September 17, 2010

Richt knows game huge for Bulldogs

Fullback Fred Munzenmaier makes no pretenses.

When asked if Saturday's game against 12th-ranked Arkansas is a must win for the Bulldogs (1-1, 0-1), the senior said he'd have to agree.

Head coach Mark Richt didn't quite take the same plunge, but acknowledged they don't get much bigger than the contest which will be televised on ESPN.

Kickoff is set for 12:01 p.m.

"We have a very big game this week. I don't know how big a game can get, but this is big. We know that and our coaches know it, our players know it, I think the Bulldog nation knows it. It's big," Richt said. "We have to get after it. We have to play with a lot of intensity and with a lot of discipline and challenge a very good Arkansas Razorback team (2-0, 0-0), the 12th-ranked team in the country."

Here's why.

Last week's 17-6 loss to South Carolina not only put Georgia in an early one-game hole, but it's made for an overall foul mood throughout the Bulldog Nation, after watching the offense sputter, both lines of scrimmage dominated by the Gamecocks and tackling issues that left defensive coordinator Todd Grantham pulling out his hair.

Tight end Aron White admits the offense could use a good game.

"We really haven't gotten the ball rolling this year. The first game we came out and got after Louisiana a little bit but a lot of people said that wasn't a real test, the first test was South Carolina and we failed that test," White said. "We really haven't proven ourselves against a Top 25 opponent, and this is our biggest game thus far. If we can put them away, I think it will bring some people back into being believers about the Bulldogs."

Saturday's game presents a new set of challenges for the Bulldogs.

Last week, freshman running back Marcus Lattimore bulled his way to 182 rushing yards, an estimated 140 of which came after first contact.

This week, the Bulldogs have to deal with junior Razorback quarterback Ryan Mallett, who already holds 18 school passing records and is a projected first-round pick in next year's NFL Draft should he elect to leave school a year early.

Either way, Richt said the Bulldogs have to get back to fundamental tackling, something that just wasn't happening against South Carolina.

"The bottom line is we have got to do a better job of just sticking our face on that runner and wrapping him up and running our feet. In our perimeter, our defensive backs, in my opinion, were not doing that. They were deciding to try to go low on the guy or they were trying to knock the guy down and not really face that issue and get right down the middle of him and wrap him up," Richt said. "You watch games; there are a lot of DBs that are doing the very same thing. We have to have the confidence to go face him up. Once a defender begins to wrap up a guy, then the other guys can come along and strip the ball or join the posse and knock him back or whatever it is."

White said the Bulldogs know there are plenty of doubters following last week's loss in Columbia after the way the team played.

Like most of the players, they've heard the whispers,with some fans wondering if the team is doomed for another sub-par year in the SEC.

But White said the Bulldogs remain focused and confident.

"Not that we're concerned about that because we believe in ourselves, but it always helps to have the fans and the media on our side. Hopefully, we can come out and make a statement," he said. "We've got a great group of fans but I think there will always be some who have doubts when you lose games early, they'll be like oh this is going to be one of those seasons, stuff like that. I don't think anybody's given up on us by any means but I don't think a lot of people have the expectations that we have for ourselves because we're aiming for the top. All our goals are still very much attainable. We're only one game down. Yeah, we know we're not in control of our destiny in the East right now, but hopefully, South Carolina will drop one and we'll be right back there gunning for it."

Getting A.J. Green back would certainly help the Georgia cause.

After days of speculation, Green's appeal hearing with the NCAA was scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday and Bulldog officials hope for an answer before Saturday's kickoff.

But despite what happens with Green, redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray will be expected to shoulder a large portion of the offensive load for the Bulldogs.

After last week's game, both Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo hinted that Murray would be granted greater responsibility as far as more offensive plays - with our without Green.

"We have to let him shoot a little bit more than we have lately. Can Murray match Mallett? I don't know about that. Of course, Joe Cox had a heck of a game last year and no one would have predicted that, especially after we played Oklahoma State and didn't have much offensive production that day,"Richt said. "Then it kind of flooded. I don't know what's going to happen. We could predict shootouts and it becomes a real close game, a low-scoring game. It's just so hard to tell. I know that when you play good teams, you tend to not have as much offense or not as many stats."

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