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In familiar excruciating fashion, Bulldogs lose to Bama

In familiar excruciating fashion, Bulldogs lose to Bama

Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart addresses the press after another tough loss against SEC rivals Alabama Crimson Tide. (Video by Ryon Horne, AJC)

In familiar excruciating fashion, Bulldogs lose to Bama

For a complete report on Saturday’s SEC Championship Game and Major Heart Surgery With a Butter Knife, you may read on.

Or, just Google the Alabama -Georgia game from Jan. 8, the one for all the marbles, not just the regional ones. Then simply change all the Tagovailoas to Hurts and all the Hurtses to Tagovailoa. You’ll get pretty much the same flavor.

Like a bad truck stop burrito, Alabama just keeps coming back on Georgia. It never seems to change for Bama. Struggle early. Change quarterbacks. Celebrate in Atlanta.

So went another excruciating day in the big city for the neighboring Bulldogs. They came from ahead to lose Saturday’s SEC Championship game inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium to the unbeaten and top-ranked Crimson Tide 35-28.

Just losing wasn’t bad enough. This loss ran right over the scar tissue from Georgia’s overtime loss to Bama in the national championship game here just 11 months ago. 

Then it was Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa bailing out Jalen Hurts in the second half of the national championship, the Bulldogs sacrificing a third-quarter, 13-point lead.

On Saturday, it was Hurts coming on for an injured Tagovailoa, engineering fourth-quarter touchdown drives of 80 and 52 yards to carry the Tide past a Georgia team that led by 14 deep into the third quarter.

Only this time throw in a large dose of second-guessing, as Kirby Smart’s call to go for a fake punt on fourth-and-11 at midfield with just over two minutes left in a tie game spectacularly misfired. That gave Alabama a half-a-field head start on the winning touchdown drive.

“Thought it was there, and it was there today,” the Georgia coach said of the direct snap to the up man in punt formation, freshman quarterback Justin Fields. Needing 11 yards, Fields rushed for only two. Smart suggested the play was intended to be a pass, but then broke down.

Five plays later, Alabama’s Hurts tucked away the ball and ran the final 15 yards for a touchdown, giving the Tide the lead for the first time Saturday with just 1:04 left to play. Georgia won many of the previous 59 minutes, but will receive no trophy for that accomplishment.

Smart’s most defiant explanation for the fake: “We came to win the game. We wanted to win the game.”

And to think, Saturday had begun so promisingly for the Bulldogs. It always begins promisingly for them against the Tide. 

Barely four minutes into the game, Alabama was experiencing a sensation new to it this season – discomfort.  

Throwing into the same end zone where 11 months ago his pass play to DeVonta Smith had ended overtime and won the national championship at Georgia’s expense, Tagovailoa was intercepted by Bulldogs safety Richard LeCounte. It was only the third interception this season by the nation’s leader in passing efficiency.

Alabama’s angst was further heightened when Tagovailoa, who had been dealing with a balky knee since early October, ducked into the team’s sideline medical tent after that play seeking attention away from prying eyes.

Tagovailoa carried on, although he never seemed quite right the rest of the night. Meanwhile, Georgia went about the business of proving it, too, had a pretty fair quarterback.  

Jake Fromm had a brilliant day, finishing 25-of-39 for 301 yards and three passing touchdowns. On the Bulldogs’ first score, Fromm’s arm accounted for all but two yards of the 60-yard drive. The final strike was a 20-yarder over the middle to tight end Issac Nauta.

In its unbeaten regular season, in which no team had come within three touchdowns of beating it, Alabama had trailed for a grand total of 75 seconds. Georgia would carry an advantage a good deal longer than that. Just not long enough.

Georgia was a first-half juggernaut, adding touchdown drives of 74 and 51 yards to put them up 21-7 with just four minutes left in the first half.


In familiar excruciating fashion, Bulldogs lose to Bama

The Bulldogs were controlling the ball, possessing it for nearly 21 of the first 30 minutes. Fromm was unerring – over one stretch completing 10 consecutive passes (tying a SEC Championship game record). And then Georgia tailback D’Andre Swift began putting his fingerprints all over the stat sheet. He ran for one of those first-half scores – a 9-yard sprint – and caught a pass for another – an 11-yard hook-up. 

