let that slip a couple of times throughout the season, made no attempt to cover that up on Monday during his weekly news conference. He explained that the Bulldogs have been taking a couple of periods in the Monday practices all season to concentrate on defending the Yellow Jackets’ confounding triple-option offense. In addition, UGA spent some time working on Tech, along with a few other future opponents, during the bye week in mid-October as well. “I felt like you have to familiarize yourself (with it),” Smart said. “Really the players, if nothing more than your scout team, can only be so efficient doing something they don’t do all the time. But they can be as efficient as possible. So those Mondays have been really critical for them. Those Mondays have been critical for our young players who haven’t been exposed to it. We have worked really hard on that. And then we spent some time in the off week.” It seems that Smart has always been giving the Yellow Jackets a little extra attention. That happened even last year, before Tech came to Sanford Stadium and served the Bulldogs with a gut-punching 29-28 loss. Smart had brought in Brian VanGorder, then not long fired as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator, as a special consultant a couple of weeks before UGA hosted Tech. How much it helped is unclear. The Yellow Jackets weren’t necessarily the ground-game juggernaut they can be sometimes – they rushed for 226 yards on 42 carries – but they managed to score 14 points in the final 6:28 to pull off a 28-27 upset. Suffice it to say, Georgia wants to do better this year. While Georgia Tech 5-5 (4-4 ACC) is experiencing a down year, its offense remains as potent and troublesome as always. The Jackets are averaging 319.3 yards rushing and 30.2 points per game. What makes them particularly difficult to handle is their style is unlike any other team Georgia plays all year. Smart went as far as referring to Tech’s offense as “a dinosaur.” “They’re not the norm any more,” Smart said. “People don’t prepare to play that. When you think about high school football, it used to be that people ran the triple (option) in high school and a lot of the most successful programs in this state had been a part of that. It’s slowly gone the other way, where teams, it’s almost like a dinosaur, people don’t do it anymore. So people don’t know how to defend it. So it’s challenging.” Hence, Smart’s decision to work on it a little all year as opposed to just a lot in the final week of the regular season. Georgia’s defense has been very good against the run this season. It has been very good against everything, actually. The Bulldogs rank fifth in nation in total defense, giving up just 276 yards per game. Only Alabama, with 87.4 yards per game, has given up fewer rush yards in the SEC than UGA (105.6 ypg). Then again, the Bulldogs haven’t defended anything like this all season. Probably the closest thing they’ve seen was what Auburn does, and that was more run-pass option than pure option. “It’s tough,” said senior outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter, who had eight tackles against the Jackets a year ago. “The triple option, you’ve got to read your keys and have eye discipline and all that.” Defenders hate facing it because it all the reads required negate any edge they might have in athleticism. Meanwhile, much of the offensive line’s work is predicated on cut blocking. That means defensive linemen and linebackers can expect a lot of contact below the waist. Ankle, knee and foot injuries aren’t uncommon. “You’ve got to keep running your feet; if you don’t you can get rolled up,” said Georgia noseguard John Atkins, who will be facing it for the fourth straight year. “You try your best to stay (upright) but you’re going to get tweaked sometimes.” Cut blocks and a gashing run game are just part of the issue. Since the Jackets run the ball 84.2 percent of the time, their passing game tends to be particularly effective – and potentially devasting – when they decide utilize it. Tech receivers add 21.7 yards per catch. Ricky Jeune has five touchdowns, including an 80-yarder against Virginia Tech two weeks ago. That came to roost against the Bulldogs last year. While the Yellow Jackets executed run-oriented, fourth-quarter scoring drives of 94 and 46 yards for their come-from-behind victory last year, it was pass plays of 23-, 39- and 16 yards that did the most damage. So what’s the remedy? “Eye discipline,” Smart said Monday. :It’s what got us last year. You don’t have good eye discipline, you don’t have good eye transfer, they can get you. And they watch every play. They know when you mess up. It doesn’t take them long to figure out, ‘whoops, he’s not looking at the right thing,’ and then they expose you. And you say, ‘well, the alternative is don’t be so aggressive with them,’ but you have to stop the run. They do a good job with what they do.” Georgia’s defense has been done exceptional work this season. We’ll find out Saturday if a season’s worth of preparation makes a difference. “They’re playing a unique style of offense and they got to buy into that, they’ve got to embrace it,” Smart said of Georgia’s defense. “I think our seniors will. As a matter of fact, I