Various incentives to win bowl game
By Seth Emerson
ATHENS, Ga. -- Two weeks after they last put on pads, the Georgia football team returned to the practice field Saturday. And now it will take another three days off for finals before resuming preparation for the Liberty Bowl.
For a team that began the season harboring SEC title hopes, a lower-tier bowl may seem a hard motivational ploy. But various players have reasons to be interested.
The seniors don’t want to end their careers with a loss, neither do juniors who might be headed early to the NFL, such as wide receiver A.J. Green and linebacker Justin Houston.
Sophomore wide receiver Marlon Brown, a Memphis native, would like to play well in front of a hometown crowd.
And for everyone in the program, a 7-6 record would look a lot different than 6-7.
“Oh, yeah,” agreed senior linebacker Akeem Dent. “It’s always good to be over .500 to end the year.”
The Liberty Bowl is scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff Dec. 31 on ESPN.
In a perverse way, the team’s poor start to the season also helps. While a team that wheezed to the finish would be eager for the season to end, the Bulldogs started 1-4, and had to beat Georgia Tech in the regular-season finale to clinch a bowl trip.
“I think it did (help),” Dent said. “Because starting out 1-4 is something we didn’t plan on doing. But, then again, guys continued to fight, no one gave up, no one gave in.”
Freshman quarterback Aaron Murray said a win over Central Florida could give the team momentum for next year.
“You never want to have that bad taste heading into the offseason,” Murray said. “You want to feel good, feel we had a great game, we beat a conference championship team.”
Still, there were signs Saturday of the program looking forward, even as it resumed practice.
Several recruits were in Athens on official visits. Coach Mark Richt didn’t meet with the media because he had meetings most of the afternoon with recruits and their families.
The Bulldogs hope to add to their commitment list this weekend and have been targeting several players who could make an immediate impact. The biggest names in town were defensive end Ray Drew (Thomas County Central High School), tight end Jay Rome (Valdosta) and defensive back Damian Swann (Grady).
But recruiting isn’t the entire focus right now. At a Thursday press conference in Memphis to promote the Liberty Bowl, Richt said some of his assistants had requested more time to be on the road recruiting.
“They’re looking at the bowl practice schedule and they’re like ‘Coach, can you change this? Can you change that? Can you move it back here so we can get back in the homes more?’” Richt said. “I said, ‘Look, the best recruiting we can do is win this football game.’”