No team had scored more than 23 points against Alabama this season. And here was Georgia nearly hitting that ceiling in the first 26 minutes of Saturday.

That seemed to be the sharp stick in the eye that the Bama offense needed to rile it up a bit. But even its answering touchdown, just four plays after Swift’s catch made the score 21-7, wasn’t the typical forceful response you’d expect of Alabama. It was as much good fortune as it was good football.

For as Bama’s Josh Jacobs lunged for the goal line, the ball popped loose, raising the specter of a second turnover on the doorstep to a touchdown. But some force of nature kept the ball within Jacobs reach. Laid out, he was able to pull it in and hold it aloft just long enough to make it an Alabama touchdown.

So, here was Georgia, up at halftime against mighty Alabama, looking quite serious about shocking the world. Eleven months ago, that same vision was a mirage. A cruel tease. The necessary build-up to the let-down.

Surely that couldn’t happen again.

But when the usually sure-thing kicker Rodrigo Blankenship missed a 30-yard field-goal attempt midway in the third quarter, the omens started to take an ugly turn for Georgia.

The Bulldogs rebuilt the lead to 14 early in the second half (28-14) when Fromm laid a perfect over-the-shoulder, 23-yard touchdown delivery to Riley Ridley. It wasn’t much of a window Fromm threw into, more a narrow transom. 

They blunted one Alabama drive later in the third quarter when safety J.R. Reed intercepted a ball on the Georgia 3-yard line. 

And still that wasn’t enough. Dynasties don’t exactly yield like wet cardboard. 

Nor did Bama buckle when Tagovailoa, caught up in the backwash of another Georgia rush, had to be helped off the field for the last time with a bum ankle with about 12 minutes left to play.

For Hurts was ready for his moment. Once the star, he instantly, instinctually, picked up the role again He led a long 16-play, seven-minute drive to tie the score, using his scrambling ability to keep the last play alive long enough to find Jerry Jeudy for a 10-yard scoring pass.

Then, with just a little more than a minute left to play, Hurts’ keeper from 15 yards out was the last dagger in an old wound. 

“Same as last time,” said Swift, who finished with 75 rushing yards and another 63 receiving. “A new quarterback comes in and we get beat. Can’t dwell on it, but it’s still gonna hurt.”

“Jalen came in and surprised us a bit, a more mobile quarterback,” Bulldogs defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter said. “Those are adjustments you’ve got to make in a game.”  

What was left afterward for a two-loss Georgia was to try to make the case that a narrow, heart-breaking loss to lordly Alabama shouldn’t eliminate it from consideration for the four-team college playoff field. The playoff committee will render its verdict Sunday afternoon.

Smart made his stump speech: “Well, it boils down to one thing. Do you want the four best teams in or not? It's that simple.” 

Noting that Alabama won it all a season ago after not even playing in the SEC Championship, Smart added, “They sat at home last year and got to go in the game while everybody else is beating each other up. Give that coach across the sideline (Saban) a vote who he doesn't want to play. He'll start with us. I promise you, you don't want to play us.”

Rewriting the script and beating Alabama would have made for a far more convincing argument.


