Mark Richt spoke with reporters Sunday

Sunday chat with Mark Richt

For any Georgia fans wondering how Coach Mark Richt slept after his controversial fourth-and-one call Saturday night, here's the update from the source:

"Guess what, since we have an open date, I actually took a nap after church,'' Richt said late Sunday afternoon.

Richt added that he hadn't even yet studied tape from the Bulldogs' 31-28 win over Clemson, a win that was not safe until the successful conclusion of the daring fourth-and-one play.

With the ball on the Georgia 38 and 40 seconds left to play, Clemson called its last time out as Richt first began to consider the fourth-and-one alternatives.

When Clemson came to the line, Richt called a timeout of his own and called the offense to the sideline.

Said Richt Sunday: "If I didn't have a timeout to use to think about it, I would have punted. That was my initial thought.''

But Richt had a special play that had been devised for a late-game call when one yard was needed. The play was designed to be a game-winner at the goal-line; instead, it was a game-saver at the 38.

Defensive tackle David Pollack was sent on the field as a pile-mover, to help create a path from which tailback Musa Smith would launch himself over the pile.

Looking at the first-down marker, Richt believed he only needed 10 inches for the first down.

"I called the offense over and of course they were very anxious to do it,'' Richt said.

"I felt we could at least get a stalemate (at the line of scrimmage) and get Musa airborne.''

Needing about a foot, Smith went over the pile and picked up two yards as Georgia fans reacted with amazement, disbelief and relief.

Even when Richt sent the offense on the field, there was doubt he would actually have quarterback David Greene take the snap.

Instead, it seemed more likely that instead of risk handing the ball over to Clemson inside the Georgia 40 with about 35 seconds left in the game, Richt might just have Greene attempt to draw Clemson offsides. An offsides penalty would have given Georgia the first down and clinched the win.

Instead, Greene quickly took the snap, and Richt said Sunday that a quick count was part of the strategy.

Said Richt: "You knew (Clemson's defensive players) would have to be saying ‘Don't jump, don't jump. They'll try to get us to jump (offsides) and if we don't they'll punt.' ''

Added Richt: "You figure you'll get a better surge (at the line). It was in our mode of operation on that particular play to call it on a quick count.''

Richt's gamble may be remembered later in the season as a vote of confidence that made a difference in an offense that had struggled through much of the season-opener. But on Sunday, the call was much-debated on radio talk shows and internet posting boards as an unnecessary gamble.

The common thought was Richt should have taken the safer route and had Jonathan Kilgo punt the ball. The assumption is Clemson would have taken over near its 20 with no timeouts and only about 35 seconds to move into field position.

By comparison, if Smith had not picked up the first down, Clemson would have been only one short pass away from field-goal range.

Richt noted Saturday night that the punt could have been blocked or returned, so it was not an entirely safe alternative.

NOTES: Thanks to the off week this week, Georgia (1-0) should be in good shape physically for the Sept. 14 game at South Carolina.

Linebacker Tony Gilbert may be held out of practice this week with a sprained ankle, but the ankle was not as swollen Sunday as was feared Saturday. Gilbert may be ready for a full week of practice beginning next Monday.

Backup defensive end Nic Clemons has a turf toe injury and may be the most questionable for the South Carolina game, according to Richt. Also, linebacker Chris Clemons has a bruised shin.

Meanwhile, freshman linebacker Marquis Elmore is expected to join practice this week as he returns from arthroscopic back surgery performed before practice. Elmore will work at middle linebacker this year, though he could be used at defensive end in pass-rush situations.

It is not known if Elmore might play as early as the South Carolina game. ... Georgia will practice today through Thursday before Richt gives the team a long weekend off beginning Friday.

Charles Odum is the beat writer for Dawg Post in Athens. He has over 20 years of experience covering Georgia football. He can be reached here: CEOdum@aol.com

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