Sure, Joe Cox tossed a potential game-winning touchdown for Georgia with just 1:09 to play last week, but even he knows it was far from his best effort.
The Bulldogs mustered just one first-half first down, and Cox threw a few passes that went wide of their intended targets.
So while his comeback effort was nice, he’s not at all surprised by some of the criticism he’s gotten from fans since Georgia dropped a heart-breaking 20-13 game to No. 4 LSU.
“Any time something’s not going right, they think if you put a new quarterback in, that’s going to change the problems,” Cox said. “That doesn’t bother me at all.”
For the season, Cox has completed 59 percent of his passes, including 11 touchdowns, while throwing six interceptions.
Against LSU, he finished 18-of-34 for 229 yards, but was just 3-of-9 for 31 yards in the first half.
“I missed a couple throws,” he said. “It’s jut being more accurate. That’s all it is. You’re not going to be able to make every throw. It’s not that I have a lack of confidence in certain throws. There’s just some times when you’ve got to hit them and (Saturday) I didn’t hit ‘em.” WHERE’D HE GO After seeing a healthy dose of action in Georgia’s first two games of the season, freshman tailback Carlton Thomas has disappeared from the offense in recent weeks.
That’s no knock on Thomas, head coach Mark Richt assured. It’s simply a matter of a numbers game at tailback, where Caleb King’s return to the lineup and a desire to let the Bulldogs’ top two runners establish a groove, left little room for Thomas to see the field.
“He’s getting it, but when Caleb came back that was kind of more of the issue than anything else,” Richt said. “We’re not disappointed in Carlton. But we’ve had a lot of extremely close games and one more healthy back in the lineup when Caleb was out.”
Thomas could see more playing time this week, as King is expected to miss the game after suffering a concussion and a broken jaw last week against LSU.
The bulk of King’s carries, however, will be going to freshman Washaun Ealey, who saw his first taste of action last week and looked sharp in the second half against the Tigers.
That was a home date, however, and this week’s task gets tougher in front of more than 100,000 fans at Neyland Stadium. Richt said he’s not sure how Ealey will react, but he said the freshman appears confident.
“He seems excited about it,” Richt said. “I think he’s practiced pretty well. He thinks he’s ready, but we’ll see. It’s hard to describe what it’s like over there to the guys who have never been there, and he’ll get a taste of that.”
Richt said he expected Richard Samuel to be the starting tailback, with Ealey getting roughly half the carries in the game. THE WAITING GAME For the fourth straight week, Georgia will be without linebacker Akeem Dent and defensive end Kiante Tripp, who have both missed time with injuries that have lingered since fall camp.
Dent hurt his hamstring in early August and was slow to recover. He played in Georgia’s first two games, but re-aggravated the hamstring injury against South Carolina and hasn’t played since.
“For some reason he’s just really had trouble healing,” Richt said. “Some guys have a hamstring injury, and most guys just recover a little bit quicker. Even when he did play a game or two, it happened again.”
Richt said Dent would be questionable next week against Vanderbilt, but barring a setback, would definitely be ready to take on Florida after Georgia’s open date.
A neck stinger limited Tripp during the preseason, but like Dent, he attempted to get back on the field after the season began. The injury never completely healed, however, and he hasn’t seen action in three games.
While he’ll be out against Tennessee, Richt said the junior defensive end was upbeat about his prognosis.
“He feels like we’re really close, and it could even be next week that he’ll begin to practice,” Richt said. “He’s definitely improving, and he doesn’t feel like he’s just stuck.” NO HARD FEELINGS
While Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin made headlines throughout the offseason by criticizing several other programs in the SEC, linebacker Rennie Curran isn’t looking at this week’s game as a chance to punish the Volunteers’ coach for any potentially critical comments.
“You see it and react to it, but you go with your life,” Curran said. “You realize a coach is going to talk, but at the same time, I’ve never seen a coach put on pads and play. Sometimes as a coach you have to do things to get your team fired up, and I guess that was his way of doing that.”
That doesn’t mean Curran isn’t taking this week’s game seriously, however. When it comes to playing Tennessee, he doesn’t care who’s on the sidelines. He just wants to win.
“No matter what coach they have, this is such a huge rivalry and there’s so much tradition invested in this game, that for them to beat us would be a huge boost to their program,” Curran said.