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Georgia's Richt, football players, discuss championship hopes at media luncheon - The Red and Black : Sports

Georgia's Richt, football players, discuss championship hopes at media luncheon

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Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 6:35 pm | Updated: 8:20 pm, Wed Nov 28, 2012.

Georgia head coach Mark Richt and a contingent of players met with assembled media members on Tuesday to discuss Saturday's clash with No. 2 Alabama in the SEC Championship game. The winner of Saturday's contest will move on to face top-ranked and undefeated Notre Dame in the Discover BCS National Championship on Jan. 7 in Miami.

The following are some of the comments from Richt and the players: 

Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt

On Georgia over the years and its similarities to Alabama…
“We really haven’t changed much offensively. We actually have done a lot more up-tempo stuff. I don’t think Alabama is really interested in trying to go that up-tempo. As far as the pro-style type that we’ve had, it’s really what we’ve been doing for a while. What is different is when I hired Todd Grantham. If we go back to that time, I wasn’t necessarily looking for a 3-4 guy or a 4-3 guy. I was just trying to find the best man for the job, and I thought Todd was that guy. As it turned out, it’s very similar to what Alabama does defensively. I think it’s probably more coincidence than anything, but Todd has certainly done a great job. I don’t think the 3-4 scheme is the reason why we are having success as much as we have the right coaches and the right players performing well. I think you could be a 4-3. There are a lot of different ways to line up defensively, and a lot of teams are having a lot of success. I wouldn’t say LSU is a 3-4. When they start out they’re more of a 4-3 look, and they’re pretty good. South Carolina is the same way. It just so happened that Todd was a 3-4 guy and I felt like he was just the best man for the job.”
On Georgia’s offensive tempo…
“We can go very fast, we can go relatively fast, or we can just be at the line of scrimmage a long time. We really have about three different tempos we try to use. So we’re not like the Oregons of the world where every single play we’re going at breakneck speed, but we can go at a pretty good pace. I think one of the rules that changed was the 40-second clock rather than the old 25-second clock. I think that has sped up the operation of the officials in our league. I think they were very methodical before with the 25-second clock where that ball wasn’t going to get set until about 13 seconds after the play was over. Now to me, they’re more apt to set the ball and let you play if you don’t substitute. If you don’t substitute our officials will let you play about as fast as you want to play.”  
On how rewarding the 2012 season has been for him…
“When we win I’m thankful. I don’t get too carried away with ‘my this or my that.’ I do enjoy coaching and enjoy competing and winning as much as anybody, but I do enjoy watching the players celebrate victories and the coaching staff do the job they’re doing. Quite frankly our coaches are doing a great job. This staff has just been phenomenal. I’m trying to manage the big picture, and there are certain things that a head coach has to do, but as far as the X’s and O’s, I still get involved to a certain degree offensively. I’ll have some thoughts about defense or special teams, but the reality is this coaching staff is really taking care of business right now, and I’m really pleased to see that for them too.
“My job is to get everybody in position to win. That’s how I see it. My job is to get the coaches and players and everybody involved in this program in position to do their job the best they can do it so we can win. It’s different than the day I got here. I was coaching quarterbacks and offensive coordinator and play-caller, so that role as changed over the years. It’s challenging nonetheless. Of course recruiting is a huge part of this entire picture too, so to manage everything that had to be managed in the right way and get everybody in position to have the freedom to go coach and play and do their thing, that’s a challenge as well.”
On the playoff-type aspect of Saturday's game…
“It’s different. I guess technically we don’t know for certain, but everybody’s pretty much saying that the winner is going to go play for the national championship, so that certainly adds something to it. I said it the other day that the Southeastern Conference Championship to me stands alone as something that’s really, really special. Just look at our game, the ticket sales, and the people trying to get tickets. I was listening to the radio on the way in and somebody said that the cost of these tickets rival any BCS National Championship game. There’s something about our league that’s special. If you win the Southeastern Conference, you’ve really done something special, and if you win the East, you’ve done something special in my opinion. I think our fans really understand that and embrace that. When I came from Florida State to Georgia, that’s one of the things that I learned. Every victory is precious in this league, and the style points don’t really matter all that much. Just win. Whereas before when I was at Florida State, we were wanting to win, but we wanted to win with a certain flair or a certain style. At Georgia I realized really fast that it doesn’t matter if you have style points or not. Just win. This league is so competitive on all levels, so it’s just fun to be a part of.”
On the importance of the SEC Championship game since its inception in 1992…
“I don’t think the championship game has changed much since I’ve been here. I think it’s a huge game. It’s a monster game. It’s a sellout, and people are always fighting to get tickets. It’s a game that I think everybody across the country wants to watch. Of course, this game in particular because everybody’s sitting there saying that the winner is going to go play for the national championship. Everybody already knows Notre Dame is in. I think there will be a different focus maybe nationally even more so than what we normally get, but what we normally get is pretty good. I’m sure that maybe there will be a little bit more interest in this one than in some of the ones in the past. The last six or seven years, the winner (of this game) has gone on to play for the national championship, so it’s not all that new.”