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Local News

  • ATHENS, Ga. --- Twenty-nine University of Georgia student-athletes will receive undergraduate or graduate degrees Friday morning during the fall commencement exercises at Stegeman Coliseum.   Among the 29 UGA student-athlete graduates are nine from football; seven from track and field; three from baseball; two each from men’s golf and swimming; and one each from gymnastics, soccer, softball, volleyball and women’s basketball. In addition, three sports communications student assistants and one compliance student assistant will be receiving their degrees.   Baseball (3): Chase Adkins, General Business; Blake Cairnes, Consumer Economics; Mitchell Webb, Sport Management.   Football (10): Kendall Baker, Sociology; Michael Barnett, Communication Studies; Rodrigo Blankenship, Journalism; Lamont Gaillard, Sociology; J.R. Reed, Communication Studies; Keyon Richardson, Sociology; DeAngelo Tyson, Housing Management and Policy; Steven Van Tiflin, Real Estate and Finance; Nick Williams, Communication Studies; and Shakenneth Williams, Sociology.   Gymnastics (1): Gigi Marino, Human Development and Family Science.   Men’s golf (2): Zach Healy, Sport Management; Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Kinesiology.   Soccer (1): Delaney Fechalos, Finance.   Softball (1): Lindsey Miles, Early Childhood Education.   Swimming (2): Gunnar Bentz, Management; Stephanie Peters, Sport Management.   Track and field (7): Sarah Gardner, Kinesiology; Cejhae Greene, Consumer Economics; Addy Lippitt, Management; Anna Machovec, Computer Science; Chanice Porter, Kinesiology; Karl Saluri, Food Industry Marketing Administration; Kendal Williams, Communication Studies.   Volleyball (1): Sarah Lagler-Clark, Psychology.   Women’s basketball (1): Simone Costa, Communication Studies.
  • Jonathan Herbert gets 30 days in jail: the former teacher was arrested after biting the buttocks of a 14 year-old girl who was swimming in Lake Lanier this past July 4. Herbert, who lost his job as a Gwinnett County school teacher after the incident, was charged with sexual battery, child cruelty, and public drunkenness.  Gwinnett County School officials say Herbert was teacher at Snellville Middle School for two years. It's not the first time he's been accused of having too much to drink while out in a public place. Johnson found Gwinnett County jail records that show police arrested Herbert in May of 2016 on DUI and drug charges. Police said he was speeding and was in possession of marijuana.
  • The Discovery Channel says it will air a documentary on a December 2016 shooting in Franklin County: two Lavonia Police officers were shot and wounded after a traffic stop. The officers have since recovered; the suspect—wanted out of South Carolina—was arrested shortly after the shooting. The TV special on the shooting will air next Tuesday night at 10.  The two officers, Captain Michael Shulman and Officer Jeffrey Martin, were shot while conducting a traffic stop in a fast-food restaurant parking lot off I-85 in Lavonia. Shulman spent several days in the hospital as a result of the shooting. Both Shulman and Martin reovered from their injuries, and have since left the department. 
  • We go into the weekend with still no certification of the December 4 special election in Georgia House District 28, a contest that appears to have been won by former Banks County School Superintendent Chris Erwin by a mere two votes out of more than seven thousand ballots cast. If the results hold, Erwin will unseat incumbent Republican Dan Gasaway in the district that covers parts of Banks, Stephens, and Habersham counties. Representative Gasaway, who is from Homer, continues to talk about a legal challenge to the election. Either he or Erwin will represent the district in the legislative session that begins one month from today. 
  • Athens-Clarke County Police say the loaded gun found on a student at Cedar Shoals High School could be the same gun used in this week’s drive-by shootings, in which shots were fired into a home on Martin Court in Athens. The 15 year-old is being held at the Youth Detention Center in Gainesville.    Athens-Clarke County police spokesman Geof Gilland tells news outlets the teenager was arrested Wednesday after he was found with the gun authorities have linked to the two shootings. Police say a school resource officer found the gun in his backpack. Police did not identify the student. Authoriites say he was taken into custody at Cedar Shoals High on a charge of possessing a gun on school grounds and two aggravated assault counts.

