published Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Georgia Bulldogs opening with another ranked foe

Georgia fifth-year senior receiver Michael Bennett believes there is little room for error with an opening
opponent such as Clemson.
Georgia fifth-year senior receiver Michael Bennett believes there is little room for error with an opening opponent such as Clemson.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
  • photo
    Georgia coach Mark Richt watches his players during NCAA college football practice on Aug. 1, 2014, in Athens, Ga.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ATHENS, Ga. — Batting .333 over the course of a season can result in accolades for a professional baseball player.

Having that average in recent college football openers is not as desirable.

Georgia began its 2011 season with a 35-21 loss to No. 5 Boise State in Atlanta and started last season with a 38-35 loss at No. 8 Clemson. In between was a 45-23 win over Buffalo in Sanford Stadium, but this season presents another challenge when No. 16 Clemson visits Aug. 30.

"There is a greater sense of urgency when you have an opener like this," Bulldogs fifth-year senior receiver Michael Bennett said. "There is no room for screwing up at all."

Georgia and LSU are the only Southeastern Conference teams that will have opened against three ranked teams in this four-year stretch, with the Tigers having faced No. 3 Oregon in 2011, No. 13 TCU last season and No. 14 Wisconsin at the end of this month.

No other SEC schools will have opened with more than one ranked foe since 2011.

Georgia struck first in its 2011 opener but was quickly overwhelmed by quarterback Kellen Moore and the more experienced Broncos, who grabbed a 28-7 late in the third quarter. Last year's matchup in Death Valley was far more competitive, though the Bulldogs did trail 38-28 before a late touchdown followed by an unsuccessful onside kick.

Clemson went on to win 11 games, capping last season by topping Ohio State in the Orange Bowl.

"The closer we get to that first game, there will be a strong buzz," Georgia coach Mark Richt said, "especially since we played these guys last year and lost."

Georgia has not lost three season openers in a four-year stretch since beginning the 1960-64 seasons with lopsided losses to Bear Bryant and Alabama.

Though the Tigers loom, Georgia players are insisting the opener can wait for now. The Bulldogs held their fifth practice Tuesday and their first in full pads, and they are scheduled to have their first two-a-day session today.

"Right now, we're not focusing on any of our opponents," fifth-year senior defensive lineman Mike Thornton said. "We're just focusing on our team and trying to make each other better. We're motivated right now by just getting better, because we've got a long camp ahead of us.

"School starts on the 18th, and that's when we'll start focusing on Clemson."

Odds and ends

Inside linebacker Ramik Wilson and junior college transfer cornerback Shattle Fenteng continue to nurse undisclosed injuries, but defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt said before Tuesday's practice that both will be fine. ... Receiver Chris Conley and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd were in noncontact jerseys. ... Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo told reporters that there are 12 installation days but most of the offense will be implemented in six. ... Bobo said early enrollee Jacob Park has made the most improvement at quarterback, adding that's usually the case. ... The Bulldogs have scheduled their first scrimmage for Saturday.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

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 ...

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