Marshall Morgan has been needed less this football season than any other Georgia kicker in the Mark Richt era, but his infrequent appearances rarely have been dull.
The true freshman began his collegiate career by making six of his first seven field-goal attempts, but he missed four extra points in the first seven games. He remedied his inaccuracies on extra points and hasn't missed any since, but he enters the Capital One Bowl having made just two of his last six field-goal tries.
"I would give myself maybe a 7 out of 10," Morgan said when asked to assess his season. "I've looked at the Lou Groza finalists and how they did as freshmen, and the numbers look pretty much identical, so I'm not taking anything too hard. I wish I could have done a little better, but I'm not killing myself over it."
Georgia practiced for two hours Saturday, which was the fourth of 10 on-campus workouts for the New Year's Day matchup against Nebraska. Richt said it was the fourth consecutive day of good effort, "which is saying something with the game still so far away."
Morgan has made 8 of 13 field-goal attempts for the Bulldogs, who have set single-season program records with 484 points and 66 touchdowns. Georgia led the nation with 37 field-goal attempts last season, but the Bulldogs had four games this year when they didn't attempt any.
Not since 1998, when Hap Hines connected on 7 of 10 tries, have the Bulldogs made and attempted so few field goals in a season.
Morgan's favorite field goal this season was a 52-yarder at Missouri that pulled the Bulldogs into a 3-3 tie midway through the second quarter. It was in his second career game and his first on the road, and that remains his longest kick.
"It was my first away game and my first long kick, and we needed it," he said.
He missed a 37-yard attempt against Florida and missed badly on a 47-yarder against Ole Miss, but his least favorite try was a 51-yard miss against Georgia Southern. Darreion Robinson was waiting in the back of the end zone and caught Morgan's short kick, and he ran the ball out for a 59-yard return to Georgia's 41-yard line before Morgan made the tackle.
"It was a perfect snap and a perfect hold, and I should have gotten it," Morgan said. "It was a windy day, and I was already mad as it was. Just to have a guy return my kick really got under my skin."
The 6-foot-3, 201-pounder from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., missed a 50-yard attempt during the first quarter of the SEC championship game against Alabama and spent the rest of that contest hoping for another chance.
Morgan ranks second on the Bulldogs with 82 points, trailing the 102 that freshman tailback Todd Gurley has scored Fon 17 touchdowns. He knew his inaugural year would be filled with learning opportunities, and he believes he will be better down the road as a result.
"You can't focus on the fans or the media," Morgan said. "You have to stay true to yourself. Every game is a new season, and you can't listen to any of the hype or the downfalls. You've just got to keep doing what you've done all through high school.
"When you get here, you're being watched everywhere you go."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...