For going on four seasons, coach Mark Richt has exercised little hesitation in sending Blair Walsh out for field-goal attempts of 50 yards or longer.
The senior entered Saturday’s game against Coastal Carolina 8 of 13 on attempts from that length and has shown the leg strength to be trusted from that range.
But as Walsh lined up for a 56-yarder in the second quarter, Richt actually wanted the kick attempted because of Walsh’s subpar performance on kickoffs to that point in the game.
“He was struggling a little bit with his kickoffs, for whatever reason,” Richt said following the 59-0 victory.
Walsh drilled the kick through the uprights, converting the longest field goal of his career.
“I was just thinking I had to hit it, give it a ride and at least get it there,” Walsh said.
“He just wasn’t himself, so drilling that one and the next couple of kickoffs were phenomenal. He’s back. That was good medicine for him.”
The successful field goal was the longest at Georgia since Brandon Coutu connected on a 58-yard kick in 2005. It also helped erase a shaky start to the 2011 season from Walsh’s mind.
The usually consistent Walsh entered Saturday against Coastal Carolina 2 of 4 on field goals this year. And he pushed a 42-yard attempt wide right in the second quarter.
“I hit it the way I wanted to,” he said. “It just sort of tailed off right at the end.”
The miss was negated due to a personal foul on the Chanticleers.
When all was said and done, the missed kick became an afterthought due to a day full of accomplishments.
With eight extra points in the game, Walsh set the school record with 152 PATs in his career. Former Athens Academy kicker Billy Bennett (2000-03) was the previous record holder.
Just to cap it off, Walsh recovered a fumble on a kickoff in the third quarter.
“I got crunched on that pretty bad, too” Walsh said. “I just was sort of waiting there. My job is to be the last guy in the way to make some sort of attempt at him. The ball sort of popped out, and it literally rolled right into me.”
Another shot to the midsection
For the second consecutive week, freshman running back Isaiah Crowell took a tough hit to his ribs while carrying the football.
Without mentioning the exact play, Richt indicated sore ribs slowed his leading rusher after being tackled.
“Well for one thing, he didn’t wear his rib protectors,” Richt said. “He probably should have. That’s a freshman move.”
While the injury doesn’t appear serious, Crowell, who finished with 86 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries, said he was glad to be on the sideline for most of the second half.
“I was glad because of my ribs,” Crowell said. “In the next game, I’ll probably have more (carries).”
Feels like the first time
Freshman offensive tackle Watts Dantzler first dreamed of playing for Georgia as a small kid in elementary school.
On Saturday, that dream came to fruition in the third quarter. Adding to the moment, Georgia scored a touchdown on Dantzler’s first play of his career.
“I’ve gone into each week knowing that if they called me I had to be ready to play,” he said. “This week at halftime, the coaches said I’d probably go in early this half. That was the first time I really knew I was going to play.”
Dantzler was joined on the play by freshman center David Andrews — also making his first ever appearance.
“Being on the field for that touchdown was awesome,” Dantzler said. “I looked at David, and he slapped me on the helmet. I can’t describe it.”
Dantzler and Andrews were two parts of a strong showing by the group of newcomers in the 2011 signing class.
In total, 13 players from the class labeled as the “Dream Team” saw playing time.
“We all came in wanting to play,” said freshman cornerback Damian Swann. “We had guys in front of us and guys to learn from. I think all of us are learning what we need to and building on our ability.”
Three freshman started the game — Swann, Crowell and wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell. And heralded freshman outside linebacker Ray Drew also saw his first game time, making two tackles.
“For my first time out and with the coaches preparing me the way they did, I feel like I did pretty good,” Drew said. “It was memorable, especially making that first tackle.”
The number of young players contributing continues to grow, and their presence is projected to get bigger as the season progresses.
“What do we do now?” Drew asked aloud. “We take the film and see what we need for improvement. I feel there’s always room for improvement on something. I’ll watch myself and see what all I need to do and build on that.”
Of the players that did play Saturday, the team finished without any injury concerns moving forward.
Three starters didn’t dress for the game at all.
Junior wide receiver Marlon Brown (ankle), junior running back Richard Samuel (heel) and senior defensive end DeAngelo Tyson (back) used the weekend to rest minor, nagging injuries.
“A couple of them were banged up after the first few weeks,” said quarterback Aaron Murray. “It’s nice to give them time off to fully recover. They should be fully back and ready to go for the next game.”