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richt's new approached pays off for georgia.. also great injury news.


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athens, ga. the rest of the southeastern conference is catching on to what georgia's players discovered this summer.

mark richt is a changed man.

"he's having fun," georgia quarterback matthew stafford said saturday after the bulldogs' 45-20 rout of auburn. "there are different attitudes to every team, and i think he's realized this team is a loose team that has fun and is ready to go. i think he's having a lot of fun letting himself go a little bit."

richt, a devout christian, has won nearly 80 percent of his games at georgia by focusing on discipline. but the man with the strait-laced reputation has shown this year he also knows how to cut loose.

the difference is evident on the field.

would the richt of previous seasons have encouraged georgia to celebrate after scoring a touchdown against florida, even if it resulted in a penalty or two? would he have argued with officials as vociferously as he did late in the first half of the auburn game? better yet, would he have given in to his players' constant requests to wear black jerseys? the bulldogs wore the black shirts for the first time since the 1940s saturday in a motivational ploy that helped georgia grab a quick two-touchdown lead.

"never in a million years," georgia tailback thomas brown said. "the past years that i've been here, i would say coach richt never would have done anything like that. he wouldn't allow us to have a celebration penalty in the end zone. he wouldn't let us wear black jerseys. but he's relaxing a little bit more, opening up and kind of trusting his players a little more."

the results speak for themselves.

georgia (8-2 overall, 5-2 in the sec) has scored at least 40 points in three consecutive games for the first time since its 1942 national-championship season. and it has beaten florida and auburn in the same year for the first time since 1982.

the bulldogs' recent success probably has more to do with the presence of stafford and knowshon moreno in the backfield than anything else, but richt's midseason adjustments shouldn't be ignored.

richt said he knew something had to change after georgia's embarrassing 35-14 loss to tennessee last month. the bulldogs' lackadaisical attitude against the volunteers bothered richt so much that he declared he never wanted to live though a game like that again.

"not fighting back was sickening to me and to the team," richt said. "i was as big a part of it as anybody, maybe the biggest problem."

georgia's players believe they noticed a difference in richt long before that game. senior wide receiver sean bailey noted that this marked the first year richt had one-on-one conversations with each player for 15 to 20 minutes before the start of the season.

richt had more time to get to know his players better after handing over the play-calling responsibilities to offensive coordinator mike bobo. bailey believed the discussions helped richt learn more about this team's personality and also allowed the players to get a better understanding of their coach.

"i really wouldn't have imagined too many teams have their head coach sit down with every player in the locker room starter, senior, freshman and just get to know them," bailey said. "(we were) not even talking about football. (we were) talking about life and things of that nature. i think that's very beneficial for our team."

the changes started to pay off when georgia faced longtime nemesis florida three weeks after the tennessee fiasco. desperate to gain some type of psychological edge over a rival that had won 15 of its past 17 meetings with the bulldogs, richt told his team to celebrate its first touchdown without worrying about a potential penalty.

when moreno reached the end zone in the first quarter, almost the entire georgia team left the sideline to celebrate with the offense. richt emphasized that he didn't expect the entire team to pour onto the field and wrote a letter of apology to the sec the next week, but the results indicate the celebration paid dividends. georgia seemed much more relaxed than usual the rest of the day, and defeated the defending national champions 42-30.

richt proved saturday he had one more psychological ploy up his sleeve. all week, richt had remained coy about the widespread rumors that georgia planned to wear black jerseys. richt had said earlier in the week that the team's seniors wanted all the fans to wear black to the game.

"you can't just snap your fingers and get them," richt noted earlier in the week. "you can't do it."

it turned out he already had them.

richt had told georgia's seniors this summer that he had ordered black jerseys for the team to wear against auburn. the seniors have struggled to keep the secret since.

"even last night, my roommate, (sophomore defensive tackle) kade weston, i wanted to tell him so bad," senior center fernando velasco said. "i tried to just go to sleep so i wouldn't tell him because he was saying how it would be great and awesome if coach richt let us wear black.

