Georgia returning to tough road

In the not-too-distant past, Georgia was a team to be reckoned with when it ventured away from Sanford Stadium for games that weren’t played between the hedges.

David Manning/Staff Georgia coach Mark Richt gestures to fans after the Bulldogs’ 59-0 win over Coastal Carolina.
David Manning

“I remember when I first came here we were the `Road Warriors.’ That was sort of our nickname,” senior kicker Blair Walsh said.

Nobody would make that claim lately.

Georgia is 1-7 away from Athens since the start of last season heading into Saturday’s 12:21 p.m. ET game at Ole Miss.

The Bulldogs lost at South Carolina, Mississippi State, Colorado and Auburn and at neutral site games in Jacksonville (against Florida), Memphis (against Central Florida) and Atlanta (against Boise State) during that stretch.

The lone win away from Athens in that span came at Kentucky, 44-31.

“One thing that is good is that it’s Aaron Murray’s second year of starting,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said of the Bulldogs’ redshirt sophomore quarterback. “It won’t be a new guy going on the road. I think he’ll be more composed and more relaxed.”

Georgia stood at 30-4 in true road games in opponent’s stadiums under coach Mark Richt after Walsh’s freshman season in 2008, but has gone 4-6 the past two seasons.

If Georgia (1-2, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) is going to contend in the SEC East, it will have to reverse that trend.

Four of Georgia’s next five games are away from Athens starting Saturday with their first road game of the season.

After returning home to play Mississippi State, Georgia plays at Tennessee, at Vanderbilt and in Jacksonville against Florida.

“It’s good to test what you can do on the road and I guess that’s what is going to be tested,” said freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell, who will play outside the state for the first time as a Bulldog.

“It’s always harder going to away games, dealing with the travel and the crowd noise,” Murray said.

Murray picked the South Carolina game last year as the loudest road environment he’s played in, but Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium in 2009 topped that, he said, when he was redshirting.

“I expect us to win every game — road game or home game,” receiver Tavarres King said. “I feel like a football field is where we belong and where we do what we do. I expect us to win on the road and at home. I don’t feel any pressure either way.”

Playing at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium hasn’t scared many opponents recently.

Ole Miss (1-2, 0-1 SEC) was one of just two SEC teams with a losing home record last year — 3-4 — and it lost to BYU at home to open this season.

“I do know this: When we come to play out here at Vaught-Hemingway, our crowd is there, our crowd is with us, they’re waiting for us to make a play and cheer,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said Monday. “The fans have been there, they’re waiting on us. It’s time to give them something to cheer about.”

The Bulldogs haven’t played in Oxford since a 14-9 win in 2006, but have won on their last four trips there.

Georgia this season has played twice in Sanford Stadium and its other game was a virtual home game in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome before a mostly Bulldogs’ crowd.

“It’s good that we played these first three games in our state.,” Bobo said. “We’ve got a bunch of young guys that hadn’t been in a (college) game environment so they’ll be more comfortable. You always have to deal with the road, but if we prepare well and get ready to play, I think we should be fine.”

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