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS — It’s nearly Christmas, I haven’t a gift under the tree, Georgia is about to resume football practice, I’m selling one house, building another, hauling things to storage and, lo and behold, there’s this relatively new thing called the early national signing period rumbling like a long, loud freight train about to pop out of a dark tunnel. Welcome to the winter holiday, folks, also known as College Football Never Stops. And, I know, you love it. I do, too. As I’m struggling to manage all these converging priorities in my life, I’m overwhelmed by all the subject matter that deserves to be weighed in on. Owing you and our beloved sponsors a Towers’ Take, I was left to reason I just need to touch on them all before plunging into a weekend that will include attending to all the aforementioned tasks, plus a little Georgia hoops action with the Bulldogs’ hosting their best opponent so far. Let’s start with the most popular subject — Georgia football recruiting. ‘The Closer’ There was the time I was The Atlanta Journal-Constutition‘s primary recruiting reporter. I know, I’m also glad that’s not the case anymore. As most surely know, DawgNation now employs one of the finest full-time “Recruitniks” in the business in Jeff Sentell to track the Bulldogs’ business. And nobody does a better job of keeping up not only with all the big developments — and there always seem to be big developments where Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs are concerned — but all the minutiae as well. I’m in position to get Sentell on the phone or exchange texts any time a thought or question enters my mind. It’s about this of year I realize what a blessing that is. So while I don’t write about recruiting a lot until the calendar turns to those significant signing dates or those blue-chippers are about to hea to campus, I keep up through Jeff and needle him for details every now and then. I have two thoughts on the Bulldogs’ recruiting as we head into this final weekend of what is really he most intense competition of all: One, it’s truly incredible the heights to which Smart and his staff have raised recruiting at Georgia in such short order. I hear people say he has the Bulldogs “closing in” on Nick Saban and Alabama in terms of the overall talent base of the program. Well, I say based on their last two on-field meetings, Georgia is already eye-to-eye with the Crimson Tide in terms of the pedigree of football players that are on the roster and the level of coaching and development they’re getting. Never mind, those last two results. When you’ve led or been tied with the team arguably the most dominant program in the history of the sport for 119 of 120 regulation minutes, you’re not overachieving with inferior products. You’re there, dude. And don’t start quibbling with me, Bama fans, over the number of No. 1 classes or national championship trophies your spoiled enterprise has harvested over the years. The fact is, you’re batting .500 at best with the Bulldogs over prospects you both want. And it’s clear Smart and his staff knows what to do with them when he gets them on campus. This new rivalry is not about to disappear like a morning fog. Smart is on your bumper and in your rearview like Dale Earnhardt in his NASCAR heyday, and it’s only a matter of time before he spins you out and takes the checkered flag. Of this I’m absolutely certain. Two, if this recruiting year finishes like it’s shaping to, Smart might go down as one of the greatest closers in recruiting history. They certainly won’t get them all (will they?), but the Bulldogs once again are in the hunt for some mighty big game right down to the 11th hour of this December signing period. And that’s the real difference nowadays. Georgia has always recruited well, as it should as the state school in one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in America. But the difference now is where the Bulldogs would regularly find themselves left at the altar on a major flip, it’s Georgia doing the flipping nowadays, and landing some major prospects in the process. That’s the case again this year as the Bulldogs sit with four 5-stars already committed and in the hunt on players that could drive that number again into the seven or eight range. That would, in turn, stock Georgia’s roster with as many 30 5-star prospects, or more than a third. Now a 5-star does not automatically a great football player make, but suffice it to say, you’ll take your chances on a prospect everybody in the country wanted over a diamond in the rough any day. Based on what I’m hearing, Georgia has a great shot at a lot of these final major targets. Wide receiver Jadon Haselwood was long committed to UGA and, other than the distant outpost of Oklahoma, his other finalists aren’t competing on the arc that the Bulldogs currently are. No team could have a greater need at inside linebacker than does Georgia, which is in it to win it on Mississippi 5-star Nakobe Dean. And with rumblings of comings and goings in the backfield, where else would any ambitious running back — such as IMG’s Trey Sanders — want to go besides UGA, which presently has three NFL starters within four years of their matriculation through Athens? And