Ten@10: Reggie Davis gets pick-me-ups from Bulldogs, SEC

Georgia receiver/kick returner breaks loose for a 70-yard touchdown on a punt return against Tennessee this past Saturday. The junior was named the SEC's specials teams player of the week.

1. Reggie Davis was absolutely devastated to have dropped the wide-open touchdown pass that could have tied the Tennessee late in the fourth quarter this past Saturday. But his team and the SEC are doing their best to pick him up this week.

Early Monday, the 6-foot, 170-pound junior was named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week. Davis had a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first half against the Vols and 143 yards in returns overall. Including his three receptions for another 101 yards, Davis finished with 244 all-purpose yards and scored on a 48-yard catch.

“It’s going to be a tough thing to get over,” Davis said of the drop. “I’m still upset with myself. My team put faith in me and I let them down. Nothing else matters because we lost.”

Entering the season’s seventh game, Davis is the Bulldogs’ third-leading receiver with 11 catches for 181 yards and is third on the team with 80.7 all-purpose yards per game.

2. Offensive tackle John Theus and defensive end Josh Dawson, both seniors, were also named captains. Curiously, UGA normally designates four but went with only three this week.

And even more curious, Dawson, a senior from Tucker, did not start in the Tennessee game and did not record a tackle or any other statistic against the Vols. Perhaps defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is sending some sort of message to his unit, which gave up 519 yards and allowed the Vols to run 90 offensive plays.

There were seemingly worthy defensive recipients, however. Linebacker Jake Ganus led the Bulldogs with 12 tackles, cohort Tim Kimbrough added 11 (giving him 24 in the last two weeks) and Leonard Floyd contributed six tackles, half a tackle for loss and a 96-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

Meanwhile, not having a fourth captain makes one wonder if the Bulldogs may be planning some sort of captain’s role for injured tailback Nick Chubb. The sophomore from Cedartown is now sidelined for the season after suffering a serious knee injury on the first play of the game.

Nick Chubb takes off on what would be his last carry of the 2015 season, a two-yard gain on a toss sweep around left end. AJC / BRANT SANDERLIN

3. Georgia will begin exploring in earnest today what life without Chubb might look like. Sophomore Sony Michel is the obvious go-to guy, and he’s got a tough act to follow.

With one two-yard gain on the last play of the sixth game of his second season, Chubb exits with 747 yards rushing on an average of 8.1 yards per carry. Because he had the single carry in the sixth game, his yards per game average drops from 149 yards per game to 124.5. But that’s still second in the SEC behind LSU’s Leonard Fournette.

Chubb came into Saturday’s game tied with Herschel Walker for the school record for consecutive 100-yard games with 13. That record will obviously remain unbroken.

Six games into his sophomore season – with a total of 14 starts under his belt — Chubb gained 2,293 yards and scored 24 touchdowns. That ranks ninth all-time on Georgia’s list for career rushing yardage,  ahead of 1942 Heisman Trophy winner Frank Sinkwich (2,271 yards) and behind Kevin McLee (2,581).

4. As for Michel, he has proven more than capable of being able to carry the load in Chubb’s absence. The 5-foot-11, 208-pound sophomore took over for Chubb in the first quarter against Tennessee and finished with 145 yards on 22 carries. Michel also had three receptions for 26 yards and, along with his 17-yard kickoff return, logged 188 all-purpose yards for the game.

I wouldn’t expect Michel to have much of a role on special teams going forward, and that has nothing to do with his momentum-swinging fumble right before halftime on Saturday. Coach Mark Richt confirmed on his radio call-in show on Monday night that Michel could expect a reduced role on special teams since he is going to be getting more carries.

Sony Michel will be the Bulldogs’ primary ball carrier going forward, and he’ll likely not return kicks anymore. AJC / JOSHUA JONES

Davis remains the Bulldogs’ primary kick returner with 197 yards on 10 returns this season. The next-most is Isaiah McKenzie with four for 42. However, McKenzie’s availability this week remains in question as he continues to battle a chronic hamstring issue.

5. Where might the Bulldogs turn?

Keith Marshall is a logical option. The junior tailback has recorded the Bulldogs’ only other return from the deep-safety position – Brendan Douglas has fielded three for 24 yards from his up-back spot — with one for 18 yards against Vanderbilt. And traditionally Georgia’s backup tailback gets work in that role.

Another player to keep an eye on is freshman receiver Terry Godwin as well as position mates Jayson Stanley and Michael Chigbu. Freshman defensive back Juwuan Briscoe also returned kicks in high school.