know they will. They have already talked to me about some ways we’re going to practice and things we’re going to do to help with that. So, I’m excited about that part and they’re ready to take the challenge on.” The post Georgia has devoted time all season to defending Tech’s triple option appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – Total domination. This was the plan all along for this season. That’s what we’re now learning from the Georgia Bulldogs, and those notable seniors in particular. Having played their last home game, which resulted in another blowout win over an SEC East opponent, the Bulldogs are allowing themselves to talk a little about what they’ve achieved this season. That hasn’t been the case all year, you know, with that whole “next game” mantra and all. But some things have been achieved at this point. UGA (10-1, 7-1 SEC) finished undefeated at home for the first time in five years, for instance. In case you haven’t heard, the Bulldogs have won the SEC’s Eastern Division championship. And not by a little. With that 29-point victory over Kentucky this past Saturday, they outscored their division brethren 247 points to 72, or an average score of 41-12 per game. It was as thorough and complete a domination as we’ve witnessed by Georgia. So, clearly, the right team will be representing the division when the SEC Championship commences on Dec. 2 in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium. And that was the plan. Georgia is exactly where it intended to be at this point. Well, almost. “It didn’t go exactly how we wanted,” senior tailback Sony Michel said. “We planned on winning every game. Ultimately, things don’t always go as planned. But, you know, this is the type of season we planned on having.” Ah, yes. There was that anomaly that occurred on The Plains two weeks ago. Unfortunate, but not fate altering. Georgia can still win out and achieve all those preseason goals. But there remains one more box to check. Since Saturday, a lot of people have asked me if I thought there was any danger in Georgia tripping up against its archrival, Georgia Tech. You know, that team that just fell to Duke, 34-20 giving up 319 yards rushing. Normally, I’d say yes to that. “Of course.” Throw out the records and all that business when it comes to Tech and that Clean Old-Fashioned Hate rivalry. But I’m going to say no. And here’s why. Here, I return to all those seniors — and “The Big Four,” in particular. I return to that scene of last December and what Nick Chubb had to say about what happened at Sanford Stadium in the last game, of the year. “The last game didn’t go how any of us wanted,” he said. “It kind of hurt inside. I’m a very prideful guy.” That was Chubb nearly a year ago. He was explaining the reasons he intended to come back his senior year. There was the 29-28 loss to Tech. There was the way the Bulldogs lost, giving up 14 points in the final 6:28. And then there was what happened after the loss. You might recall that about the half of the field-side hedges on the north side of the field were left bare. It’s a scene these seniors haven’t forgotten. It was also Georgia’s second loss in three years to the Yellow Jackets. That’s the main reason why the Bulldogs are no danger of overlooking their 5-4 opponent this week. Losing to Georgia Tech is not cool in these parts. Leaving school with a losing record to that school borders on sacrilegious. “That was one of the things I thought about personally, something I needed to come back and finish,” senior Lorenzo Carter said. “I had unfinished business. I didn’t want to leave having a losing record to Tech. Right now I do. All the seniors do. So we wanted to come back play our ball and finish strong.” Said fifth-year senior John Atkins: “That’s what a lot of guys came back for, losing to Tech last year. You don’t want to lose to Tech in your last year. I mean, we’re not thinking about the SEC yet. Tech’s the next game. We’ve just got to go out against them and play ball.” Regardless of that has happened to this point, Georgia has had a great season. It has been a special year no matter how one slices it up. A win on Saturday gives the Bulldogs 11 wins. The school has managed that many wins only nine other times, the 13-1 season of 2002 being the most ever. They’ve left a regular season undefeated and untied only three times. With that goal thwarted, the Bulldogs don’t want to relent on anything else. Least of all, Georgia’s seniors don’t want to leave with the smudge of another loss to Tech. Because of what Georgia has done to this point, Kirby Smart is in line for coach of the year, nationally as well as for the SEC. But when talk turns to what the Bulldogs have accomplished this season, he fully deflects the praise and redirects toward his fourth-year guys. The true value in all that, Smart pointed out Monday, is theirs is a gift that will keep on giving. The seniors’ willingness to “buy in” to what Smart and his staff have been selling since they showed up will pay dividends with all those underclassmen that will coming back next year. “I know you see (their leadership) on the field,” Smart said. “But you don’t get to see it in the meeting room; you don’t get to see it when a guy’s