that’s to say nothing of Smart’s annual Transfer Treasure Trove. There are many others recruiting storylines that Sentell is tracking like an astronomer from a mountaintop observatory, so be sure follow him on Twitter and keep your DawgNation app notifications activated. And say this for Smart: He keeps us all intriqued to the last possible minute, and left wanting more. Next stop: Attrition Of course, the flipside to signing every 5-star within site of Hubble telescope is there’s not enough room in the orbit for everyone in the galaxy. So attrition is inevitable, and it seems as though that might be the case again this year. Now attrition takes place naturally in college football as it is. Some players can’t cut it academically, others realize on their own their getting buried on the depth chart, and medical DQs are as common as redshirts nowadays. Suffice it to say, there will need to be some movement for Georgia to make room for everybody it wants to join the “Burned Out on Bama” initiative. Some of that will sure come in the form of early NFL departures. The Bulldogs don’t have many (if any) sure things in terms of can’t-pass-on-such-money, underclassman draft prospects. But they do have several who, for varying reasons, might consider making the leap now. Running back Elijah Holyfield, receivers Mecole Hardman and Riley Ridley, tight end Isaac Nauta and safety J.R. Reed are among the Georgia underclassmen said to have asked the NFL for a draft evaluation. And sometimes what’s on that assessment is not the determining factor. Sometimes it’s just time to move on. And what’s to stop some of these degree-holding juniors from deciding to move on or transfer for a chance to play more or just to get on with their post-football lives? It’s the ever-turning life cycle of college football. And the way Smart works Georgia’s numbers, there’s rarely any wiggle-room. The Great 8 Debate There’s always what should be done, and what will done, isn’t there? Those of you who read me regularly or tune into my Marco’s Pizza Towers’ Take Live podcasts know I am and have always been a proponent of the 8-team playoff. It has always made the most sense to me, and apparently some member of the current College Football Playoff system feel the same way. Not surprisingly, big wigs from the Big 12 and Big Ten are losing patience with the exclusionary practices including only four teams in the playoff, and the selection committee’s penchant for playing fast and loose with their directive of choosing “the four best teams.” Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez and Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby have provided some volume to the chorus of cries for expanding the field to eight teams. Too many worthy participants are getting left out, they say, even giving a nod to the American Athletic Conference’s undefeated darling of Central Florida. But their solution — eliminating conference championship games — is a bad one. And it’s unwinnable to boot. The SEC, as Commissioner Greg Sankey made plain, is never going to relinquish its wildly successful title match, as well it shouldn’t. I have long proposed a simpler solution, but it’s one that surely wouldn’t fly as it might actually take money off the table of Power 5 fat-cats. That is, eliminate one game from these ridiculous 12-game, regular-season schedules. I mean, really, must alums and donors not only pay to see Austin Peay and Middle Tennessee, but ALSO UMass in the same season? Heck, I could even justify cutting back to 10 games in favor of an expanded playoff, which would only increase by one week, if they’re truly concerned about the number of games these “student-athletes” are playing, which they’re not (see college basketball, baseball, tennis, swimming, track, you name it). No, they won’t do it because, in Georgia’s case, it’d be losing $3.5 million annually from one-game’s revenue. I’m of the mind that could easily be recouped from the TV money generated by an expanded playoff (a la the NCAA Basketball Tournament). But that’s the hangup you’re going to hear from administrators, the Bulldogs’ included. That, and you’re not going to be able to help out these poor middling football programs anymore, which we all know is the ultimate end-game. No, I think they should make conference champions a requirement of the five “Group of Five” (they prefer that name) participants, and then take three at-larges. Those could be somebody like this year’s Bulldogs, who everybody believes were among the country’s best four teams at the end of the season, and/or an undefeated mid-major like UCF. Yes, there will still be arguments about the ninth and 10th teams being deserving, but that will always be the case, just like it is with all those bubble teams for the 65-team basketball tournament. And so what if an occasional four-loss team upsets its way into the playoff. It made for a pretty good story for Bainbridge High School in Georgia this year, don’t you think? And while I’m fixing things, go ahead and put UCF and Notre Dame into the 10-team Big 12 Conference. Or put the Irish in the Big Ten or ACC where they belong and add USF to the Big 12. Do something with Notre Dame, or just leave them being subjected to the yearly scrutiny required for the at-large group. It’s really simple when you think about it, but only if money isn’t central to the equation. OK, that’s it for me. I’ve got to do some shopping and packing.   