Richt Sunday teleconference highlights

Georgia coach Mark Richt spoke with reporters on a Sunday evening teleconference to review Saturday's win against Tennessee and look forward to next weekend's key SEC East matchup with South Carolina.

Here is what Richt had to say:

On what he was pleased/disappointed by against Tennessee:

I would have to say once everything happened the way it happened and we got down to the very end and we needed to make some plays, especially defensively, we were able to do that. It would have been nice, one thing we’ve got to improve on is our ability to get a couple of first downs at the end of a ballgame, force them to use some timeouts and run some clock. We just really haven’t done a good job of that in recent memory, so we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got to have a ... it’s not like we didn’t have a plan, we had a plan, but it just wasn’t good enough.

We didn’t knock out a first down when we needed it the most to try and take as much drama out of it at the very end, so we had to defend a couple times, and one last time with just 15 seconds. Even at that point the game was just one play away from being tied up, or a touchdown and two-point conversion, so I think I was pleased that we were able to make those plays when we needed to, and we’ve got to make sure we can get some first downs at the end if we’re in a position to do that again in the future.

On the concern in allowing 130 rushing yards to Tennessee in the second half, with Marcus Lattimore ahead:

There’s no doubt that we’ve got to stop the run at all times. Considering that we were in the lead, and at times two-touchdown leads, and Tennessee was patient enough to run the ball, they were patient enough to run the ball because they were having success running the ball. And at that point, if we could have been stopping the run a little bit better in the second half, they’d have had to take more risks. And at the very end, they had to take the risks, and we ended up getting a couple of picks and a sack and a fumble and a recovery, and those are things that you want to have happen when you’ve got a lead, but it didn’t happen until the very end instead of earlier in the second half.

But I think, again, it’s because Tennessee ran the ball well. They were willing to be patient with it. So we do need to shore it up. The thing that Tennessee had also that I think we all know is I think they had two of the finest receivers in America, as well, and really their third guy is pretty darn good, too, so there’s some dynamics there that would make it tough to just totally sell out to stop the run and play single coverage all night with those two big, tall, fast guys.

On what Tennessee did to keep Jarvis Jones under control:

I think the fact that they were able to run the ball well and mix the run, the play-action pass and at times they ran a lot of quick game. But there were times where they had to drop back and make plays and throw the ball, and I think there were times we put pressure on [Tyler] Bray, and Bray did a good job of throwing the ball away in a safe spot. But they just flat out can block, too. Their tackles are really big and athletic and very talented. So there’s a little bit of that going on, and you could slide a protection to a guy or get some type of a double team. But I just think they blocked well. I think that we just weren’t able to get there, and when we did get close enough, Bray did a pretty good job of getting rid of the ball instead of taking the sack.

On Lattimore’s previous success against Georgia:

He does seem to play even better as the game wears on. I think most defenses are, when they’re fresh and it’s early in the game, they run faster and they hit harder and they make less mistakes. I think as fatigue begins to set in in any particular game, or if a back begins to really finish his runs with some physicality, at times guys get tired of that.

Like even our man [Todd] Gurley, he was running in such a way where if you noticed by the end of the game, nobody wanted to take him on, other than just try to go low, try to shoot at his legs. And I think that’s what happens sometimes. People get tired of that pounding, and Lattimore’s been able to have enough stamina to pound people, and people begin to misfit just a little bit when fatigue sets in, and they’re not quite as strong when they tackle, and the guy starts breaking tackles. And all of a sudden you break one or two tackles and you get a lot of space and you get big runs, so I think it’s a combination of all those things.

On the magnitude of this weekend’s games:

By the end of the day, it’s possible that the winner of the South Carolina-Georgia game is either going to be tied for first or in first by themselves. So that’s going to be, just depending on what happens with the Florida-LSU game. So either way, the winner of that game is still going to be in first place, be in control of their own destiny. And the loser’s going to be two games behind that opponent. As we all know, head-to-head doesn’t help you, so if we were to lose, South Carolina would have to lose twice. If South Carolina loses, we have to lose twice to get them in, unless there’s some kind of three-way tie, which is possible as well. So yeah, it is a big, big game right now. When you start playing this deep into the conference season and you’ve got two undefeateds, it’s huge.

On facing South Carolina defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor:

They really are outstanding. There’s no doubt about it. They are super tall, athletic. They really have outstanding technique. They’re much more physical against the run than they were a year ago. They’re really complete players now, and there’s two of them, so you can’t just slide your protection to one guy without freeing up the other one to have some type of one-on-one situations, so there’s going to be times when we’ll probably do a little chipping and double teaming and sliding, but there’s going to be times where guys are just going to have to man up and block them.

So hopefully we’ll have a good enough mix of run and pass and play-action pass that we’ll keep them where they’re not 100 percent sure we’re just dropping back and throwing the football. I think that’s when they do the most damage, when it comes to pass rush. But hopefully we can do a good job of the combination of sliding protection to one of them or chipping a guy on the way out or double teaming sometimes with the tight end and the tackle, whatever it takes to get the ball off. We’ve just got to be able to find ways to keep them just a little bit off-balance.

On preparing for the South Carolina game a month later in the season than usual:

I think the biggest difference, really, is we’ll be watching this year’s film instead of last year’s film. I think that’s one of the biggest differences. You never know for sure what somebody has up their sleeve from one year to the next, having an entire offseason to assess their personnel and think about what type of personality that team has and what they think their strengths are. And so when you play them really early, you’re going to see some things that you probably didn’t prepare for, and that makes them a little bit tougher to defend.

But this far into the season, there will still be a certain percentage of things that might be new, because people just tend to have a little bit of a package that might be different from what they’ve done all year long. But for the most part, we have probably already seen on film or will see on film the great majority of what they’re going to do in the game, and that, I think, is probably the biggest difference.