ATHENS - The intensity of last Saturday's game might have been symbolized by this early moment: Georgia's Blake Sailors with a bloody face, and head coach Mark Richt uncharacteristically grabbing Sailors and showing him to the officials.
“He was just (ticked) off at the officials, saying ‘Look what’s going on,'" Sailors said, recounting the moment a couple nights later. "He was just trying to get a personal foul call, I guess. I don’t know exactly what he was saying because I was yelling at the official also.”
But Richt didn't bring up the incident after the game, and Sailors downplayed it too. For as intense as it was at the time, Sailors now says he didn't think anybody took a shot at him, and didn't sound mad about it.
“It’s an intense game. Emotions are flying. So whatever, it’s not a big deal,” Sailors said.
Here's what happened on that first-half play: Sailors said he was going for a loose ball on a punt, and in the scrum his helmet started getting ripped off. Sailors said he doesn't know how that happened and who was doing it. When he emerged, his face was bloody.
That's when Richt grabbed Sailors and gestured at the officials. Sailors said he’s never seen his head coach that animated.
“I loved it. His emotions are flying, ours are flying," Sailors said. "That’s just how the game was going.”
That seemed to sum up the entire intensity of the game, which had its share of personal foul penalties. In fact, several players said that officials held back early on, preferring to issue warnings. Then they gave up in the second half, throwing flags left and right.
“We knew coming in it was gonna be a fistfight," Sailors said. "There were just a lot of emotions. A lot riding on it.”
Receiver Malcolm Mitchell said there was a lot of chirping going on during the game - and that it didn't surprise him.
"You can tell when you watch film that they talk," Mitchell said. "So I felt that all week they were gonna try to run over us, like they might have some other players, some other receivers. And I was just gonna let them know that I wasn't gonna take that. ... If you wanna hit, then we'll hit back."
At one critical point Mitchell took it too far: After catching a first-down pass he taunted a Gator defender, leading to a 15-yard penalty, pushing Georgia from the 35 to midfield. Mitchell was yanked from the game by Richt, but a play later was sent back in and caught the touchdown pass that made it 17-9.
"This game I was probably a little more talkative than other games," Mitchell admitted. "I mean, when you're called out as a young man - because I ain't no man - you don't want to seem like you're backing down. And that's just all that was."