late; you don’t see it when a guy does some undisciplined penalty out of bounds and they grab the guy. That part is what they bring of setting a standard, the standard that we want to play to, they help set that standard.” That includes not losing to Georgia Tech but once every seven or eight years. Certainly not two of every three years, or three of every four. The last time Georgia lost three to the Jackets in such a short span was 1998-2000 when coach Jim Donnan dropped three in a row, and he was out of a job at the end of it. Between the buy-in for the future and going out on top against Tech, these Bulldogs aren’t about to let up. “We came back for a bigger purpose and we’re still working toward that,” senior outside linebacker Davin Bellamy said. “Everything’s been nice till now but it’s all about how you finish.” Said Michel: “I think most definitely we have built a foundation for our coach, offensively and defensively,” Michel said. “The guys have bought in to what we’re trying to do; the standard is set. And I think the bar is only going to be raised when we leave. I’m excited for this program. Great things are ahead. We have guys here who are willing to learn. It’s crazy to see what’s going to happen.” The post It’s about Georgia Tech and a whole lot more for UGA’s seniors appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – It was just another win over Kentucky, and another lopsided one at that. But Georgia’s celebration afterward was different. It was evident this one really meant something. And it did. With their 42-13 win over the Wildcats, the No. 7-ranked Bulldogs (10-1, 7-1 SEC) finished undefeated at Sanford Stadium for the season. It kept them undefeated against the Eastern Division, something that hadn’t been done since the SEC went to divisional play, and rinsed away a nasty taste that had remained in their collective mouths since getting thumped by Auburn a week earlier. “Adversity doesn’t build character; I personally believe adversity exposes character,” coach Kirby Smart said afterward. “There was an opportunity with last week’s loss to see how we respond. I think the character of our group is clear, led by our seniors. They’ve accepted the new staff. They were willing not just to buy in to our new way, but they’ve been selling it to our younger players, and that’s been a big part of being a good people. I’m really proud of these guys to do some things that haven’t been done before here.” It wasn’t as easy as the final score may indicate. Georgia trailed 3-0 and led only 7-6 into the final five minutes of the first half. But then the Bulldogs poured it on. They’d score 21 points over the next 11 minutes, then buried the Wildcats like they have so many other opponents in the fourth quarter this season. Now Georgia resets its sights on archrival Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets (5-5) will be looking to get bowl eligibility next Saturday in Atlanta. The Bulldogs, with their ticket already punched to Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the SEC Championship, have bigger game to hunt. But they’re intently focused on handling local business first. It won’t be hard. The Yellow Jackets knocked them off 28-27 a year ago. “We know what’s coming up next week,” Georgia tailback Nick Chubb said. “We’re looking forward to it.” Here’s how the Dogs did against Kentucky: OFFENSE: A With 508 yards gained, the temptation is to say that the Bulldogs played great on offense. And they were excellent for much of the game. But they also were a little slow to get moving, and another early turnover – this one Jake Fromm interception – quickly left them behind on the scoreboard. What finally got Georgia moving was the passing game. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney began to turn Fromm loose with first-down passes early in the second quarter, and that in turn loosened up Georgia’s running game. Tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel retired for the night early in the fourth quarter having combined for 238 yards rushing and five touchdowns. Fromm finished with 123 yards on 9-of-14 passing and hit Javon Wims for a 27-yard touchdown. Wims finished with six catches for 83 yards. DEFENSE: B Obviously, the Bulldogs played much better than they did a week ago at Auburn. But they still showed some vulnerabilities. Kentucky tailback Benny Snell was tough for them to bring down. He finished with 94 yards on 22 carries and scored a touchdown. The Wildcats also put together scoring drives of eight, seven and seven plays and possessed the ball for half the game, or 29:40. In the end, though, Kentucky was held to just two field goals and 140 yards in the first half and, averaging 361 yards and 27.9 points, finished with just 262 total and half its scoring average. Aaron Davis grabbed an interception for Georgia, Roquan Smith had a team-high nine tackles and a sack and the Wildcats were 3-for-12 on third down. Now all that goes out the window as the Bulldogs will have to re-learn how to defend the triple option. SPECIAL TEAMS: A Georgia got back on track on special teams after penalties and mistakes spoiled its work last week at Auburn. Mecole Hardman added another 81 yards in returns, highlighted by a 