Bulldogs have some fine tuning to do

semerson@macon.comSeptember 15, 2013 

ATHENS -- Mark Richt spent his bye weekend being as lazy as possible, then began his game week being as cautious as possible.

In two weeks, the Georgia football team has what sets up to be yet another top-10 matchup, one that should decide the course of its season. But before that the Bulldogs must deal with unheralded North Texas, a 32-point underdog according to the Las Vegas opening lines.

Richt opened his Sunday teleconference by speaking less to media members and more to his team.

“You don’t have to look very far. This past weekend you saw Michigan playing Akron, and I don’t know what their mindset was going into the game, but I’m sure what it was when the game was over,” Richt said.

Michigan barely escaped with a four-point win over Akron on Saturday, the Wolverines’ defense having to hold three times inside the 5-yard line as the game ended. Akron is coming off three straight 1-11 seasons, and Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan called the close win “an embarrassment to Michigan football.”

North Texas (2-1) rallied Saturday to beat Ball State, but its recent history isn’t too much better than Akron. The Mean Green haven’t had a winning season in more than a decade.

So for Georgia the goal -- an unstated one -- will be to get ahead early and rest the regulars for next week’s showdown against No. 6 LSU, which hosts Auburn on Saturday.

Georgia (1-1) stayed at No. 9 in the AP poll and No. 10 in the USA Today coaches poll. The team is coming off a bye week, and Richt said he took the weekend easy, spending Friday night and some of Saturday at his lake house, watching some football that afternoon and night.

“And (Sunday) about as lazy a day as you could hope for at this time of year,” Richt said.

Much of the focus for Georgia this week will be on defense, which has yielded 68 points 921 yards, albeit to two tough foes.

“We’ve got to become better tacklers; we’ve got to communicate better in the back end, get more pressure on the quarterback,” Richt said. “There’s just a lot of things that we’ve gotta get better at defensively.”

Richt reiterated that all players not out for the season should be able to play against North Texas. That includes left tackle Kenarious Gates, No. 2 tailback Keith Marshall, No. 2 tight end Jay Rome and reserve receiver Jonathan Rumph.

Georgia has a good recent track record of avoiding the monumental upset. It was close for a bit last year with Buffalo and Florida Atlanta before pulling away for convincing victories.

Still, a low-stress tune-up in between top-10 matchups would be a nice respite for the Bulldogs.

“We’ve got a long way to go in a lot of areas,” Richt said. “We’re still fighting hard to find out how good of a team we can become. The season’s so young, and there’s a lot of guys that know that there’s a lot of things that they’ve gotta improve on as individuals and as a team.”

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