Scrimmage leaves Mark Richt feeling a bit down

semerson@macon.comAugust 15, 2012 

ATHENS -- Mark Richt is famous for his laid-back demeanor, or lack of fire, as many would put it. So by praising only faintly, it served as a severe admonishment for his Georgia football team.

The occasion was the second preseason scrimmage Wednesday at Sanford Stadium. The event was closed to the media, but the tone in the head coach’s voice indicated his disapproval.

“Like I told the team, I thought we looked like a pretty good team. But you know, pretty good’s about 8-4,” Richt said. “Maybe 9-3 if you’re lucky. But we’d like to do better than 8-4. And that’s about how we played (Wednesday).”

Georgia enters the season as the favorite to win the SEC East and ranked No. 6 in the preseason USA Today coaches’ poll. The good news for the team is it has 16 days until its opener against unheralded Buffalo to get any issues sorted out.

Following last week’s scrimmage, Richt was upbeat. This time, not so much.

“I saw some good things,” he said. “But I saw a lot of bad things.”

It started with turnovers, especially by the quarterbacks.

Aaron Murray and backups Hutson Mason, Christian LeMay and Parker Welch each fumbled once.

“Every time the quarterback got touched, they fumbled the ball,” Richt said.

“I didn’t really have two hands on the ball in the pocket. The guy swiped it away from me, and I’ve gotta be more careful,” said Murray, who has had a couple of costly fumbles in his two years as a starter, most notably during last year’s South Carolina game. “There’s big bodies are flying around, and I’ve gotta have two hands on the ball to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Murray, Mason and LeMay all were charged with an interception.

Still, Murray seemed to have a much different impression of the scrimmage than his head coach.

“I’ve already watched the film. I thought we had a great day offensively. We scored, I think, 50 percent of the time. We scored six touchdowns. I think we took a step forward,” Murray said. “Were we perfect, no, but we have 16 days to continue working and continue working better. And I think if we continue on this pace, we’ll be good.”

Richt and Murray did agree on one thing: The tailbacks looked good.

For a second straight scrimmage, freshman Todd Gurley was the star. After racking up 58 rushing yards and a touchdown last week, Gurley improved on that with 87 rushing yards and two touchdowns, according to Georgia. For good measure, he added two catches for 22 yards.

But even with Gurley, Richt was playing a bit of Debbie Downer. Richt cautioned that much of Gurley’s yardage Wednesday came on a touchdown run of 60-plus yards. Fellow freshman Keith Marshall had 62 yards on five carries, the same yards-per-carry average.

Still, Richt did say the overall rushing yardage was a good sign and that the unproven offensive line had created some space.

“If you’re a good rushing team, you’ll break a big run,” Richt said. “If a guy has a 5.5-yard average, he’s probably got some 2-yard runs in there and a couple he popped big. So it was nice to see that for the offense. Not for defense.”

Murray remains impressed with both freshman tailbacks.

“They aren’t ... freshman running backs that are gonna stick their nose in there and try to run Kwame Geathers over,” Murray said, alluding to the 355-pound Georgia nose tackle. “But if they had to do it, they would try to do it. Those kids aren’t scared of anything, and they’ve shown it all camp.”

But Richt’s analysis remained a litany of things he didn’t like, including the fact the first-team defense was scored on by the second-team offense. At one point Brandon Harton, currently the fifth-string tailback, uncorked a long run to set up a touchdown. Richt also didn’t like the first-team defense yielding a goal-line touchdown. The first-team offense was 1-for-2 in goal-line simulation.

“Was every guy busting his tail on every play? No,” Richt said. “I don’t know. I didn’t see a team that was ready to be great. I saw a team that was still pretty good. So I just wasn’t that thrilled about it.”

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