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October 3, 2007

Road success to be tested

ATHENS - After playing four of its first five games at home, Georgia won't return to Sanford Stadium until November.

That may not be all bad for the No. 12 Bulldogs.

Under coach Mark Richt, Georgia is 23-3 in an opponent's stadium, including a 9-2 road record against ranked teams. The road success includes three straight wins at Tennessee, where the Bulldogs play on Saturday.

Richt noted on Tuesday that Tennessee has won two of its last three games at Georgia, including a 51-33 runaway victory for the Vols at Sanford Stadium last season. That game helps keep Georgia from assuming another visit to Knoxville will bring another road win.

``Hopefully, we are able to handle it,'' Richt said. ``We have had success in the past on the road and I hope we can continue that.''

Georgia (4-1 overall, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) will return to the state of Tennessee next week to play at Vanderbilt. Then, following an off week, the Bulldogs will play Florida on the neutral site in Jacksonville. Georgia's next home game is Nov. 3 against Troy.

``By the time we get to the open date it will be interesting to see where we stand,'' Richt said. ``We have two big ones before we get a rest and I hope we have enough energy to get the job done.''

Georgia beat then-No. 16 Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Sept. 22 in the Bulldogs' only road game.

Georgia's first and second-year players including sophomore quarterback Matthew Stafford have never visited the 102,000-seat Neyland Stadium. Richt hopes the win at Alabama will give his young players the confidence for another big road victory.

``I think once you start having some success, guys start liking it,'' Richt said.

Fullback Brannan Southerland says players also start believing.

``Early in the season, with a bunch of young guys and this being one of their first times to travel, having a big road win like Alabama under their belt is only going to give them confidence going into Tennessee, which is another intimidating, hostile environment,'' Southerland said.

Excluding game at neutral sites, Georgia's only road losses under Richt came at No. 11 LSU in 2003, No. 3 Auburn in 2004 and Kentucky last season.

Georgia's 2001 win at Tennessee provided Richt a key boost in his first year at Georgia. It was the Bulldogs' first win in Knoxville since 1980, and Georgia added wins at Tennessee in 2003 and 2005.

The Vols, led by quarterback Erik Ainge's 268 yards passing and two touchdowns, gained revenge with last year's runaway victory. Tennessee became only the second visiting team to score 50 points at Sanford Stadium, following Florida's 52-17 win in Athens in 1995.

With last year's loss to the Vols the most recent memory, it's little wonder Georgia players were reluctant on Tuesday to talk a lot about their past success in Knoxville.

``The only thing I've got on my mind is when they put 51 points on our defense, and that was here,'' said senior strong safety Kelin Johnson. ``That's the last thing I remember of Tennessee.

``Knowing that it's a hostile environment, we have to go in and play together. If we don't play together, we are going to get our butts whupped point blank.''

Johnson said Georgia has enjoyed the underdog role on the road, especially in front of big crowds.

``We know that we are there by ourselves, and we know that we are the only ones that are there for us because Tennessee fans will be all over the place,'' Johnson said.

``When you look up in that stadium all you see is Tennessee and Tennessee for days. You might see one little speck of red fans for us, but we know we are there by ourselves. That's why we play well on the road.''

Notes: Richt said he still didn't know if Kregg Lumpkin will rejoin the tailback rotation with Thomas Brown and Knowshon Moreno this week. Lumpkin, recovering from a broken thumb, is practicing without a cast this week but still is wearing a splint on the thumb. He has played on special teams the last two weeks. ... The Oct. 13 game at Vanderbilt has been set for a 6 p.m. kickoff. ... Brown was named the SEC offensive player of the week after he set a career high with 180 yards rushing and three touchdowns in last week's 45-17 win over Mississippi.



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