Fourth quarter becomes first priority at Georgia

semerson@macon.comAugust 7, 2011 

ATHENS -- The signs went up this summer and are impossible to miss. They’re tacked onto poles around the weight room at the Georgia football facility, visible to players at every turn.

They are reminders. They list the scores of games that the Bulldogs have won through the years because of strong finishes and strong fourth quarters. And the reminders go back years.

“It goes back to the ’80s, too,” receiver Rantavious Wooten said.

They leave out last year, however, because the fourth quarters -- and second quarters, too -- are part of the reason the team’s offseason program was overhauled.

Plenty of attention was given last December when Joe Tereshinski was put in charge of the team’s strength and conditioning program. The “strength” part of Tereshinski’s title got the initial emphasis. But the more time went on, it became evident that the “conditioning” part was just as important, if not more so.

The stats show that when it came to stamina, the Bulldogs got worse as the game went on last year.

Georgia outscored opponents 222-95 in the first and third quarters. But it was outscored 92-68 in the fourth and dropped its only overtime game. And throw out the blowout wins over Idaho State and Louisiana-Lafayette, and opponents also beat Georgia in the second quarter, by a margin of 90-68.

“That’s all we talk about is fourth quarter, fourth quarter,” senior defensive end DeAngelo Tyson said. “That was our weakness last year in losing some games. If we’d played harder in the fourth quarter, maybe we wouldn’t have gone 6-7.”

The struggles were particularly glaring in two games:

Auburn, the eventual BCS champion, outscored Georgia 14-0 in both the second and fourth, the difference in a 49-31 final.

In the Liberty Bowl, Georgia scored its only points (two field goals) in the first and third quarters, while Central Florida got its only points (a field goal and touchdown) in the second and fourth.

Losses at South Carolina and Mississippi State also saw decisive fourth quarters. And the Georgia Tech game, although a Bulldogs win, wouldn’t have been close if not for Georgia losing the second and fourth periods by a combined 27-14.

The offense, which set records last year, only scored 16 percent of its points in the final quarter. And opponents scored 66 percent of their points on the Bulldogs in the second and fourth quarters.

From the start, Tereshinski put an emphasis on finishing games better, which meant conditioning. Players were asked to work out for longer and run more.

During Saturday’s practice, Tereshinski was on a lower field, working with five injured players. The assistant coach was running the players through conditioning drills and push-ups.

For the rest of the team, fatigue started to step in later in practice. Head coach Mark Richt -- who like some players was wearing a wristband that said “No complaining” -- seemed concerned.

“We couldn’t focus when we were tired, which was a big part of our demise a year ago,” he said.

The Bulldogs are banking on the conditioning changes proving to be a major difference from previous seasons. Of course, it’s hard to really gauge that until real games are played and tangible results are shown.

But junior defensive end Abry Jones said you could tell a difference already.

“We saw a little bit of difference in the spring, and I think a lot of people felt better,” Jones said. “But I think when it comes to the game I think people are going to see a big difference. We run better. Our wind (spring) stamina is a lot better, so I think we’ll be able to see a good difference.”

Still, cornerback Brandon Boykin answered “absolutely” when asked if they’d only know for sure when the season plays out. Then the cornerback pointed to last year’s statistics, the ones from the second and fourth quarters.

“We didn’t really train to be consistent and to be able to keep up our energy throughout that game,” Boykin said. “You really can’t tell until you’re in that game-type situation.”

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