"right then i was about to tell him. i'd kept the secret for so long. i had to hold it for one more night."

the manner in which georgia unveiled the black uniforms illustrated richt's newfound flair for the dramatic.

georgia's captains velasco, defensive end marcus howard, cornerback asher allen and kicker brandon coutu walked onto the field in red jerseys about 10 minutes before the opening kickoff. as the captains lined up in red at midfield to wait for the coin toss, the rest of the team stormed onto the field wearing black. when the captains returned to the sideline after the coin toss, they pulled off their red jerseys to reveal black shirts underneath.

a similarly dramatic moment had occurred in the locker room a few minutes earlier. the team held a few moments of silence for reflection and prayer in a dark locker room just before heading onto the field. when the lights came back on and revealed the black jerseys in each locker, the underclassmen responded as if they were kids on christmas morning.

"these jerseys aren't going to help us win," richt told former georgia star defensive end david pollack, who was in the locker room for the unveiling. "we're not going to win the game because of the jerseys."

"you know what, though, that's half the battle," pollack replied.

reflecting on that conversation after the game, richt understood pollack's point.

"that is half the battle," richt said. "half the battle is energy. the other half is execution."

georgia wasted no time capitalizing on the emotional jolt it received from wearing the black jerseys.

on the game's first play from scrimmage, kelin johnson picked off a brandon cox pass to set up a 32-yard field goal by coutu. the sellout crowd made so much noise that auburn had to burn two timeouts on its first six snaps. the bulldogs led 17-3 less than 20 minutes into the game.

"them coming out in black is something that coach richt did to get his team fired up, and they responded," auburn defensive end quentin groves said. "it's not a fashion show, but they sure did look good in them."

at times the bulldogs seemed too fired up for their own good. georgia was flagged 10 times for 98 yards, including a roughing-the-passer penalt

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offensive player of the game georgia tb knowshon moreno rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns to become only the second player to reach the century mark against auburn this season (mississippi state's anthony dixon rushed for 103 yards in a sept. 15 upset of the tigers). moreno's two touchdown runs in the third quarter turned a 20-17 deficit into a 31-20 advantage. moreno also threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to mohamed massaquoi that was nullified by an illegal-procedure penalty.

defensive player of the game georgia ss kelin johnson picked off two passes from auburn qb brandon cox, who entered the game having thrown 89 consecutive passes without an interception. johnson's first interception came on the game's first play from scrimmage and set up brandon coutu's 32-yard field goal. hs second interception led to a 3-yard touchdown run by moreno that gave georgia a 31-20 advantage.

turning point auburn had scored 17 consecutive points to take a 20-17 lead when georgia faced second-and-13 from its 29 in the third quarter. that's when georgia quarterback matthew stafford hit sean bailey for a 45-yard gain down the auburn sideline. two plays later, moreno rushed 24 yards around left end to put the bulldogs ahead for good.

surprise performance georgia tailback thomas brown had missed georgia's past three games with a broken collarbone, but you wouldn't have known it from the way he ran saturday. brown rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries and grew stronger as the game progressed. brown rushed for 65 yards in the fourth quarter, including a 53-yard breakaway that set up brannan southerland's 1-yard touchdown run.

dr. jekyll and mr. cox something about georgia has brought out the worst in auburn's cox the past two years. cox threw four interceptions against the bulldogs for the second consecutive season and went 14 of 30 for 133 yards with one touchdown pass.

complete blackout? georgia coach mark richt's wife, katharyn, hands out drinks to georgia's players on the sideline during the games. she tried to participate in the sanford stadium blackout saturday by adding black food coloring to the team's supply of powerade. "purple was as close as we got," mark richt said.

what this means for georgia the bulldogs remain in the sec eastern division title picture, though georgia still needs tennessee to lose at least once. georgia also has a chance of earning a bcs at-large invitation without winning the division title if it finishes 10-2.

what this means for auburn the tigers gave up any hope of earning a bcs bid after losing their fourth game of the season.

what this means for lsu the losses by auburn and alabama on saturday allowed lsu to clinch the sec western division title.

etc. georgia mascot uga vi got into the spirit of the sanford stadium blackout by also wearing black to the game. & auburn was ranked fifth in the nation in scoring defense and had allowed just 14.5 points per game before saturday. auburn hadn't allowed that many points to georgia in regulation since a 46-14 loss to the bulldogs in 1951. & moreno has rushed for 1,104 yards this season, which ranks eighth in school history. & georgia had picked off just four passes all season before intercepting cox four times saturday. & georgia went 5-for-5 in the red zone saturday and is now 37-of-39 from inside the opposing team's 20 this season. & auburn had won 15 consecutive games in its all-white uniforms before losing saturday.

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offensive player of the game georgia tb knowshon moreno rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns to become only the second player to reach the century mark against auburn this season (mississippi state's anthony dixon rushed for 103 yards in a sept. 15 upset of the tigers). moreno's two touchdown runs in the third quarter turned a 20-17 deficit into a 31-20 advantage. moreno also threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to mohamed massaquoi that was nullified by an illegal-procedure penalty.

defensive player of the game georgia ss kelin johnson picked off two passes from auburn qb brandon cox, who entered the game having thrown 89 consecutive passes without an interception. johnson's first interception came on the game's first play from scrimmage and set up brandon coutu's 32-yard field goal. hs second interception led to a 3-yard touchdown run by moreno that gave georgia a 31-20 advantage.

turning point auburn had scored 17 consecutive points to take a 20-17 lead when georgia faced second-and-13 from its 29 in the third quarter. that's when georgia quarterback matthew stafford hit sean bailey for a 45-yard gain down the auburn sideline. two plays later, moreno rushed 24 yards around left end to put the bulldogs ahead for good.

surprise performance georgia tailback thomas brown had missed georgia's past three games with a broken collarbone, but you wouldn't have known it from the way he ran saturday. brown rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries and grew stronger as the game progressed. brown rushed for 65 yards in the fourth quarter, including a 53-yard breakaway that set up brannan southerland's 1-yard touchdown run.

dr. jekyll and mr. cox something about georgia has brought out the worst in auburn's cox the past two years. cox threw four interceptions against the bulldogs for the second consecutive season and went 14 of 30 for 133 yards with one touchdown pass.

complete blackout? georgia coach mark richt's wife, katharyn, hands out drinks to georgia's players on the sideline during the games. she tried to participate in the sanford stadium blackout saturday by adding black food coloring to the team's supply of powerade. "purple was as close as we got," mark richt said.

what this means for georgia the bulldogs remain in the sec eastern division title picture, though georgia still needs tennessee to lose at least once. georgia also has a chance of earning a bcs at-large invitation without winning the division title if it finishes 10-2.

what this means for auburn the tigers gave up any hope of earning a bcs bid after losing their fourth game of the season.

what this means for lsu the losses by auburn and alabama on saturday allowed lsu to clinch the sec western division title.

etc. georgia mascot uga vi got into the spirit of the sanford stadium blackout by also wearing black to the game. & auburn was ranked fifth in the nation in scoring defense and had allowed just 14.5 points per game before saturday. auburn hadn't allowed that many points to georgia in regulation since a 46-14 loss to the bulldogs in 1951. & moreno has rushed for 1,104 yards this season, which ranks eighth in school history. & georgia had picked off just four passes all season before intercepting cox four times saturday. & georgia went 5-for-5 in the red zone saturday and is now 37-of-39 from inside the opposing team's 20 this season. & auburn had won 15 consecutive games in its all-white uniforms before losing saturday.

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thats great stuff. kelin johnson has been very good this year....hard to believe he was a recruiting afterthought. he's got solid athleticism, is very tough, and just flat out knows how to play. we need him out there.

kelin's story is great.. just like tra battle.. both stories are a reason why i love college football.

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thats great stuff. kelin johnson has been very good this year....hard to believe he was a recruiting afterthought. he's got solid athleticism, is very tough, and just flat out knows how to play. we need him out there.

kelin's story is great.. just like tra battle.. both stories are a reason why i love college football.

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