Thrilling Georgia Bulldogs ready for more tight games

Thrilling Georgia Bulldogs ready for more tight games

October 9th, 2013 by David Paschall in Sportscollege

University of Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan (13) celebrates with fans after kicking a 42-yard field goal to beat the University of Tennessee in overtime at Neyland Stadium on Saturday,. The Dawgs beat the Vols 34-31.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

ATHENS, Ga. - Within an instant of drilling a 42-yard field goal to clinch Georgia's 34-31 overtime win at Tennessee last weekend, Bulldogs kicker Marshall Morgan found himself under a sea of teammates.

"I was trying to get them off me," a smiling Morgan said Tuesday. "That was a lot of weight, and I've got asthma."

After getting so close last season to becoming the best team in college football, this year's Bulldogs are laying claim to the most exciting team in the sport.

Georgia has provided plenty of Saturday thrills, beginning with their 38-35 loss at Clemson and continuing the past couple of weeks with the 44-41 victory over visiting LSU and the triumph at Tennessee. The Bulldogs are 4-1 and ranked No. 7 nationally with another classic contest possible this weekend with the arrival of No. 25 Missouri.

"We don't want to have close games every week," receiver Chris Conley said. "We don't want to be losing five to 10 years off our lives every single time we're in the fourth quarter."

The Bulldogs expected to be in several tight games early this season with a schedule that included the top-10 trio of Clemson, South Carolina and LSU. Yet the Bulldogs were double-digit favorites against North Texas and Tennessee and struggled in those contests as a result of having punts blocked for touchdowns.

All five of Georgia's games have been tied at some point of the third quarter, and the Bulldogs have trailed in the fourth quarter in three of them.

"You look at the games we've played, and there is never a dull moment," tight end Arthur Lynch said. "Whether it be a positive thing for us or a negative thing, it just seems like we're keeping things on the edge. I don't think there is another team in the country that handles pressure situations better than we do right now, and I think that was the biggest question mark in our past.

"When push comes to shove, we'll put ourselves in a position to win."

Georgia indeed has racked up quality victories as of late, though they have come with a price. Top tailback Todd Gurley sprained his ankle against LSU and has yet to practice since, and backup tailback Keith Marshall and receivers Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley left last week's game with right knee injuries.

Marshall and Scott-Wesley have been lost for the season.

Coach Mark Richt wouldn't go so far as to say he's been entertained by Georgia's frantic finishes, but he recognizes them, as evidenced by a conversation he had with wife Katharyn after leaving Neyland Stadium for the Knoxville airport.

"I made the comment that you could see why there were 100,000 people there," Richt said. "You could see why college football is one of the most exciting sports out there. It's very, very dramatic stuff, and we've had the most drama in a two-week period than we've probably had in a long time when it comes to games that were just tightly contested and hard fought.

"To come out on top has been very gratifying."

Quarterback Aaron Murray realizes these games can get stressful, but he believes they have helped the younger players on the team grow up. Junior inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera said the close calls take a toll on his body, but defensive lineman Garrison Smith said he liked them no matter how draining they can be.

And the way Georgia's games have been going, Morgan better start learning to prefer dog piles compared to the alternative.

"You've got to expect every SEC game to be close, and you've got to be ready for every situation," Morgan said. "That was my first overtime situation at Tennessee, and I'm glad that we got that done."

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