November 27, 2011

Keeping composure key

For 12th-ranked Georgia in Saturday's SEC Championship at the Georgia Dome against top-ranked LSU, it's all about withstanding the flood - as in points the undefeated Tigers (12-0) have shown the proficiency for quick scoring during their surge to the top of the BCS standings.

Just ask Arkansas.

Last week, the Razorbacks jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead, but before you could say "Honey Badger," the Tigers exploded; scoring 41 of the next 44 points to blow past what was at the time the nation's third-ranked team.

"Everyone has to keep their composure and keep fighting," Georgia coach Mark Richt said during Sunday's teleconference with the media to preview Saturday's 4 p.m. game. "From what I see, it's not just the LSU offense that will make plays, the defense and special teams will make plays too. Before you know all three phases make a play that might result in 21 points in a short amount of time. If something bad happens, you have to shake it off, get back to work and regroup. If you let that get to you, then you're in bad shape."

The Tigers have more weapons than the Baton Rouge Air National Guard.

It starts with a stable of four running backs in Spencer Ware (687 yards, eight touchdowns, Alfred Blue (455 yards, six touchdowns), Michael Ford (721 yards, 7 touchdowns) and Kenny Hilliard (248 yards, six touchdowns).

Combine that with a pair of talented quarterbacks in Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson, one of the conference's top receivers in 6-4 Reuben Randle, the nation's second-ranked defense and a dangerous special teams led by the Honey Badger himself, Tyrann Mathieu, it's pretty easy to see how the Tigers have been able to roll past opponents in the way they have for most of the year.

"There's a real competitive energy, if you will that just starts early with my team and it's one of those things where you can feel a want, and a desire in different points in these games that it appears," Miles said. "I think it's a mark of a very good football team in that when we're called upon to raise your level of performance to exceed that of your performance, its competition and I think our football team does that."

It's been a steady climb back to the top for LSU since winning the 2007 national title.

After finishing 8-5 in 2008, the Tigers followed that up with a 9-4 season in 2009 before going 11-2 last fall to put the Tigers in position to win their third national crown in the last 10 years.

"I don't think we've done anything differently. I think there's an issue that takes place after you've won a national championship and it's one of those things as a coach I probably did a pretty poor job of managing it," Miles said. "There's an entitlement, no want, then expected to, all those things that take in some way away from your competitiveness and I think there's a piece that happens there I didn't do a great job with in the 2008 and 2009 year."

Georgia has obviously endured some dips of its own, following up the 10-win season of 2008 with years of going 8-5 in 2009 and 6-7 last fall before posting the program's 10th victory for the 6th time in Richt's 11 years as coach after beating Georgia Tech 31-17 Saturday in Atlanta.

This did, however, mark the first time under Richt that the Bulldogs have achieved 10-win status after starting the season 0-2.

"It was a long, hard fight for us," Richt said. "We lost out first game in league play against South Carolina and were stuck behind them for quite awhile. We knew if we kept battling, we had a chance to win the East. We improved week by week and finally got the help that we needed to get to the championship game. We were really excited to get the win over Georgia Tech last weekend, but our young men have turned their focus to this weekend."

But LSU is a different kind of cat, and Richt knows it will take an effort of Herculean proportions to pull the upset.

Las Vegas oddsmakers have tabbed the Bulldog as a 10-point underdog.

"We have done a lot of good things since game two that have helped us get the chance to play for the title. LSU is strong, quick and physical up front on both sides of the ball. Their front seven is tough and athletic; their defensive backs are fast and great cover guys who play with a lot of confidence," Richt said. "I have seen enough film of them on offense that I know that they tend to wear people out during the game. Their goal is to break the spirit of every time that they play. I don't know how we stack up against them but we'll find out this weekend."

INJURY UPDATE: Richt said that defensive end DeAngelo Tyson who came out of Saturday's game against Georgia Tech on the second play with an injured ankle, will not practice Monday. His status for Saturday is unknown. … Richt does expect freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell to be back at practice Monday and expects him to play Saturday. Richt held Crowell (ankle) out against Georgia Tech. … Richt said he's "hopeful' that running back Richard Samuel will be back in the lineup after injuring his ankle on the game's final play against Florida. … Georgia moved up one spot to No. 12 in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll.