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richt s growth as coach keeps dogs among elite

by mark bradley | saturday, november 3, 2007, 08:14 pm

the atlanta journal-constitution

athens mark richt proved he could win fast and win big, and the question you ask of someone who wins fast and big is: can he keep winning with the next bunch of players? richt did, winning the 2005 sec title without most of the key guys from 2002. that done, there s only question left for the firmly established coach: what happens when the roll becomes a slog?

bad things inevitably happen even to the best programs, but what makes a program special is the capacity to absorb a blow and hit back harder. florida had to fire ron zook for that to happen. tennessee is still trying to regain the ground lost since 2001. and georgia, which had little go wrong over four blissful years, has run into a series of ruts these last two seasons.

a year ago the bulldogs were 6-4 and no cinch to win again. they d lost four of five games. they had auburn and georgia tech remaining. and then richt won one of the two or three biggest games he ll ever win, toppling the no. 5 tigers on the road by 22 points.

because those bulldogs didn t lose another, it was convenient to believe that georgia was georgia again. it wasn t quite. the 2007 edition was overvalued early. too many people focused on last season s finish and not the rampant youth of this roster. lo and behold, the bulldogs lost two of their first four conference games and were pronounced dead in the sec east.

the division was all but conceded to florida, last year s champ, or the upstarts south carolina and kentucky. but here it is november and the bulldogs sit ahead of all three, not fully in control of their destiny but still with a shot to play in the georgia dome come dec. 1. and the reason they are where they are is their coach.

it wouldn t be enough in 2007 for richt to coach the way he did in 2001. the bar [in the sec] has been raised, he said, and he had to get even better or see his team slip. he has gotten even better. he ceded play-calling duties to mike bobo, and the effect is that the head coach now sees the bigger picture, not just down and distance.

the much-discussed celebration in jacksonville probably wouldn t have been ordered up a year ago. he would have been more focused on the game plan, said receiver sean bailey. this way, he can be creative and think of something that will fire the team up.

whatever you thought of the method, you cannot deny that richt s penalized ploy had the desired effect. it changed the dynamics of a series that, from a bulldog perspective, sorely needed changing. and that game changed a season, same as the auburn game changed the last one.

we re coming to game 10, richt said saturday after his team fought through the inevitable post-gators letdown to dispatch a pretty good troy team. and to still have almost all your goals in front of you, that s a great thing.

it is. it s also the mark of an elite program to be in championship contention with a team not nearly its best. these bulldogs don t do anything particularly well they don t rank among the sec s top three in any significant offensive or defensive category but they ve been coached to something approximating capacity.

yes, that s testimony to richt s assistants, but mainly it s another validation of richt. he flouted personal tendencies with the orchestrated celebration, and that s a sign of a coach working at his job. he took a risk. he accepted the consequences. he won another huge game.

and now he has more huge games to play. sure, the bulldogs could lose to auburn next saturday, but the important thing is that georgia is, after a one-year hiatus, again playing games of importance in the nation s best conference. if we take care of business at home, richt said, we re going to end up having a tremendous year.

if there were any remaining questions about richt, they ve all been answered. he stamped himself as a great coach five years ago, and he s even greater now.

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uga hasn't beaten uf/auburn in the same year since the hw days.. but usually uf and auburn are back to back games anyways except for this year.. uga has a chance to do something pretty big for this team and imo many of us didn't think we would have this chance due to the youth all over this starting lineup.

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uga hasn't beaten uf/auburn in the same year since the hw days.. but usually uf and auburn are back to back games anyways except for this year.. uga has a chance to do something pretty big for this team and imo many of us didn't think we would have this chance due to the youth all over this starting lineup.

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if we pull out the sec east this year, i will be shocked. i predicted a mediocre year with our young d and oline...a win against auburn would be incredible.

i didn't predict mediocre, i thought we would have a good year, but if uga wins out and wins the sec east that's more than just good.

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if we pull out the sec east this year, i will be shocked. i predicted a mediocre year with our young d and oline...a win against auburn would be incredible.

i didn't predict mediocre, i thought we would have a good year, but if uga wins out and wins the sec east that's more than just good.

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