ATHENS -- Mark Richt was listing the three goals he had set for his Georgia football players prior to Saturday’s 59-0 pasting of Coastal Carolina: Do their job with a lot of energy, play disciplined
“And I forgot the other thing I asked them to do,” Richt said. “But they did all three, and I’ll think of it before it’s over. It was really important back when the game started.”
He smiled, and there were laughs in the interview room.
For a day, the air was light again around Richt and the Bulldogs.
The pressure might return in a week, or it might have been back the moment the beleaguered head coach walked out of the room. The opponent was just Coastal Carolina, an overmatched FCS team.
But with Georgia’s biggest margin of victory since 1994, the Bulldogs felt they had accomplished something after starting the season with losses to top 10 teams Boise State and South Carolina.
“We’re definitely gonna get a lift,” said cornerback Damian Swann, one of many freshmen who saw increased playing time. “We’ve been having a bad taste in our mouths for the past two weeks. I think we played the hardest two games of anybody in college football, and last week we let one slip. This week we bounced back, and I think this is going to be a starting point, and we’re going to go downhill with it.”
The game was such a laugher that by the end Richt had to step in to prevent what he felt would be a mistake: Tight end Orson Charles playing defense.
The junior had apparently convinced defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to allow him to play on defense if the score became lopsided. Charles was heading onto the field with the defense late in the game, but that’s when Grantham ran the idea behind Richt, who vetoed it.
“There’s no way,” Richt said. “He was mad at me. But I said, ‘Look, Coach Grantham kept his promise to you, I made him break it.’ ”
There were so many stars and players making debuts that in the postgame locker room star tailback Isaiah Crowell was alone against a wall, few reporters seeking out the freshman’s time. That was in stark contrast to the past two weeks, when Crowell was one of the few bright spots.
Crowell had a good game himself, rushing for 86 yards and scoring the game’s first touchdown on a 27-yard dash up the middle.
“Everything is comfortable,” Crowell said. “The first game I was nervous and stuff. The second game was all right. This one it felt better.”
Georgia didn’t punt until the second drive of the second half. Starting quarterback Aaron Murray accounted for four touchdowns, leading the team to a touchdown on his first five drives. And then backup quarterback Hutson Mason accounted for two more touchdowns.
Coastal Carolina (2-1) was outgained 470-112 by Georgia, which basically emptied its bench of any player not being saved for a redshirt.
“It’s important that we got our confidence back,” safety Bacarri Rambo said. “There were a lot of people doubting us, and we all came together and played a good, physical game. I was proud of the effort.”
Physical was that third goal for the game that Richt initially forgot -- then remembered -- later in his news conference.
Richt had little to complain about, as even the mistakes were eventually turned around: Rambo fumbled the ball away after a long interception return, but the defense came right back and forced a punt. Branden Smith had a 74-yard punt return touchdown called back, but the offense scored on the ensuing drive anyway.
“(Saturday), they did about as well as we could ask them to do,” Richt said of his team.
But the attention turned back to a more important game just moments afterwards. Georgia next visits Mississippi, which is now 1-2 after falling 30-7 at Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Rebels head coach Houston Nutt has had his job status debated, just like Richt’s has been. There’s little doubt the moniker “Hot Seat Bowl” will be thrown around this week.
“I don’t think they’ll be happy,” Richt said of Ole Miss. “They’ll be defending their turf. They’ll certainly be playing for a lot of things.”