Richt, Dawgs Talk Yellow Jackets

Georgia head football coach Mark Richt and a delegation of players met with the media on Tuesday.

ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia head football coach Mark Richt and a delegation of players met with the media on Tuesday ahead of this Saturday's matchup with in-state rival Georgia Tech in Athens. They offered the following comments (see attached documents for a full transcription of Coach Richt's press conference):

Head Coach Mark Richt

Opening statement…

"It is senior day and the first thing I want to do is encourage all of Dawg Nation that is going to the game to get there about 20 minutes prior to kickoff so that we can do a great job of honoring our seniors. These guys deserve it. They've been working hard their whole careers. They've been bleeding for this program, risking bodily harm every time we practice and play, and they do it because they love Georgia. They love this team, they love their teammates, and Saturday is a day to be able to honor those guys and honor their families as well. We'll have each player and any family members that choose to be there introduced before the game. It's a very important and emotional time for our guys and I'm also sure it will also get them ready to play some football. I just want to encourage everyone to be there."

"Also, I Tweeted out a couple days ago for everybody to go red. If you're looking for a theme, let's go red, and let's get there on time and have the greatest Dawg Walk and greatest atmosphere we've had since I've been at Georgia. That's what I'm looking forward to."

"Alright, we're going to play Georgia Tech, obviously. Coach Johnson has got his team playing great. They're 9-2, they're Coastal Division champs, and have already got their ticket punched to Charlotte [for the ACC Championship]. They also have another opportunity to hook it up with us. I know they're looking forward to it, I know we're looking forward to it, because it's two outstanding football teams playing pretty darn good this time of the year."

On the Georgia Tech offense…

"I'm going to talk about their offense first. They are first in the ACC in a few categories and I'm just going to rattle them off: total offense, scoring offense, rushing offense, yards per completion, passing efficiency, fewest sacks, fewest interceptions thrown, third down conversions, fourth down conversions, and number one in turnover margin. Nationally, they are number one in yards per completion and third down conversions, and from what I've heard they might even be breaking an NCAA record for their third down conversion rate. And, they're actually number two in the nation in rushing, so obviously they are getting it done on offense."

"In most offenses everything starts with the quarterback. Justin Thomas for them is a really outstanding football player. He's passed for close to 1400 yards and 15 touchdowns. You've already heard the stat of having hardly any interceptions thrown, best in their league, but he's also had over 800 yards rushing and he runs their system extremely well. He's very dangerous, very fast, and has a strong arm. I think they're throwing and catching better than I've seen them do in the last few years. He's a very impressive guy."

"Their running backs, their B-Backs, will get the majority of the carries and yardage. Zach Laskey has got 680 yards rushing. Synjyn Days has got 592 yards rushing, so they've got a lot of guys that can carry the mail and do a good job. In the pass receiving categories the number one receiver is [DeAndre] Smelter. He's got 32 catches for 671 yards, which is an extremely high yards per catch stat there. Their second leading receiver is [Darren] Waller, number 88. He's got 15 catches for 248 yards. Their number three receiver is [Tony] Zenon, number 9. He's got 8 catches for 161 so they're doing a great job."

"Their offensive line is very impressive—three returning starters there. Six returning starters offensively, overall, but three are up front. They average nearly 300 pounds. They're big and athletic. In years past they weren't quite as big as these guys but they are bigger, stronger, faster than I've ever seen so it will be a nice challenge for our defensive line and linebacking corps."

On the Georgia Tech defense…

"As far as their defense is concerned they are number one in their league [ACC] in defensive touchdowns. They've given up 24 points and 388 yards a game with 165 rushing and 228 passing [on average]. Their linebacking corps is very impressive so I'll start with that. Their number one tackler is P.J. Davis, number 40. He's got 90 tackles and is also tied for first in tackles for loss with 8. He's also number one on their team with 4 sacks. [Quayshawn] Nealy, the middle linebacker, is number two in tackles with 75, number three in tackles for loss with 6, and is actually third in interceptions with 2 picks."

