Gibson ties record for career 100-yard games

ATHENS, Ga. - He has only made six starts in his career, and yet Georgia receiver <b> Fred Gibson</b> already shares the school record with seven career games of more than 100 yards receiving.

As Georgia coach Mark Richt said after watching Gibson, a sophomore, catch eight passes for 134 yards against Northwestern State: "He has great potential. He has, of course, made a lot of big plays.''  But Gibson also fumbled the ball twice against the Demons - one after a catch and one that he recovered during a kickoff return. He already has lost three of four fumbles in three games this season, a stat that for Richt shows the sophomore still can improve. 

"Even the normal fan can see he can get better,'' Richt said. "He can get stronger. He can block better. He can hang onto the ball better. He can run routes more precisely.''  Last year, Gibson played basketball after the football season and missed the start of spring football practice, as well as some of the offseason work in the weight room.  There may be more reasons for Richt to ask Gibson to stick with football this spring, but the coach said it is too early to address the subject. 

"A lot will be predicated on academics,'' Richt said. "We really just need to wait.''  With back-to-back 100-yard games, Gibson has matched the career record of seven previously shared by senior Terrence Edwards and former standout Brice Hunter (1992-95).  

  • TD for Thornton: When Bruce Thornton of LaGrange switched from tailback to cornerback two years ago, he did not think he would have many opportunities to reach the end zone.  Thornton relished the rare opportunity, scooping up a punt that was blocked by teammate Sean Jones to score on a 12-yard return in the first quarter.  It marked the first time Georgia returned a blocked punt for a touchdown since 1998, when Glenn Ford of Columbus returned a block 46 yards against Vanderbilt.  Thornton rushed for three touchdowns in 2000 but had not scored since then.  "That felt good,'' Thornton said. "It reminded me of my running back days. I'm happy we executed our scheme on the punt block.''  After Jones blocked the punt by Chris Stegall, it was only a matter of whether Jones or Thornton would reach the ball first.  "It was me and him competing for the ball,'' Thornton said. "I just got to it before he did.''
  • Lineup changes: Ken Veal started at defensive tackle ahead of Johnathan Sullivan. Richt said Sullivan "got a little spanking from (defensive line coach Rodney) Garner'' for performance in practice. Sullivan probably will return to the starting lineup next week against New Mexico State.  Meanwhile, sophomore Will Thompson started at defensive end ahead of Robert Geathers, and Jones moved ahead of Thomas Davis at free safety. Those moves were based on performance, not discipline.
  • Injury update: Veal left the sideline with the assistance of a crutch late in the first half after suffering a sprained ankle. He was in uniform for the second half but did not return to the game.  Receiver Jarrett Berry probably will be lost for the year after suffering a knee injury in the fourth quarter. Richt said the initial indication is that Berry will require surgery.  Earlier in the week, Georgia lost another receiver, Kirby Towns, to another season-ending knee injury.  
  • Ready, weather or not: For the second straight week, Georgia won the opening toss and elected to receive. Richt's normal trend is to take the second-half kickoff, but the possibility of rain against South Carolina last week and again Saturday prompted Richt to take the opening kickoff.  "We didn't know how much more weather we would get,'' said Richt. "We didn't know what it was going to be like in the second half.''  In each case, Richt opened by calling a deep pass play from David Greene to Gibson, good for 52 yards against Clemson and for 27 yards Saturday. 
  • Expansion coming: By the first game next season, the capacity of Sanford Stadium will grow from 86,520 to 91,780, thanks to the Georgia Athletic Board of Directors approving a proposal to add 5,260 seats to the North side upper deck.  The $21 million expansion is part of $32 million in renovations and improvements of facilities approved by the board.  Plans include adding a private "All-American Club'' on the second level of the east end and improvements to the press box at the stadium and locker room area at the Butts-Mehre Building.  Also approved was $4.2 million for improvements to the women's softball complex.

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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