The post Your holiday 3-pack: Kirby the Closer, running down Bama and solving the Great 8 Debate appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Nine months after being named Georgia’s basketball coach, Tom Crean is still campaigning hard for his new program. The Bulldogs (5-3) are getting ready to play host to Arizona State at Stegeman Coliseum, the first of a set of four tough games for the remainder of December. He knows his fledgling, young team is going to need all the help it can get against the No. 20-ranked Sun Devils (7-1), and Crean is a big believer in big crowds being a big help.           The trouble is, UGA just broke for the holiday. Fall semester exams wrapped up on Wednesday and most of the school’s 30,000 students have abandoned campus.           But that hasn’t deterred Crean. Ever the optimistic salesman, he’s stumping for a packed house for Saturday evening’s 6 p.m. tilt. “It’s important we get a sellout crowd; that’s real important to help energize us,” Crean said before the Bulldogs practiced Thursday morning. “If you beat Arizona State you’re doing something, because they’re good. They’re going to win a ton of games. They’re a legit team, if not the front-runner to win that league (Pac-12). … It’s extremely important, no doubt about it. We’re playing an outstanding team.”           That they are. The Sun Devils, who are expected to contend for the Pac-12 title this season, just lost for the first time all season and were impressive even in defeat. They led No. 6-ranked Nevada by 15 points in the first half and by 12 at halftime before finally succumbing to the Wolf Pack 72-66 in a game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. As has been the case in nearly every game this season, Arizona State was led by dynamic freshman Lugunentz Dort. The 6-foot-4 freshman guard, who averages 22 a game, had 24 against Nevada, a team many are expecting to play deep into March.           Georgia doesn’t harbor such expectations right at this minute. The Bulldogs have wilted in the face of their most intense challenges to date. They offered little resistance to 16th-ranked Clemson (64-49) and Georgia State (91-67) in the final two rounds of the Cayman Islands Classic and got down by a bunch quickly before rallying to put a scare in Temple on the road (81-77).           But those games all took place out of town. The Bulldogs are home for four of the next six, starting with the Sun Devils, and home is where the W’s reside.           While it always is and will be about the team that takes the floor, Crean believes a great atmosphere can help good teams play great.           “It’s something we’ve been addressing since March 15th,” said Crean, who is 4-0 at The Steg so far. “We’ve got to have a tremendous crowd. If we’re going to build this program to where everybody wants it to be and recruit the way everybody wants us to recruit and the way we want to recruit, the atmosphere of games has to be phenomenal. It’s not just how great the music is and how wonderful the band and the cheerleaders and the dance squads are — they are. We’ve got to have people there. We’ve got to have it loud.”           So Crean is not above creating any sort of promotion to get butts in the seats. Saturday is no exception. It’s “Tacky Christmas Sweater” Night. Fans are welcomed to wear their own tacky Christmas sweaters to the game, but the first 1,000 spectators to show up will get a free tacky Christmas sweater T-shirt.           Crean brought one of the T-shirts with him to this Thursday’s press conference to discuss the Arizona State game. “I don’t think I’ll wear one, but I like it,” he said. “Very, very creative. I’ve seen some ugly Christmas sweaters before. This one’s pretty cool.”           The gimmicks are fun, but Crean knows better than anybody his squad has to play better and beat some quality opponents to keep folks coming back. Beating a team of the ilk of Arizona State would be great first step.           To do that, Georgia’s has clean up its game. Averaging nearly 17 turnovers a game, the Bulldogs can start by taking better care of the basketball. Crean also is looking for improved offensive rebounding, better free throw shooting and less fouling.           All those traits need to be present against the Sun Devils, who are averaging 14 offensive rebounds and 29 free throws a night. Controlling Dort will, of course, be a key. A Top 30 national recruit from Montreal (who spent two years playing basketball in Florida), it was Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley who beat out several basketball powerhouses for Dort’s services.           The freshman hasn’t disappointed. Equally adept at shooting 3s or driving to the basket, Dort had a 33-point game against Utah State and has scored 24 points or more in half the Sun Devils’ game. Built like a football player, he’s an equally effective on-the-ball defender.           “He’s a solid player,” said Georgia sophomore Nicolas Claxton, who is the only SEC player to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. “We’ve game-planned for him. We know he’s going to come in here and play hard. They’ll be a strong test but we’ll be ready for them.”           