September 18, 2009

Richt keeps pushing the positive

There's something about Saturday night's SEC matchup at Arkansas that makes Georgia coach Mark Richt want to start humming a tune.

Sure, there are aspects about his Bulldogs through two games that cause their share of concern.

But as Georgia (1-1) attempts to go to 2-0 in Southeastern Conference play, Richt continues to focus on the good instead of worrying about the bad.

"It's like that old song. You have to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative and don't mess with Mr. in between. That's what we are trying to do," Richt said. "We are trying to really look at the positive things and build off of them, eliminate the negative things and we'll be OK. We'll keep getting better if that happens."

There was certainly plenty to make Richt smile.

Offensively, quarterback Joe Cox was solid, completing 17 of 24 passes for201 yards and two scores, while Richard Samuel averaged 4.3 yards per carry by rushing for 65 on 15 attempts.

But it was freshman Branden Smith's 61-yard reverse that opened the most eyes, as the Atlanta freshman displayed the type of blazing speed that had the sellout crowd at Sanford Stadium shaking its collective head.

Brandon Boykin's 100-yard kickoff return did as well.

"We'll learn a lot more about our team, I can tell you that," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "Georgia already has had two great tests, against Oklahoma State and against South Carolina. We took care of our business to open the season. It will be a big test to match their speed."

Kickoff Saturday night is scheduled for 7:45 p.m. (ESPN).

The Razorbacks have had this game circled on their calendar for a while.

Even Petrino conceded that his players and staff spent much of the summer and preseason focused on the Bulldogs, despite its season-opener against unheralded Missouri State.

"I think the biggest advantage is the time to plan and focus on your opponent and even observe us," Richt said. "Sitting there and watching that TV copy is different than just watching the film that shows up. I think that, more than anything else is the biggest advantage. Now they have to go 11 in a row. I'm sure they aren't too thrilled about that."

That's not the only concern that Petrino has.

"They have already seen that level of speed in two games, and we haven't," Petrino said. "We have to make sure to come out and be aggressive and match them early."

Defensively, the Bulldogs know they'll have their work cut out.

It took a game-saving pass breakup by linebacker Rennie Curran to preserve Georgia's victory over South Carolina, which ran thirty more offensive plays than the Bulldogs, piling up 427 total yards.

The pass-happy Razorbacks will be looking to the do the same.

Between the 6-7 Ryan Mallett and freshman Tyler Wilson, Arkansas combined to throw for over 400 yards against Missouri State.

But Curran says the Bulldogs will be ready.

"I love the night atmosphere. We have extra time to sleep in the morning. We have time to watch film and to prepare and get our minds right. It's definitely good. The only bad thing is how late we get back from the game," he said. "We don't have much time to recover with practice the next day. But we realize that when we travel it's a business trip. We try to go over there, take care of business and come back home."

Richt hopes having defensive end Justin Houston back will help Georgia's defensive cause.

Houston missed the first two games while serving his two-game suspension for violating team rules and is coming back just in time after starter Roderick Battle went down with a torn ACL last week against the Gamecocks.

"He (Houston) has potential for sure. He was practicing that way in the spring. He has practiced well in the fall. Every day after practice he stayed and made sure he stayed in the best condition he could. He worked on his fundamentals on his own," Richt said. "He's very, very hungry right now. He could not stand not being there. It was tough on him, but he handled it like you would hope a young man would. I'm proud of how he handled his discipline. Now he's fired up. The guys are happy for him, I'm happy for him. I think Georgia people should be happy for him."

Saturday's matchup will also mark the first between Richt and Petrino, who served briefly as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons two years ago before taking the job with the Razorbacks.

"I never got to know him at all. I think the first time I met him was at the first SEC meeting we were both at. I can't say that I spend a lot of time with any of the Atlanta Falcon head coaches. I did happen to run into coach (Mike) Smith once or twice," Richt said. "He was at our pro day, and I got to talk to him there. We've had a few phone conversations, because he planned a clinic for all the high school coaches in the state, and he invited all the collegiate staffs to come. He personally called every one of the head coaches. He reached out more so maybe than others, but I don't expect anybody to reach out. Everybody is busy and doing their job, and I respect that."

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