Georgia players determined to end season with a win

Georgia defensive back Maurice Smith works out Tuesday in Memphis as first-year Bulldogs defensive coordinator Mel Tucker looks on.
Georgia defensive back Maurice Smith works out Tuesday in Memphis as first-year Bulldogs defensive coordinator Mel Tucker looks on.

This isn't the first Georgia football team to lose to Georgia Tech, and it wouldn't be the first Georgia team to lose its bowl game.

Losing to the Yellow Jackets and in a bowl in the same season, however, is quite the rarity for the Bulldogs. Not since 1989, when Ray Goff was in his first year as Georgia's head coach, have the Bulldogs lost to their in-state rivals and in the postseason.

Georgia defeated Georgia Tech 12 times in a 13-year stretch from 2001 to 2013, but the Yellow Jackets have won two of the last three, including last month's 28-27 triumph in Athens. The Bulldogs lost a 27-14 lead in the fourth quarter, which makes Friday's Liberty Bowl against TCU not only a potential sendoff for the seniors or a springboard for next season but a chance to have a more upbeat ending to Kirby Smart's first season as head coach.

"After our last game, we can't go out with an L," junior safety Dominick Sanders said Tuesday in a Liberty Bowl news conference. "We want to end our season with a victory."

Said senior defensive back Maurice Smith: "I didn't know much about the rivalry, but now I feel it. I want to get that taste out of my mouth."

The Bulldogs held their second practice Tuesday at Rhodes College, working out for two hours in full pads.

Georgia's defense had shown signs of improving down the stretch, but the Bulldogs gave up a lot of late yards and points to Louisiana-Lafayette - a 35-21 Georgia win - before doing the same against the Yellow Jackets. The Bulldogs enter the Liberty Bowl allowing 328.0 yards and 24.1 points per game after yielding 305.9 and 16.9 last season.

"We challenge our guys every day, because you learn from the good things and the bad things and work to move on," first-year Bulldogs defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. "With each of the disappointments we've had this season, I think we've learned from them, and we're excited about this opportunity coming up."

Whether Friday's bowl is the collegiate finale for Sanders is unknown. Running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel and outside linebackers Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter announced earlier this month that they would be returning for their senior seasons, but Sanders has yet to state his intentions.

"I just want to focus on this bowl game, and I'll have to get back to that," Sanders said. "The main thing is my family. I just want to hear from my family.

"I've gotten feedback, but I'm not really worrying about it. The main thing is this game, and my focus is on punishing TCU."

Taylor pleads guilty

Former Georgia and Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor pleaded guilty Tuesday to a charge of domestic violence stemming from an incident in Athens in July 2014.

The Athens Banner-Herald reported that Taylor was sentenced to 36 months of probation, given a $1,000 fine and ordered to complete 100 hours of community service. He was dismissed from Georgia following his arrest and wound up signing and enrolling at Alabama in January 2015 after spending the 2014 season at Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Community College.

He had just started practicing with the Crimson Tide when another domestic violence charge resulted in his dismissal. That charge was later dropped when the victim admitted to fabricating the story.

Taylor played this season at Southeastern Louisiana, racking up 34 tackles and five tackles for loss.

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.

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