It won’t be easy for the Bulldogs to be sharp. Saturday will be 12 days since their last game due to final exams. But Crean has been working them hard in practice, particularly this week as testing concluded midweek.           After consecutive days of what players characterized as “very intense” practices and scrimmages, the Bulldogs are ready to play somebody else. Their hope is that their fan base will also be ready on Saturday as well.           Georgia traditionally has drawn pretty good crowds to Stegeman for SEC play, which annually begins after the New Year. But due in part to the excitement of Crean’s hire and his boundless promotional presence, the Bulldogs already have established a school record by selling out three regular-season games before the season even started. They’ve since added two more sellouts to the ledger, giving UGA its most capacity crowds for men’s basketball since the 2002-03 season.           And Georgia is drawing pretty well early on this season. It has averaged 7,240 in the four games so far, including 9,018 for the season opener against Savannah State. That was most for a UGA home opener since Dominique Wilkins’ sophomore season in 1981.           The Bulldogs could use a good, strong representation on Saturday as well. Crean believes it can make a difference. “There’s no question (Stegeman) can be a tremendously tough place to play with 10½-thousand in there and the acoustics the way that they are,” Crean said. “We’ve just got to put people in there. There’s been a lot of tickets sold. … But if we want the level of program we want here, we’ve got to have great crowds.”           The post             WATCH: Tom Crean urges Georgia fans to pack The Steg on Saturday for No. 20 Arizona State appeared first on             DawgNation.          
  • ATHENS, Ga. --- Twenty-nine University of Georgia student-athletes will receive undergraduate or graduate degrees Friday morning during the fall commencement exercises at Stegeman Coliseum.   Among the 29 UGA student-athlete graduates are nine from football; seven from track and field; three from baseball; two each from men’s golf and swimming; and one each from gymnastics, soccer, softball, volleyball and women’s basketball. In addition, three sports communications student assistants and one compliance student assistant will be receiving their degrees.   Baseball (3): Chase Adkins, General Business; Blake Cairnes, Consumer Economics; Mitchell Webb, Sport Management.   Football (10): Kendall Baker, Sociology; Michael Barnett, Communication Studies; Rodrigo Blankenship, Journalism; Lamont Gaillard, Sociology; J.R. Reed, Communication Studies; Keyon Richardson, Sociology; DeAngelo Tyson, Housing Management and Policy; Steven Van Tiflin, Real Estate and Finance; Nick Williams, Communication Studies; and Shakenneth Williams, Sociology.   Gymnastics (1): Gigi Marino, Human Development and Family Science.   Men’s golf (2): Zach Healy, Sport Management; Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Kinesiology.   Soccer (1): Delaney Fechalos, Finance.   Softball (1): Lindsey Miles, Early Childhood Education.   Swimming (2): Gunnar Bentz, Management; Stephanie Peters, Sport Management.   Track and field (7): Sarah Gardner, Kinesiology; Cejhae Greene, Consumer Economics; Addy Lippitt, Management; Anna Machovec, Computer Science; Chanice Porter, Kinesiology; Karl Saluri, Food Industry Marketing Administration; Kendal Williams, Communication Studies.   Volleyball (1): Sarah Lagler-Clark, Psychology.   Women’s basketball (1): Simone Costa, Communication Studies.
  • ATHENS – Isaiah Wilson always has been a man of few words. And when it comes to his play on Georgia’s offensive line this season, he has been a man of no words. Technically, Georgia’s “no freshman interviews” policy doesn’t apply to him, being a redshirt freshman and all. Nevertheless, despite starting every game for the Bulldogs at right tackle this season, Wilson hasn’t been made available to talk, even upon request. Isaiah Wilson started every game and played more than 95 percent of the snaps at right tackle this season. (Curtis Compton/AJC) That’s probably just as well for Wilson. He has never been a big talker anyway, even when he was the biggest thing around growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y. And when Wilson was finally in position to talk after the SEC Championship, he didn’t feel much like it. Understandably, Wilson didn’t have much to say during postgame interviews following the Bulldogs’ 35-28 loss to Alabama. The 6-foot-7, 345-pound offensive lineman was a big part of staking Georgia to a two-score lead late in the third quarter in that game. A half-hour after that dramatic conclusion unfolded, Wilson was still a bit dumbfounded about what had just transpired. “I just hope we get another shot at them,” Wilson said of Alabama. “If we do, I know we’ll play our hearts out and hopefully the outcome will be different.” Georgia will surely get another shot the Crimson Tide; it just won’t be this season. The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (11-2) were, of course, passed over for a spot