Rewind: Bulldogs running the football at a record pace

Tailback Todd Gurley had only six carries against Troy, but he raised his per-carry average for the season to 9.8 yards. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Tailback Todd Gurley had only six carries against Troy, but he raised his per-carry average for the season to 9.8 yards. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

MONDAY MORNING REWIND

1. Georgia went into the Troy game this past Saturday with a plan of throwing the ball around a little more. But that didn’t happen. The Bulldogs ended up rushing for 367 yards on 39 attempts, or 64 percent of the time. That was up from 62 percent in the previous two games.

Coach Mark Richt said that trend had more to do with opportunity than philosophy.

“There were some times we had passes called that (quarterback Hutson Mason) checked out of because they were vulnerable to the run,” Richt said Sunday. “So a lot of it had to do with how they lined up against us and it surprised us a little bit. We thought we’d see more one-safety looks and get some more one-on-one out there. But they really didn’t do that as much as we thought they would.”

Expect that to change Saturday against Tennessee. There’s enough video and statistical evidence on the Bulldogs now to know that running the football is going to be their best mode of operation on offense this fall. Georgia is producing some absolutely gaudy numbers a quarter of the way into the season. Including games against two Top 25 opponents, the Bulldogs are averaging 304 yards a game, which is second in the SEC only to Arkansas (324.5). Georgia’s 7.73 yards per rush is second only to Wisconsin in FBS national statistics. The school record for a season is 5.64 yards per carry (1992).

Could it be that with Todd Gurley, Sony Michel and Nick Chubb all averaging 9.5 yards or better per carry the Bulldogs should just resign themselves to being a running team in 2014?

“It’s possible,” Richt concluded. “There’s no doubt they’re a talented bunch of backs and we’re run-blocking pretty darn good. It’s not a bad way to play a ballgame. It helps play-action pass. We like doing that. We always have.”

2. If you were watching Georgia’s sideline much this past Saturday you might have noticed there was a little more animation among the coaches. Well, at least one coach. And in particular during kickoffs. And the Bulldogs had a lot of those.

The coach was first-year UGA coach Mike Ekeler – aka “Coach Red Bull” – and he was pacing the sidelines for the Bulldogs for the first time on Saturday.

“It was the first game he was on the ground for us,” Richt said. “He was up (in the coaches’ box) the first couple of games but we decided to bring him down. Part of the reason was to get him to where he could really look the guys in the eyes on the special teams and the coverage teams, punt return and block in particular. I’ve got both the coaches on the ground now that handle our special teams and we think that’s a good thing.”

A better question might be why Ekeler wasn’t on the sidelines for the first two games. Wherever he has coached – Nebraska, LSU, Southern Cal – Ekeler has always been known for his boundless energy and infectious spirit on the sidelines. He actually earned an endorsement deal with the energy drink maker Red Bull because of his frenetic sideline histrionics.

“There’s some coaching going on but there’s also some energy production that Ekeler has,” Richt said of his defensive special teams coordinator and inside linebackers coach. “He’s just got that kind of personality. So it’s good to have him on the ground.”

Tramel Terry went high to record his first career interception against Troy this past Saturday, and it meant a lot to him. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Tramel Terry went high to record his first career interception against Troy this past Saturday, and it meant a lot to him. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

3. Other than preserving a shutout in a meaningless game against an over-matched opponent, Tramel Terry’s interception in the end zone on third-and-six with 6:03 remaining in the third quarter against Troy this past Saturday meant next to nothing. Unless, of course, you’re Tramel Terry.

The play gave Terry a confidence boost he desperately needed.

“I definitely needed that,” Terry told reporters after the Bulldogs’ 66-0 victory. “It’s been a long road that changed me totally as a person. I needed that just to know I can still do it. It was amazing.”

Terry’s UGA career has been draped in adversity since committed to the Bulldogs as the reigning Mr. Football in South Carolina during the fall of 2012. At the time, he was an All-America receiver and kick-returner.

But then there was a major knee injury in a high school all-star game, a redshirt year at Georgia, a position change to defensive back and being buried on the depth chart at safety.

“I feel like this game could help me get some more playing time,” Terry said. “But either way, I’m just trying to bust my behind every day like I do. And the coaches see it.”

Terry’s playing time Saturday came with a number change. Because he was going to be on special teams at the same time as Sony Michel, he had to switch from the No. 1 he’s had since 2013 to No. 28, the number formerly worn by Tray Matthews. He wasn’t thrilled about it at first, but he’ll take it over not playing.

His coaches are taking notice.

“He’s very eager to please and do well,” Richt said. “We’ll see where it goes from here. But at least he had an opportunity to play. He made a nice play for our team and helped preserve a shutout.”

4. Don’t look now, but there is evidence that another super star is emerging from UGA’s Dan Magill Tennis Complex. Wayne Montgomery, a freshman from South Africa, just won his second consecutive tournament and improved to 10-0 since he started competing for the Bulldogs this fall.

On Sunday, Montgomery defeated Oklahoma State’s Arjun Kudhe, 6-0, 6-1 in the Cajun Classic finals in LaFayette, La. A week ago today, he won the championship match of the Southern Intercollegiates in Athens. In nine competitive days of play, Montgomery has now beaten players ranked 3, 49, 56, 82 and 89 in collegiate tennis.

“I don’t know that that has been done before,” UGA tennis coach Manuel Diaz said of Montgomery’s 10-0 start. “He has taken advantage of every opportunity so far that has been presented to him. It’s exciting to work with him and he enjoys being out there and competing. I think he is making a big difference on our squad with the other guys who are watching him play. He is certainly going to continue to improve because he’s working hard and being very diligent.”

We’ll really get to see what Montgomery is made of in Georgia’s next tournament. The Bulldogs will compete in the ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa, Okla., Sept. 29-Oct. 5.

5. Georgia’s soccer team continues show great promise this season. After moving into the Top 25 rankings last week, the No. 24 Bulldogs (6-1-1, 1-0-1 SEC) on Sunday used three second-half to earn a 3-1 come-from-behind victory over Vanderbilt at the UGA Soccer Stadium. Sophomore Marion Crowder accounted for two of the goals.

Georgia has now won five straight games. But that will be put the test this coming weekend as they hit the road for two games, at Florida and at South Carolina.


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