There was no politically correct answer when Georgia outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins was asked if he was worried about the team’s special teams play after Saturday’s game.
“A little bit,” the sophomore said.
North Texas scored touchdowns off a blocked punt and a 99-yard kickoff return for touchdown in its 45-21 loss to the Bulldogs.
The Georgia defense only had one touchdown scored against it by the Mean Green.
“Offense and defense played great,” kicker Marshall Morgan said. “Special teams, things are going to happen. We tried to hold up our end.”
Georgia already started addressing that by benching long-snapper Nathan Theus after a high snap on the blocked punt and replacing him with walk-on Trent Frix.
Oklahoma transfer Macus Trice blocked a Collin Barber punt and it was recovered in the end zone by Zac Whitfield. It was the first punt block for touchdown against Georgia since Central Florida in 1999.
“We’ve definitely got some things to clean up,” coach Mark Richt said. “We’ll work hard on those things and we’ll be excited about being back here next week.” That’s when No. 6 LSU comes to town for a 3:30 p.m. CBS game.
Richt said “there’s a pretty good chance Frix will continue to snap for punts and we’ll decide what we need to do on extra points and field goal.”
Theus, recruited on scholarship, had a high snap on a field goal try in the loss at Clemson and had a snap of his dropped by punter Barber against South Carolina. And then came the touchdown Saturday.
Tight end Arthur Lynch said the blocked punt was on him.
“That was my fault,” he said. “I should have shifted the protection to the left.”
Said Barber: “They just got there so fast that I just couldn’t do anything about it.”
Lynch said he maybe should have called time out, but Richt pointed to the high snap.
“Any time you snap a ball that high on a punt, you disrupt the timing,” Richt said.
Brelan Chancellor returned the kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown.
Morgan said he had good hang-time on the kick.
“We kicked it left and the guy bounced out right,” Morgan said. “I saw him, but the No. 1 returner in the nation with open space vs. a kicker. I mean, he’s going to take it I guess.”
Richt said that he wants to make sure that the right players are on kickoff coverage. Jenkins said starters on defense could be called on the unit next week.
“If that’s what it takes to get the job done, I feel like we need to do it,” he said.
Richt said Georgia has had probably 100 special teams, but that the bad plays stick out.
“We absolutely have to clean it up or we’re not going to be able to go where we want to go and do what we want to do,” he said.
It wasn’t all bad.
Barber averaged 49.8 yards on five punts and had a career-long of 61.
“I’m happy about the average, but I feel like I could have punted a lot better,” he said.
Morgan returned from a two-game suspension for a boating under the influence arrest to make 1 of 2 field goals—converting from 27 and wide right from 52–and all six extra points.
“It just feels great to be out there again,” Marshall said.
Wooten shows trickery with pass completion
Rantavious Wooten’s trick-play pass attempt worked out better Saturday than it did on G-Day.
Aaron Murray tossed back to Wooten behind the line of scrimmage and the receiver completed a 42-yard pass to tight end Arthur Lynch to start off a 75-yard scoring drive that ended with a 16-yard Lynch touchdown catch on a pass from Murray.
“We’ve been practicing it for a while,” Lynch said. “It was the same play we had in the spring game when I dropped it. Same play, same call. Thank God we executed it. Woot made a good throw for the fact that it was in the rain and he doesn’t throw the ball every time.”
Wooten threw an incompletion on his only previous pass attempt against Buffalo last season.
Murray said the pass this time should have gone for a score.
“It should have been a touchdown,” Murray said. “… I threw it a little low so he had to dig it, catch it and then get up and throw it. …He played quarterback in high school so he can fling it around a little bit.”
Weather doesn’t affect offense
Georgia racked up 641 yards of total offense despite heavy rain falling in the second half.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said he didn’t think he could change anything as a play-caller even in the wet conditions.
“I kept asking if we were OK to throw the ball and we felt like we could throw it,” Bobo said. “Obviously the first two passes of the second half were poor. I didn’t know if that had to do a little bit mentally with the rain. We had to be able to throw the ball. They were committing guys in the box—the safeties or the corners — and we had to take advantage of that. It was good to see us come through and execute with the wet ball.”
Richt, who had offseason hip replacement surgery, felt the conditions.
“It just got so sore,” Richt said. “People say, ‘Does the weather affect it?’ I can honestly now say I think the weather affects it in an adverse way.”
He was appreciative to those in the sold-out crowd for braving the weather.
“I want to thank our fans who weathered the storm, literally, and gave us the support that they did,” Richt said.
Corey Moore got his first college start at safety. He lined up as a starting receiver against Ole Miss last year to block on the opening play. … Tight end Jay Rome left the game with a left ankle injury, but Richt wasn’t sure the extent of it. Cornerback Damian Swann appeared to be wincing and limping some as he headed up the hill out the Georgia locker room. … Freshman offensive lineman Brandon Kublanow saw his first college action at left guard. Defensive lineman Chris Mayes and safety Shaquille Fluker made their Georgia debuts, as well. Both are junior college transfers. … Former Georgia All-American Pat Dye was recognized before the game for his selection to the school’s Ring of Honor. Georgia asked Pro Football Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton, a teammate of Dye’s, to attend the game. It was the first time they were together on the Sanford Stadium field since a 1960 victory over Georgia Tech.