in the College Football Playoff. They will instead face the No. 15-ranked Texas Longhorns (9-4) in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day in New Orleans (8:45 p.m.; TV/radio: ESPN/WSB 750-AM, 95.5 FM). Wilson didn’t know that at the time he was being queried. The Bulldogs have been off for final exams since that fateful day in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. But they’ll be back on the field this weekend. Several of Georgia’s seniors will go through graduation ceremonies on Friday, and the team will return to Woodruff Practice Fields for closed practices on Friday and Saturday. UGA’s Sugar Bowl media day will be conducted on Monday, at which time we’ll hear from the players and coach Kirby Smart again. Wilson likely won’t be available on Monday either, but he has already made quite a statement with his play on the field this season. A year after being deemed incapable of helping the Bulldogs even in a bit role as a true freshman, the former top 3 national recruit not only started every game his second season, but he played more than 95 percent of the snaps at right tackle. To this, Wilson offered only a humble reply. “I just try to get better every day,” he said. “So, when it’s the next practice, I just try to get better than I was the day before. You just keep going from there.” That Wilson is an everyday starter is not a surprise. He was a consensus 5-star prospect and Top 5 nationally-ranked tackle coming out of Poly Prep Country Day School in New York. The bigger surprise was that it took some time. But it took Wilson a while to get acclimated, both to the football and to the Southern heat. Showing up in Athens at more than 350 pounds, Wilson struggled with Georgia’s humidity in preseason camp his first season and spent a lot of time on the sideline being treating for heat exhaustion. “I was gasping for air at times,” Wilson said last year before the Rose Bowl. “But I’ve adjusted to it well now.” Getting acclimated to the heat gave Wilson the chance to concentrate on the fundamentals of being a good SEC offensive lineman. And he had a long way to go in that regard. Playing prep-school ball in New York, Wilson rarely encountered an opponent who contend with his massive size. Going against Georgia’s No. 1 defense as a redshirt helped him hone those skills. “I’m better in every aspect,” he said. Georgia coach Kirby Smart agrees. “He’s grown. He’s getting better,” Smart said in November. “I thought last year he got frustrated early and just kept working, spent some time on the scout team, got better. He still is a work in progress, just like our team is.” Wilson certainly has mastered the run-blocking aspect of his job. Georgia led the SEC in rushing this past season and managed 163 yards and a touchdown against Alabama’s formidable front. Running back D’Andre Swift went over 1,000 yards this season and Elijah Holyfield needs just “I think it’s just a want-to for this offensive line,” he said of the Bulldogs’ ability to run the football. “We see our guys with the ball and we want to help them and push them further. Where Wilson is trying to get better is in the area of pass protection, and he has shown significant improvement there as well. “He plays physical. He’s a big man,” Smart said. “He’s worked hard to get better. He’s held up against some tough guys in pass pro. I think he takes pride in that. … So he’ll keep working, and hopefully he’ll keep getting better.” The progress is evident, and not just from Wilson. The Bulldogs will lose only one starter off this year’s team in senior center Lamont Gaillard. The returnees, like Wilson, were mostly highly sought-after recruits. By the end of this season, opposing coaches talked about being “swallowed up” by Georgia’s massive offensive line. “It means a lot to hear them say our offensive line swallowed them up,” Wilson said, cracking a smile for just a moment. “I love my brothers on the offensive line. I’m happy that the offense is going well and that we’re physical and we’re all succeeding and playing well.” We’ll certainly be hearing more from Wilson in the future.   The post Isaiah Wilson a block of granite in Georgia Bulldogs’ offensive line appeared first on DawgNation.
  • The Georgia Bulldog football team, gearing up for the January 1 Sugar Bowl game against the Texas Longhorns, is set to start practice.  From UGA Sports Communications... Friday, Dec. 14 – Closed practice with no media availability    Saturday, Dec. 15 – Closed practice with no media availability   Sunday, Dec. 16 – players off   Monday, Dec. 17 – 11:15 am – Coach Smart press conference (team meeting room on 1st floor); 11:40 am – select players available on second floor lobby *TBA periods open for viewing; no post-practice interviews   Tuesday, Dec. 18 – Closed practice with no media availability   Wednesday, Dec. 19 – 11:45 am – Signing day press conference with Coach Smart (team meeting room on 1st floor) *TBA periods open for viewing; Coach Smart post practice   Thursday, Dec. 20 – TBA periods open for viewing; select defensive players available post practice   Friday, Dec. 21 – TBA periods open for viewing; select offensive players available post practice   Saturday, Dec. 22 – Closed practice with no media availability