Orange peels and water covered the floor of Georgia’s Sanford Stadium locker room Saturday night.
That’s the telltale sign of a big celebration just had gone on.
Ninth-ranked Georgia’s 44-41 victory over No. 6 LSU was a reason to be festive, but the Bulldogs from coaches to players also seemed drained after all they had invested in another shootout against a top-10 team.
“It was high-emotion,” safety Tray Matthews said. “People crying, coaches going crazy. We were going crazy.”
“I don’t usually get as emotional as I did after this one,” said Georgia coach Mark Richt, who shed some tears earlier in his postgame interview on the field with CBS.
Coaches told players to go back out on the field to high-five the fans that remained from the crowd of 92,746.
“Everybody did their part—all the fans, coaches, players, all of our support staff. It takes so many people to pull something off like that,” Richt said. “I was hoping our home field advantage would make a difference and I think it did. Our fans inspired me and I know they inspired our players and our players I think inspired our players as well. Beautiful weather. The field looked great. You can’t ask for anything better than what happened today. It just showed how great the university of Georgia could be.”
Georgia notched its second win over a top-10 team in its last three games, winning twice at Sanford Stadium against a top-10 foe in the same season for the first time in program history.
The implications were obvious.
“When it came to a national championship hope, we couldn’t afford any more losses,” Richt said. “We can’t afford anymore probably. You might could win with two losses, but doubtful.”
Georgia beat South Carolina in another shootout 41-30.
“It’s a receiver’s dream to be scoring a bunch of points so I don’t mind it,” junior Michael Bennett said. “Wow. It’s just so close and so emotional. It’s just all the work we put in. People just don’t understand how much work we put in. To come out on top like that and just to dominate on the offensive side of the ball, it’s such a good feeling.”
–Part of the emotion, of course, was the Mettenberger return to Athens.
The former Georgia quarterback was booted from the team in 2010, but is on his game at LSU as a senior.
“I got a chance to give him a hug,” Richt said. “I just told him the same thing I told Murray—“I’m really proud of you.” Told both they’re great players. `Really proud of how you played today.’ You couldn’t ask either one of those guys to play any better than they played. It was amazing how good they did. There’s some proud father feeling towards both of them.”
He added: “We recruited them both. We signed them both. We thought they both were going to be special players, and as fate would have it they both got to play against each other between the hedges in a phenomenal shootout where they both played their tails off.”
–Tailback Todd Gurley was in a walking boot in the second half and wore a jacket on the sideline. The status for Georgia’s star sophomore is uncertain for Tennessee.
“I knew he sprained his ankle, he’s out, I don’t know how long,” Richt said. “Keith came in and played really good. …I have no idea next week on an ankle like that if Todd will play next week or not. Those other boys will get some more reps I’m sure in practice.”
That would be Keith Marshall (96 yards on 20 carries,), J.J. Green (18 yards on 1 carry) and Brendan Douglas (two yards on two carries).
–Georgia held LSU to 77 rushing yards, but LSU had 372 passing yards and four touchdowns from Mettenberger.
“Mettenberger is a hell of a quarterback,” outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “We had about three guys in his face…and he was still making plays off of that. That shows what kind of mental toughness Mettenberger has as a player.”
Jarvis Landy had 10 catches for 156 yards with a touchdown and Odell Beckham had six catches for 118 yards.
“We had four freshmen playing out there,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said referring to cornerbacks Brendan Langley and Shaq Wiggins and safeties Tray Matthews and Quincy Mauger. “They’re close and I actually thought they got closer as the game went along to making plays. When you face a good quarterback and really good wideouts, that’s like NFL stuff there. You’ve got to be on them and you’ve got to make plays on the ball in tight windows.”
–Aaron Murray’s was clutch on a day he completed 20 of 34 passes for 298 yards, with four touchdowns and an interception.
A Murray screen pass to Keith Marshall was picked off by defensive tackle Anthony Johnson at the 34 in the first quarter.
LSU took advantage, getting a Zach Mettenberger 4-yard touchdown pass to Kadron Boone who beating freshman Shaq Wiggins on the play for a 14-7 lead on his second touchdown of the game.
Lynch said Murray was almost perfect, especially down the stretch.
“Even that screen, you can’t predict that a gigantic human being is going to come over and be athletic,” Lynch said. “That was probably more an exceptional play than it was a bad play.”
–Georgia’s offensive line gave up zero sacks.
“Murray had time,” Richt said. “Murray could operate.”
Georgia had four sacks.
“I thought our big men came to play today,” Richt said.
–Get used to this kind of storyline this week now that Georgia has gotten through three top-10 teams in the first four games.
“We’re very vulnerable to getting whipped if we just don’t put it all together,” Richt said.
–Boy, did a lot of folks on Twitter wonder why fullback Quayvon Hicks wasn’t playing much Saturday.
Here’s what Mike Bobo said: “To be honest, Quayvon didn’t play as well as we’d like last week and Merritt Hall has been practicing great.
I think we’ve got two quality fullbacks that do a nice job. That’s a lot of pounding for a fullback so you want to rotate those guys and keep them fresh.”
-Please follow me at Twitter.com/marc.weiszer