35-yard kickoff return and a 20-yard punt return. Cameron Nizalek nearly had a punt blocked but was roughed – and briefly injured – on the play, resulting in a Georgia first down. He finished with a 48-yard average on two punts. Rodrigo Blankenship did not have a field goal attempt but he finished with four touchbacks on six kickoffs, which ties him with Hall of Famer (and his kicking coach) Kevin Butler for the school record with 51. COACHING: B Kirby Smart gets high marks for navigating Georgia through the emotional wreckage left in the wake of the 40-17 loss to Auburn that plunged the Bulldogs from the top ranking in football. The Bulldogs continue to hurt themselves with penalties. They were flagged seven times for 59 yards and were called for two more personal fouls. Initially, Georgia seemed obstinate about running the ball on first down no matter what, calling rushes on first down nine consecutive times to start the game. But when they finally started to mix it up, they were moved the ball at will and finished with 25 first downs, the second highest total this season. OVERALL: B It was good night for both UGA fans and players. The Bulldogs finished a perfect 6-0 at home for the first time since 2012, which also happened to be the last time they went to the SEC Championship game. They did it by feeding the football to their senior stars, Chubb and Michel, and getting dominating performances from the defense and special teams. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a very, very good night to be a Bulldog. The post Report Card: Kentucky helps the Bulldogs get back on track appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – Nick Chubb wasn’t himself Saturday. Oh, he ran hard and he gained a lot of yards and he scored some touchdowns. That we’ve all seen before. What we haven’t seen was Chubb celebrating and dancing. Well, sort of dancing. He climbed up on top of the cheerleaders’ platform in front of the UGA student section and celebrated Georgia’s 42-13 win over Kentucky with Sony Michel and the Bulldogs’ other seniors. Arm-in-arm, they sang and cheered and barked and laughed a little and smiled a lot and posed for a few thousand pictures. “Believe it or not, that was my first time ever doing that,” Chubb said in a postgame interview underneath the East End grandstands at Sanford Stadium. “I kind of saved it up for this moment.” Oh, we believe it, Nick. It was unlike anything we’ve seen before from the usually stoic tailback. For 42 games at Georgia, we’ve watched him smile and wave politely to the crowd as he jogged off the field after another one of his 100-yard rushing nights. No matter the gravity of the victory or how much he contributed to it, Chubb was never one to jump up in the stands or even dance some kind of jig. Usually, he’d slap a few hands on his way to the nearest field exit and maybe toss a sweatband or some gloves a kid’s way. “I had to convince him,” Michel, his roommate and backfield mate, said afterward. “It’s hard to convince him to do things like that.” It’s about time the kid showed some emotion. He deserved it. There was much to celebrate on this unseasonably warm and fuzzy Senior Night, much of it Chubb’s on doing. Let’s review. So he busted loose on a 55-yard touchdown run. That was a season-long run and gave Chubb 45 rushing TDs for his career (12 for the season).  That moves him to second on Georgia’s all-time list behind Herschel Walker (52), a theme you’re going to hear a lot in this space. That was Chubb’s second TD of the night, making it the 14th time he’s scored two or more in a game. That run also put him at 151 yards on the evening, making it the 23rd time he’s gone over the century mark. And it also put him over 1,000 yards for the season. He has 1,045 yards this year, so he stands now with Walker as the only two backs in Georgia history with three 1,000-yard seasons. It seems appropriate to interject here that Chubb had 747 yards when his sophomore season ended after five games with a knee injury. Else, he would’ve had four. “It’s an honor,” Chubb said of sharing a few more marks with Herschel. “That’s great company to have. Just to be with him, me and him, man, I’m happy about that.” You might note that it’s now really the only comparison to make with Chubb anymore, him and Herschel Walker. He’s eclipsed everybody else in Georgia history. What’s more, he’s doing it in this day and age. Not to take anything away from Walker or Bo Jackson or Marcus Dupree or any of those guys who thought nothing of carrying the ball 30 times a week. Chubb is doing what he’s doing in an era when SEC defenses don’t fall far down from NFL squads in terms of athletic pedigree and dedication to stuffing the run. And he’s also doing during a time in which coaches prefer their back share carries with others. While Chubb enters the 12th game of his fourth season with 686 carries, his best buddy Michel has 546 himself. That’s what I was thinking about when I asked Georgia coach Kirby Smart if he thought Chubb is underappreciated in terms of national acclaim. Smart went on a rant. “Yeah, I certainly feel like he’s underappreciated,” he said. “I don’t know how you guys feel but I appreciate what he’s done in an era where rushing the ball