November 11, 2012

Dawgs not looking ahead

There's obviously been a lot for Georgia fans to be excited about in the past 24 hours.

Saturday night's 38-0 win over Auburn earned the Bulldogs the SEC East title, a top-five ranking in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Poll, all while the team continues to get mentioned as a dark horse candidate for the BCS championship game.

While all that may be well and good, the last thing Georgia head coach Mark Richt wants to do is for his team to get complacent, especially with Georgia Southern (8-2) and it's triple-option attack headed to Athens this Saturday (1:30 p.m., WSB).

"We know we're playing in Atlanta. We know that's settled but we know there's a lot to do in the meantime including getting better on a daily basis. Every time you practice you're going to get better or worse and we want to get better," Richt said during Sunday's teleconference. "We know we've got some work to do as far as playing Georgia Southern this week, too. That's what we've got to keep thinking and keep in our minds because if you don't do that all that other stuff doesn't mean much."

Before anyone considers the Eagles an afterthought Richt points to last year's game between Georgia Southern and Alabama.

The Crimson Tide won the game 42-21, but not before the Eagles rushed for 302 yards, including 182 by running back Dominique Swope.

Richt said the Bulldogs will spend plenty of time watching the film from the contest.

"There's no doubt about that because our defenses are very similar in how they line up and how they try to scheme things," Richt said. "That will be the best film by far to show our defense."

Swope comes into the game with 827 yards on just 134 attempts (6.2 per carry), but its quarterback Jerick McKinnon who the Bulldog D will need to keep close tabs on.

McKinnon doesn't throw much (14 of 26 for 396 yards), but has rushed for 1,053 yards and 11 touchdowns to lead the Eagles' high-risk but high-reward offense, one that's very similar to the one used by Georgia Tech, who the Bulldogs (9-1) see in two weeks.

Richt said the two games will cause his defense to completely change the way it prepares.

"There's no doubt. We're going to be playing defense completely different than we've been playing it all year long," Richt said. "Everything changes. The alignments changes, the assignments change, the block that you're dealing with changes and it's very, very difficult to simulate in practice. You can't do it."

Georgia Southern comes into play averaging 401 yards rushing per game.

"It's tough because here you are in the middle of the game while you're trying to adjust to what they're doing schematically, but you're also adjusting to how well they do it, they're execution, their speed, quick decision making and all that kind of thing that can become very, very frustrating," Richt said. "That's what happens because not only are you frustrated that they're moving the ball and scoring points, but you're frustrated because they're blocking you below the waist, down after down after down. You've just got to keep your poise and sometimes the madder you get the worse it gets for you. You've really got to be disciplined in what you're assignments are and you've got to tackle well."

But regardless of dealing with Georgia Southern's option attack, Richt said his Bulldogs won't be taking the Eagles for granted.

He's seen too many odd things in college football happen to allow that to occur.

"I look at Georgia Southern as a winning program. I don't look at what league they're in. A team that's used to winning is a lot more difficult to beat than one that isn't," Richt said. "Whatever division of ball they're in, I don't think it matters that much sometimes. It's like Appalachian State goes to Michigan and beats them. When you're playing teams that are used to winning, they're often times the toughest ones to beat. "

Other Richt quotes from Sunday:

• On Aaron Murray briefly being injured and leaving the game for one play, then coming back one play later to hit Tavarres King for a 17-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

Richt - "It was hard to tell. I was hoping it wasn't serious and it looked right about the time the officials called it an injury timeout, he was just about ready to get up or at least thinking about it. Once they called the timeout, our trainers came out and took a good look at him and it didn't seem it was that serious of a thing. It is tough to shake off something like that then go make a play in the game. I thought Parker (Welch) did a good job of securing the ball and keeping the drive alive so we could complete that ball on third down. It worked out good all the way around."

• On kicker Marshall Morgan's improved play and if he seems to be getting the ball up quicker.

"That was one of the most impressive things that I saw when watching his high school tape that the ball would get up in a hurry. I just think he's getting more comfortable in doing what comes natural, or at least been doing in high school. I think the same thing is happening with Colin because as you can tell Colin is starting to punt really well. I know one of the punts was like a 4.8 hang-time and if you do that, it's like gold and he's had some good punts knocking it inside the 10 and 5 once or twice. I think those guys are just beginning to feel a little more comfortable and that's good because it's not easy to b a true freshman when you get thrown into those roles."

• On why Richt's current Bulldog team reminds him of the 2002 squad.

"I was hoping to be able to compare it to 2002, because by the end of that season that team wasn't doing a whole lot of things to beat themselves. We were very solid in the kicking game, we rarely turned it over and we played very good defense. We were playing a style of football that forced people to beat you and not help anybody which was trying to say the most. I think lately we've been playing that way and I hope we continue that trend."

NOTES: Georgia stayed at No. 5 in the AP Top 25, while moving up to fourth in the USA Today Coaches Poll. … Richt said right guard Chris Burnette (shoulder) almost traveled with the team to Saturday's game at Auburn, but was kept back at the last minute to continue his rehab in Athens. Richt said it's still not clear if Burnette will be available for Saturday's game against Georgia Southern.