On the importance of emotion for the defense…
“If they get their blood high, I think they play better.”
On comparing this year's team to ones he has fielded in the past…
“I think we’re probably more similar to the 2002 team. I felt like as the season went on that year, we just got better and better. I thought we slowly improved as we went, and we weren’t very apt to shoot ourselves in the foot. We seemed to be the kind of team that we were going to make somebody beat us. I don’t know what’s going to happen Saturday, but that’s kind of the direction we’ve gone.”
On the future four-team playoff format…
“I’ll say this. I’m not sure of the format. I would say that if there is a four-team playoff and each league can only have one team in it, I don’t think I would like that as much as the format now. But if you’re allowed to have at least two teams in it, I think it would be good.”
On Aaron Murray’s decision not to talk to media this week…
“He really loves to submerge himself into the film study of every game, and this one he just wants to focus on nothing but Alabama. He doesn’t want to have any other distraction, so that’s okay with me.”
On the emotion of the defensive players…
“They’re all young and excited, and they say what they want to say sometimes. I don’t think it’s going to matter much what everybody says before the game. I think it’s going to matter when we kick it off, so I’m not too worried about that.”
On the play of special teams this season…
“My goal this year was for us to be solid on our special teams. My goal wasn’t to try to lead the nation in any one category. I wanted to make sure that every time we force them to punt, I want to make sure we have the ball. If someone makes a fair catch, that’s okay with me. At the end of the kickoff, I want to make sure we have the ball in our hand. Let’s have a good, solid return, secure the football, and do well. Of course when you punt, you have to make sure you protect. My goal is just to kick that sucker high and have the least amount of big plays in that situation. We did have the one returned for a touchdown, but other than that, we’ve given up very few return yards. Now is our net punt quite as high as Alabama’s, which is almost 44 (yards)? No, but even if it’s 38 or 39 yards and it’s got good hang time and we fair catch it, we can then move the ball for four downs and get a good play out of it. My goal was for a really solid kicking unit this year, and I think we are solid. In the kickoff return, Malcolm (Mitchell) returns it back to the 50. It’s not like we’re not trying to get a touchdown. We had Todd Gurley return one for a touchdown, and we blocked a couple punts this year. We’ve done some good things in there, but the big thing is to make sure that they don’t become a huge momentum play for the other team.”
Split End Rhett McGowan
On preparations for Saturday's game…
“You can always learn from something like [the loss to South Carolina]. You want to forget the bad things, but you also want to learn from it and I think we have. That will benefit us going into another big game like this one. To be on a big stage again, like we were at South Carolina – I think maybe we were a bit over-hyped for that game. But it also gave us experience that will help us.”
On Georgia's defense…
“You don’t want to get them mad. They’re physical guys. They love contact and they’re not going to shy away from it. They love the game of football. When their blood gets hot it makes them better.”
On the play of the wide receiver corps…
“The injuries we had earlier in the year helped us in that it gave some other guys opportunities to get out on the field. We all got more experience than we had already had, which will help this coming week. We’ve all played in big situations this year and have shown that we can execute. We are all confident in each other.”
Tight End Jay Rome
On the mind-set heading into this year's SEC Championship versus last year…
“We’re a more confident team. The guys that played last year know they came up short, and after they tasted that victory they didn’t get it. I feel like the taste was left in their mouths all year and we’ve had that in the back of our minds. All year we’ve wanted to get back and finish the drill.”
On the tight ends' play this season…
“We’ll have a key role in the passing game and running game. Over the past couple weeks we’ve come on a bit more in the passing game, and we’re taking the opportunity to get better and make plays. We’re ready for what’s thrown our way, and if it is, we’re going to make plays.”
Linebacker Amarlo Herrera
On being labeled as one of the best defenses in the nation…
“I feel the same as some of my teammates that have been saying we’re the best, I back those guys up. I haven’t seen anybody play as well as we have in the second half of the season. You can probably say that we were lacking some confidence early in the year because we weren’t playing as well as we should have been, but now we have the swagger back and we’re feeling like the best again.”
On playing with emotion…
“We just have to play with more confidence and keep up the same level of confidence that we’ve been playing with these past couple of weeks. It all goes back to what Shawn [Williams] said earlier this season, and that whole week of practice leading up to the Florida game. It has a lot to do with the way we prepared for that week and how we’ve been preparing from that day on and really playing up to par.”
Linebacker Christian Robinson
On the defensive turnaround in the second half of the season…
“It’s kind of a tale of two seasons. The first half of the season we didn’t really live up to anybody’s expectations on defense, and now we’re winning the way people thought we should have been winning all along. Now we have a chance to really do something special, something that hasn’t been done here in a long, long time so now we have to see it all the way out.”
On getting to play in the SEC Championship game…
“When you live around the metro (Atlanta) area, getting a chance to play in the (Georgia) Dome is something that you dream about. Especially on this stage, and with what this game means, everybody from around that area knows the significance of this game. This is huge. This is everything that we’ve dreamed of our whole lives and now we’ll have the world watching us.“

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