is really, really hard. It’s gotten harder and harder and harder. I’ve got no statistics to prove it but I’d venture to say Herschel ran for his (yards) in an era where a people were rushing the ball for a lot of yards. I’m not diminishing what Herschel did. I’m just enlightening people to Nick Chubb has rushed for three thousand-yard seasons in the SEC, the toughest conference in the country to run the ball. That’s pretty remarkable. “And he did alongside another back that is maybe just as talented as he is. What would he have done with 30 or 40 carries? Who knows. But I’m sure his body appreciates it.” Everybody is starting to appreciate a little more. It’s kind of like the old adage, you don’t really appreciate something or somebody until they’re gone. Well, Chubb’s not gone yet, but he’s almost out the door. Saturday was his last game in Sanford Stadium. He was one of 31 seniors the Bulldogs honored during Senior Day ceremonies before the game. That, Chubb said afterward, already had him feeling a little different before the game. He blamed Georgia’s slow start Saturday on those emotional proceedings, a rite of passage for seniors playing their last game between the hedges. The Bulldogs finally shook loose from its early doldrums. They needed Jake Fromm to hit a few passes downfield to get the running game going. When it finally did, it was devastating to Kentucky’s overmatched defense. Chubb’s teammates sensed something from him on Saturday. He seemed a little quicker, a little more shifty than usual. He busted through for his first TD on an eight-yard run midway through the third quarter. On the second play of the fourth, Chubb bounced an off-tackle dive outside and down the left sideline. Three Kentucky defenders who seemed to have angles to run him down did not. It was a 55-yard touchdown and gave the Bulldogs a 35-13 lead. “He looked fast on that run,” chirped Michel, who likes to tease Chubb about being faster. Chubb sounded very Herschel-esque in describing the sensational play. “It was great blocking,” he said. “I don’t think I got touched. I kind of hit the sideline wide open, so it was great blocking up front.” Same old Chubb there. But we’d learn later it was a different kind of night. There he was, the muscle-bound captain who never mugs for cameras or does touchdown poses, grinning from ear-to-ear and laughing and glad-handing fans and hugging teammates. For a few minutes, he seemed almost like a regular college student. But as we all know, he’s anything but. “It was a great moment,” Chubb said of his uncharacteristic celebration. “I know that’s my last time leaving that field as a Georgia Bulldog. That’s something I can never have back, so I had to enjoy it.” We did, too, Nick. We did, too. The post That was no ordinary Nick Chubb we saw running over and around Kentucky appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – Admit it, Georgia fans. Your Bulldogs had you a little nervous there for a minute, didn’t they? No worries. It was Kentucky that Georgia was playing. The seventh-ranked Bulldogs won 42-13 for their 57th all-time victory over the Wildcats. Only Georgia Tech (67) has lost more times to Georgia. Speaking of Georgia Tech, Georgia improves to 10-1 (7-1 SEC) just in time to face its rival next Saturday in the series that has come to be called “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.” The Yellow Jackets won in overtime last year in Athens. They fell to 5-5 with Saturday’s 43-20 loss at Duke. Saturday was a milestone game for Georgia’s Nick Chubb. With a 55-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, Chubb had 151 yards rushing in the game, 1,045 for the season and 4,469 for his career. Chubb and Herschel Walker are now the only UGA backs to rush for more than 1,000 yards in three seasons. With the victory, Georgia’s seniors finish undefeated at Sanford Stadium for the first time since 2012, when it last went to the SEC Championship Game. The Bulldogs also finished with a perfect record against Eastern Division opponents for the first time in school history. Before all that, UGA found itself trailing in the first quarter for the second straight week and managed just 21 yards on its first two possessions against the Wildcats. But then Kentucky remembered it was Kentucky. The Wildcats roughed Georgia’s punter and the Bulldogs took the ball the rest of the way for a touchdown and a lead they’d never relinquished. Kentucky kept it interesting. It received the second-half kickoff and went 75 yards in eight plays that mostly featured tailback Benny Snell to make it 21-13 on Snell’s 1-yard run. But the Bulldogs answered quickly with a long, scoring drive of their own, and order was restored. Somewhere in between, Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney realized it was not against the rules to pass on first down. After calling runs on nine consecutive first downs, Chaney flipped the switch in the second quarter and turned Jake Fromm loose. The result was three consecutive completions and back-to-back touchdown drives to open up a 21-6. Georgia controlled the game from then on. The post Nick Chubb, No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs run over Kentucky appeared first on DawgNation.