Georgia players arrive in Jacksonville

Georgia players arrive in Jacksonville

December 27th, 2013 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Georgia head coach Mark Richt watches from the sidelines.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

The Georgia Bulldogs arrived at one of their annual destinations Thursday, and this time they're sticking around.

After a four-day break for Christmas, the Bulldogs reconvened in Jacksonville for a Gator Bowl welcome dinner. The No. 23 Bulldogs (8-4) and Cornhuskers (8-4) will square off Wednesday afternoon in a rematch of last season's Capital One Bowl in Orlando, which Georgia won 45-31.

"Jacksonville is a great city, and we're thankful for the opportunity to play one more game this season," Georgia coach Mark Richt said in a media session. "It's going to be good to check out Jacksonville for a bit. Usually we're just here for 24 hours for the Georgia-Florida game."

Georgia and Florida have met annually in Jacksonville since 1933, when the Southeastern Conference was formed, with the exception of the 1994 and '95 meetings that were held on the two campuses due to renovations at EverBank Field. This is the first Gator Bowl for the Bulldogs since the 1988 season, when they sent former coach Vince Dooley out a winner with a 34-27 triumph over Michigan State.

The Bulldogs traveled without sophomore safety Josh Harvey-Clemons and sophomore cornerback Sheldon Dawson, who were suspended Monday for a violation of "team regulations."

"We'll be fine," Richt said. "We've got guys who know what to do, who have experience and are good football players."

When pressed further by reporters about Harvey-Clemons, who was suspended for this season's opener for smoking marijuana, Richt said he would talk only about the players who made the trip. Bulldogs senior defensive tackle Garrison Smith offered his support for Harvey-Clemons, who ranks third on the team with 66 tackles.

"He can come back from it," Smith told reporters. "He is finally going to realize after this that if it's really important, you've got to make better decisions for real. Bad things are going to happen. He's going to be all right. The guy is 18 or 19 years old, so he's still a child at the end of the day.

"He's got to be responsible with his opportunity to be a Georgia football player, but he's going to learn from it."

The Bulldogs will practice each of the next four mornings at Jacksonville University and have a party scheduled for Saturday afternoon at Ponte Vedra Beach.

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