ATHENS – There are freshmen behind him in the backfield, freshmen outside of him at wide receiver and freshmen tight ends. So forgive Greg Pyke if he sometimes feels like an uncle sometimes playing with a bunch of young nephews on Georgia’s offenses.
Pyke, a fifth-year senior from Baltimore, Md., is indeed considered an elder statesmen and a respected leader for the Bulldogs. The starting right tackle is on the team’s leadership council and he’s one of the most vocal members of a UGA offense on which that personality trait doesn’t come natural to much of the squad.
And Pyke has had a lot to say lately. He felt a need speak up this week in the wake of the way the Bulldogs’ loss stunning 34-31 loss to Tennessee this past Saturday. Not only was there the devastation of falling to ninth-ranked Vols on a Hail Mary pass after time had expired, but there was also the personal foul penalty that helped set it up. Georgia defensive back Rico McGraw was flagged for running onto the field without a helmet in celebration of what should have been the winning touchdown for the Bulldogs.
Pyke said he and the other members of the leadership council met about all those circumstances on Sunday, then shared some words of wisdom with the rest of the team on Monday.
“Of course,” Pyke said of whether he addressed his teammates. “Coach (Kirby) Smart wants us to be very disciplined. … It goes back to what you do on the field and what you do in practice. Everything leading up to the game, you have to practice it hard so it makes the game easy. If you’re seeing it in practice, then guys need to not just call them out but talk to them and say, ‘hey, this is the Georgia way.’ We need to attack the day and go forward on that.”
Pyke said that is what the attitude has been as the Bulldogs (3-2, 1-2 SEC) have prepared for Saturday’s SEC road game against South Carolina (2-3, 1-3). They can’t forget about the loss to the Vols, but they have to move on from it.
“It was heartbreaking being out there and thinking you’re going to win and then that happens,” Pyke said. “But all the credit goes to Tennessee. You definitely have to move forward from that.”
Pyke answered some questions for DawgNation:
1. Have you had a hard time getting that last play by Tennessee out of your head?
Pyke: “I watched the film, and it was not just the play at the end that affected the game. There were many plays that affected the game. The one play at the end was heartbreaking, but we win and lose as a team. There is no finger-pointing. Now it is on to South Carolina.”
2. You guys have had two losses in a row but they were fairly stark in their differences, one a blowout and one you probably should have won. What have you learned about your team over these last two weeks?
Pyke: “Not just in the last two weeks, but I thought there was something different about this team going into the summer. Being a senior and being a fifth-year guy, there is something different about this team. I think we never gave up against Missouri and it went down to the line against Tennessee, so I think this team knows that if we are down or we are up that we need to finish the game.”
Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason was not very happy when he left the field at Sanford Stadium after the Tennessee game this past Saturday. BRANT SANDERLIN / AJC
3. What are your thoughts on quarterback Jacob Eason and particularly the job the freshman did leading you guys back on the touchdown drive in the final seconds after that fumble in the end zone only minutes earlier?
Pyke: “You can’t deny his talent. He is still a young quarterback. He is 18-years-old, so it helps to have guys like (Brandon) Kublanow and me up front, veteran guys that have played a lot of ball to help him out with calls and everything. … When we lined up for two-minute drill, I knew we were going down to score. I had all the confidence in the world in him and our backs and our wide receivers that we were going to make that play.”
4. You guys ran the ball much better against Tennessee than you did in previous weeks. What was the difference?
Pyke: “Our emphasis was to run the ball between the tackles last week. I think going forward now we’re going to practice physical. Coach Smart always says ‘we’re going to get in a lot of good-on-good work’ during the week. It was really just going back to practicing physical and everything like that.”
5. What does it mean to have Nick Chubb back in the lineup this week?
Pyke: “It’s always nice to have Nick Chubb back in your lineup. But I thought we did a very good job with all the guys that ran last week against Tennessee. It’s just icing on the cake to have Nick back.”