October 9, 2011

Still much work to do

As Georgia gets ready to begin the second half of the season Saturday night at Vanderbilt, the Bulldogs will do so knowing they will be without leading receiver Malcolm Mitchell.

Mitchell injured his hamstring while catching a 71-yard pass from Aaron Murray in the third quarter of the team's 20-12 win at Tennessee.

"He is out of the question," Richt said of Mitchell, who tops the Bulldogs with 25 catches for 438 yards and three touchdowns.

So, when will he return?

Georgia has an off weekend following its game against the Commodores, before playing Florida in Jacksonville on Oct. 29.

"We're hopeful for that, yeah," said Richt, who did not offer any more details as to the severity of Mitchell's injury, one which the Bulldogs no doubt hope heals soon.

With Saturday's victory, the Bulldogs (4-2, 3-1) and South Carolina (5-1, 3-1) sit atop the East Division standings, although the Gamecocks still obviously hold the tiebreaker by virtue of their victory over Georgia last month.
But with four straight victories - including three straight in conference play - at least the Bulldogs have put themselves in position to be a player in the East, providing of course they keep winning.

Although progress has been made - certainly from a defensive perspective - Richt isn't ready to say his team has turned any sort of corner just yet.

"We're getting there. I don't know if it's just one steady bit of growth in all areas, or one area tends to do better one week, but overall I think we are getting better," he said. "I think we're gaining confidence in each other. We're still not to the point where we're able to finish a team if we've got ourselves in position to do that."

Take Saturday's win over the Vols, for example.

After using a pair of Isaiah Crowell touchdowns to forge a 20-6 lead, Georgia was driving and approaching the Volunteer Red Zone when three straight holding calls, along with a personal foul penalty on tight end Orson Charles, forced the Bulldogs into a fourth-and-58 before eventually punting back the ball.

Tennessee would eventually score a touchdown on a 1-yard plunge by backup quarterback Matt Simms before Shawn Williams blocked the extra point to keep the lead at 20-12.

Still, the Vols technically remained in the game before failing to convert an onside kick that allowed Georgia to run out the clock.

"That was a big deal for us to try and do, even on that one drive where we had all the penalties. We're getting right in position, at least we hoped, to at least get a field goal and make it a 17 point game going into the fourth quarter where Tennessee would have to score three times to win the ball game," Richt said. "We got right to that point where it looked like it was pretty certain we were going to be in field goal range, then all of a sudden we're punting, having to play defense and then they score and we're working having to deal with an onside kick. There's too much drama from what could have been, so we've got to try and continue to keep that from happening. So yeah, I think we're getting better, but we have not reached our potential, that's for sure."

Richt said he would like to see his Bulldogs eventually get to the point where there's not so much drama at the end of games.

"Who knows if we get a team in that position again? It may be a dogfight to the very last tick of the clock from here on in. The bottom line is we have to keep focusing on the process, the blocking, the tackling and the assignments. I was thankful we had no turnovers. I thought we wrapped up the ball well," Richt said. "Isaiah did have the fumble, but the ball went out of bounds fortunately, but we didn't spit up the ball in any other situation. We've got to become, maybe not penalty free, but definitely not the kind of penalties like we had in that one drive. Special teams seem to be settling down a little bit, so hopefully we will get better there, too."

NOTES: Richt said running back Isaiah Crowell's wrist injury is not that big of a concern. "He held onto the ball pretty good and that's a good indication of how bad it hurts," Richt said. "Nothing is broken in there, but it's just that some time, a certain spot gets hit and it hurts pretty good; you get it wacked and it lights up again. We hope to let it settle down during the week to get it back to zero as far as the pain. … Richt said he's been inundated with calls and texts from well-wishers, including many former players, after winning his 100th game Saturday. "I get a certain amount of texts after every game, but it was double because of this," he said. "A lot of former players have chimed in, including some guys I haven't heard from in a while. It's been neat." … Richt said he still had no new information regarding the status of offensive lineman Kolton Houston who is dealing with continues to be described as an "NCAA situation."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]