"Up front, [Keshun] Freeman, number 42, is tied for first in tackles for loss with 8 and is second on the team in sacks with three and a half. In the back end, Jamal Golden leads the group in interceptions with 4, and also has 43 tackles. He's also their kick and punt return man. [D.J.] White is number three in tackles with 57 and number two in interceptions with 3 picks. Their nickel back, [Demond] Smith, number 12, is fourth on the team with 55 tackles. He's a very active player if you get into three wide receiver sets. Again, another challenge for us offensively that we're looking forward to."

On the Georgia Tech special teams…

"As far as their kicking game goes they are number one in their league in blocked kicks. That's punts and kicks. Their kick return man, Golden, who I mentioned a little bit ago, is averaging 26.6 yards per return, which is the most of anybody we've played all year long. [Broderick] Snoddy also has an average of 22.4 which is outstanding. Golden is also their punt return man. Their field goal kicker, [Harrison] Butker is 10 of 16 with a long of 46 and their punter [Ryan] Rodwell averages 41.3 in the punting game. So, again, another good matchup on special teams. We've got to do a great job in that area to have a chance. So those are the things that we've been studying about Georgia Tech. Again, they are a very hot team right now and are Coastal Division champions. They're a championship team this year and we need to play our best to have a chance."

Senior DB Damian Swann

On his final game in Sanford Stadium…

“If I could stay here and do another four years, I would. I don’t really think there’s a place like Athens. I don’t really think there’s a place like Georgia. With the love and all that the people around here show you, you can’t help but to get so attached to it that you never want to leave.”

On beating Tech the last three years…

“It’s different. We still have to practice. We have to approach it every year with an attitude to say that we’ve got to get a stop. Regardless of what we’ve done in the past, on that particular day we have to get a stop for us to get another win.”

Senior C David Andrews

On his final game in Sanford Stadium…

“It hasn’t hit me yet that it’s the last game, but it’s what you want in a rivalry game. It’s Tech, so you can’t ask for a better game. I’m just trying to enjoy this week, soak up this week. I haven’t really thought about it, but I guess it will hit me probably Saturday night or Sunday morning.”

On Georgia Tech…

“They’ve done a good job. I think they did a good job against us last year. I watched that film last night and they had a good game plan against us and played hard and played tough. We struggled at times last year. We’ve just got to go out this year and earn the right to win and come out there and have a physical game.”

Senior N Mike Thornton

On an improving defense…

“I think our confidence has always been there. I don’t think we’ve ever shied away from anything, any team. Last week, that was a competitive team we played against. It was just that we had the upper hand a little bit. But every week we have to come out and play our hardest game. It doesn’t matter about who we played the week before or the week before that.”

On beating Georgia Tech every season of his career…

“It would be pretty cool. I wouldn’t want to lose to those guys and let this team down and have to live the rest of my life with that on my heart. I wouldn’t want to do that, and I’m not going to do that. I definitely want to get the Governor’s Cup at the end of the season.”

Senior WR Chris Conley

On senior WR Jonathon Rumph

“He’s got a couple more games to show what he can do. He’s got a couple more games to make an impact. I think that’s one of the things that Rumph wants to do. It seems like it was a really short career but I think he has the opportunity to make it a meaningful one.”

On the rivalry with Georgia Tech…

“Everybody says hate, but I think there’s another level. Everything about this game is you’re trying to demean and dominate your opponent. That’s literally what it comes down to in the trenches, in the secondary, in the backfield, everything. Every level of this game is intensity. When both teams prepare that way, it creates a game that’s like that.”

On preparing for a rivalry game in which Georgia has dominated in recent years… “I think around here, just the fact that Coach Richt has lost to them before and knowing what that means and what that feels like, I don’t think they allow that [a lack of passion] to happen. There’s an ‘indoctrination’ of the younger players to let them know what this game really means and the gravity that the score at the end of it holds. Obviously, the older guys know because they’ve played in it before. It doesn’t lack any of that on our end. I think the team learns how to get up for this game. It’s something that, even though we’ve won in the past, we erase that from our minds.”?

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