- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
ATHENS, Ga. -- Asked after Wednesday’s practice to offer a midseason report card for his coaching staff, Georgia coach Mark Richt said last Saturday’s 35-7 loss at South Carolina didn’t necessarily spoil what had been an otherwise exciting first half.
But it definitely created reason to reassess what the Bulldogs’ coaches and players should have done differently.
“Overall I think we’ve coached really well. A lot of really good things have been happening,” said Richt, whose team dropped from No. 5 to 14 in the Associated Press Top 25 after the loss. “But when you lose a game the way we did, we need to evaluate everything.”
Richt said the electric atmosphere at South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium reminded him of Georgia’s home win against Auburn in 2007 -- the Bulldogs’ famous first “Blackout” game in which they wore black jerseys for the first time and the black-clad fans followed suit.
“I know for a fact that we weren’t that much better than Auburn,” Richt said. “If we’d have played them over and over and over, I don’t think it would have been quite like that, but it was just one of those days where it just went well. ... This game was a little bit like that for South Carolina.”
Nonetheless, Richt said he understands why Georgia fans are angry over the loss and offered no excuses about why the Bulldogs have not been as dominant on defense as they expected entering the season.
“We’ve given up too many big plays,” he said. “Some of that’s been gap control, some of that’s just been communication on the back end. I’m not going to make any excuses. We’ve just got to get better.”
Getting back to the original question, Richt said he still feels good about the job his staff and players are doing and kept things positive about the remainder of the season.
“I guess the best way to answer that question is I think we’ve got really good coaches and good players and I think we’re still a very good team,” Richt said. “I think the future’s bright.”
Wooten's increased role: Malcolm Mitchell and Rantavious Wooten were among the most obvious choices to take over some of Michael Bennett’s receiving production when the Bulldogs’ leading receiver suffered a season-ending knee injury last Tuesday in practice.
The two combined to make seven of the team’s 11 receptions against South Carolina, with Wooten posting a team-high four receptions.
“They did throw the ball my way and I’m playing more, so I expect that,” said Wooten, who was targeted at least nine times against the Gamecocks. “You’ve got to make plays when your number’s called.”
Richt said Wooten “will step up, and he has,” as a pass catcher although the junior does not play the exact same position as Bennett. He didn’t think the unusually high number of targets for Wooten is necessarily a sign of anything to come.
“He just happened to have one of those games where he had a bunch more balls thrown his way,” Richt said.
House patrols: UGA’s campus police department told the Athens Banner-Herald earlier this week that it will patrol the house shared by quarterback Aaron Murray, tight end Arthur Lynch, linebacker Christian Robinson, snapper Ty Frix and fullback Dustin Royston on game nights when the Bulldogs play out of town.
The house was vandalized with eggs and toilet paper on Saturday night following the Bulldogs’ loss at South Carolina.
Lynch said he cleaned up the mess himself when they returned home around 3 a.m. Sunday. And while he said the attention from police was appreciated, it was unnecessary.
“I don’t need protection,” he laughed.
Lynch said the players had not made an effort to track down the vandals, laughing when he responded, “That’s the last thing we need is just big ogres from the football team looking around for little, innocent souls who [did it].”
Drew and JHC: Richt answered post-practice questions about sophomore defensive end Ray Drew and Josh Harvey-Clemons by noting that both players have not yet proven they deserve to play ahead of veterans.
“The bottom line for us as coaches is we want to put the guys in the game who we feel are most ready to play and gives us the best chance to win,” Richt said of Drew. “So you can’t really like a guy more than you like Ray Drew. He’s an awesome guy. And he’s a good football player, but he’s not to the point where he’s earned as much playing time as he probably wants at this point."
However, Harvey-Clemons will serve as a special-teams captain against Kentucky after performing well on three different special-teams units against South Carolina. He is the first true freshman since Rennie Curran in 2007 to be a game captain.
“I think the first coach who [nominated Harvey-Clemons] said Josh’s name said, ‘Well he’s a freshman, so he probably won’t be captain, but Josh did a good job.’ And then the other coaches said, ‘Well he did a good job for me,’ and ‘He did a good job for me,’ ” Richt said. “I’m like, ‘Well if he did the best job of everybody, he deserves to be captain. I don’t care if he’s a true freshman or not.’ But it’s just not that often that a true freshman will get that honor, and it is an honor.”
Injury update: Junior outside linebacker Jarvis Jones continued Wednesday to miss practice after spraining his ankle against South Carolina. Richt said on the SEC coaches teleconference earlier in the day that Jones would probably play if the Bulldogs had a game this Saturday.
Richt said two players suffered minor injuries when the team scrimmaged Wednesday, but would not name them and said he did not think the injuries would prevent them from playing against Kentucky next week.