Having a bye week doesn’t mean the No. 6 Georgia Bulldogs get a vacation. And beginning with Tuesday’s 90-minute practice in shells, Mark Richt’s team was back to the grind.
With no game Saturday and South Carolina on tap Sept. 13 in Columbia, UGA is concentrating on itself this week before completely turning its attention to the Gamecocks.
“I don’t know a whole lot yet about (South Carolina),” Richt said during Wednesday’s SEC coaches teleconference. “I didn’t watch the (Texas A&M) game on TV but I did watch a little video from it and some video of last year. I really don’t have a good feel for them yet.”
That will all change starting Monday, of course, but for now the team is trying to correct mistakes from the season opener.
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While few fans are complaining following the Bulldogs’ 45-21 victory over Clemson at Sanford Stadium, it was far from a perfect performance and the staff has identified problem areas after breaking down film.
New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt got plenty of praise after Saturday’s conquest, especially since his defense blanked the Tigers in the second half.
But it was the 21 points the Bulldogs surrendered over the first 30 minutes that kept Pruitt from being completely satisfied with the performance.
“The biggest thing is that you usually don’t play as good as you think you did and you don’t play as bad as you think you did,” Pruitt said. “That’s probably the way it was in the first half. We didn’t play as bad as it appeared. We didn’t make some plays and Clemson did, so you have to give them credit. In the second half, we probably didn’t play as good as you may think we did.
“Sometimes that’s just the way the ball bounces. I did think we played with effort the entire game.”
After one game the Bulldogs are 38th in the nation in total defense and 36th in rushing defense.
There were several outstanding performances on “D” but the best was registered by senior inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera.
He shot through the gap for two sacks totaling 15 yards, three and a half tackles for losses of 18 yards, and had five solo takedowns and seven assists.
He was the lone Bulldog to record double digit tackles.
“He gave us a lot of production with sacks and tackles for loss,” Richt said. “Amarlo had a good offseason and he got his weight in a spot where he could be as quick as he could be. Now he gets rewarded with a good performance. I’m glad he had a big game because he worked hard for it.”
The story on offense, of course, was Todd Gurley.
Gurley got 198 of the team’s 328 rushing yards, and his 100-yard kickoff return for a TD led to a tie game midway through the second quarter and proved to be a game-changer.
“It was huge because we were down (21-14), they had just taken the lead and we weren’t getting a whole lot of things done offensively in the first half,” Richt said. “I think the momentum swung. It was a tremendous way to stop their momentum and turn it our way.”
Although UGA finished with 24 unanswered points in the second half, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo wants to see more production from the passing game.
Senior quarterback Hutson Mason took care of the ball Saturday but threw for only 131 yards.
“We’ve got to do a better job of pushing the ball downfield and extending the protections a little bit better, trusting our protections,” Bobo said. “That’s part of learning to play the position. It’s not like he’s going to walk out there and be a natural because he’s a fifth-year senior. There are still a lot of things he has to go out there and do in a game and learn from them.
“I expect a big improvement this week because we’ve got to get better at throwing the ball downfield.”
Georgia will practice again today before taking the weekend off.
“We’re trying to get some things corrected,” Richt said. “(The players) understand we have a lot of things to do to get better at so that’s the goal this week.”