Tight end Jay Rome had two catches for 25 yards against Tennessee on Saturday. CHATTANOOGAN.COM / DENNIS NORWOOD

6. Some UGA fans might be wondering what happened to the Bulldogs’ ballyhooed tight ends. Heading into the first game of second half of the season, Georgia’s tight ends have only 11 catches as a group, with Jeb Blazevich leading the way with five for 54 yards and the unit’s only touchdown. But Blazevich, the regular star, does not have a catch in the last two games and the tight ends have only three in the last three games, with Jay Rome getting two against Tennessee.

That runs contrary to the reputation with which Brian Schottenheimer arrived in Athens. The first-year offensive coordinator was known for heavily depending on not one but two tight ends the last few years with the St. Louis Rams.

Rome was asked about it after Monday’s practice.

“Coach Schotty is doing the same thing we’ve been trying to do for years,” Rome, who has three catches for 45 yards, told reporters. “He’s trying to get the tight ends into the game plan, whether it be run-blocking or the in passing game, however he thinks we can help the best.”

Blazevich’s health is not helping the situation. The 6-5, 248-pound sophomore has been playing through an ankle injury the last couple of weeks.

7. In the meantime, preparations for Saturday’s homecoming game against Missouri (4-2, 1-2 SEC) will get started in earnest on Tuesday. On Monday, the Bulldogs practiced for 90 minutes in shorts and helmets. That workout focused primarily on addressing mistakes made in the previous game, as per usual.

”That was a solid start to the week,” Richt said after the workout. ”It was a beautiful day and a good, crisp practice. Everyone showed great focus and energy. We started implementing our plan today.  We’ve got a long way to go, but today was a very good start.”

Georgia (4-2, 2-2) has won three of the four previous meetings with Missouri.  The first was a 14-0 victory over the Tigers in the 1960 Orange Bowl. All three succeeding matchups have come since 2012, when Missouri joined the SEC as a member of the Eastern Division.

Saturday’s game will be televised by the SEC Network, with Brent Musburger and Jesse Palmer in the booth and UGA alumnus Maria Taylor reporting from the sideline.

Freshman Drew Lock, now at the controls of Missouri’s offense, struggled in the 21-3 loss to Florida. GETTY IMAGES / ED ZURIGA

8. Speaking of Missouri, it looks like the Tigers are going to be without quarterback Maty Mauk for a third consecutive week. The junior from Kenton, Ohio, has been indefinitely suspended for unspecified reasons.

But Mauk hadn’t been playing particularly well before that. He exited Week 4 completing 52 percent of passes for 654 yards and six touchdowns with four interceptions and was already hearing boos from the home crowd. And Mauk did nothing to endear himself to Mizzou fans or his teammates as he favorited critical tweets about his replacement, Drew Lock, during the 21-3 loss to Florida this past Saturday.

Lock did cool considerably against the Gators’ stout defense after a sensational debut against South Carolina. He completed just 16 of his 39 attempts for 151 yards and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. It was the worst statistical start by a Mizzou quarterback since Mauk tossed four interceptions and completed just nine passes in a 34-0 loss to Georgia last season.

Mizzou hasn’t had a quarterback throw for 200 or more yards in a single game since Mauk did so against Alabama in the 2014 SEC Championship game. Lock, a 6-4, 205-pound freshman from Lee’s Summit, Mo., has completed 56.5 percent of his passes for 512 yards with three TDs and three interceptions.

9. But as Georgia fans will learn when the Tigers visit Sanford Stadium on Saturday, it’s not about offense for that team. Hard as it may be to believe after what everybody witnessed against Alabama two weeks ago in Athens, Missouri actually gives up fewer points per game than the Crimson Tide and leads the SEC in scoring defense at 13.5 points per game. The Tigers are second in the league behind Bama in total defense at 275.8 yards per game, which ranks No. 11 nationally.

Missouri’s defense is led by linebacker Kentrell Brothers, a fifth-year senior who leads the SEC with 74 tackles, or an average of 12.3 per game. The Tigers are also third in the SEC in sacks with 3.0 per game.

The Bulldogs and Johnathan Abram struggled to bring down Tennessee’s offensive play-makers. AJC / BRANT SANDERLIN

10. Conversely, as we’re rapidly learning, Georgia is having some issues with its young defense. For the second consecutive week, the Bulldogs’ opponent scored 38 points — all by the offense this time — and Tennessee ran 90 offensive plays to UGA’s 62.

The primary problem appeared to be tackling, particularly against the Vols’ sizeable runners in quarterback Josh Dobbs and tailback Jalen Hurd. Understandably, the Bulldogs will be hyper-focused on the fundamentals of tackling in practice this week.

“Tackling is a big thing in the game of football,” defensive back Dominick Sanders told reporters after Monday’s practice. “Looking back at the game, it’s over with now, but we’re learning from our mistakes. It’s a bad thing that we missed those tackles, but we’re moving on.”

 

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