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November 16, 2005

Richt tries to clear up confusion

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ATHENS, Ga. - The Georgia sideline was in disarray.

Coach Mark Richt was signaling for a two-point conversion, but the kicking team already had sprinted onto the field. Quarterback D.J. Shockley waited eagerly to get the play, but it was late coming in.

The upshot of all the confusion: The play clock ran out, the Bulldogs were penalized for delay of game and had to settle for a one-point PAT. They wound up losing their second game in a row - by one point.

Missing a block is one thing; being disorganized is an entirely different matter. No. 14 Georgia, which has a third chance to clinch a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship game, doesn't want it to happen again.

Richt said Tuesday he's taken steps to prevent a repeat of the chaos that followed the Bulldogs' final touchdown against Auburn. Most notably, the kicking team will not be allowed to run on the field - no matter how obvious the situation - until they get the go-ahead from the coaches.

"I don't care if we just scored a touchdown in the first quarter to go ahead 6-0," Richt said. "The kicking team will not go on the field until the coaches tell them to go on the field."

The larger issue is Georgia's sideline hierarchy.

Richt calls the offensive plays and works closely with the quarterbacks, which makes it impossible to handle all the duties normally associated with a head coach. He hands off many of those responsibilities to his assistants, but there's still been some game-management gaffes over the years, such as squandering time or failing to get the right players on the field.

While Richt doesn't believe a major overhaul is needed, he acknowledged that the coaches should have recognized the kicking team had gotten into the habit of running on the field after every touchdown - whether they were told to or not. The Bulldogs didn't correct the situation before it came back to bite them.

"That's where I failed as a head coach - making sure our procedure was proper," Richt said. "There's no way I can stay on top of everything on the sideline. That's why I delegate authority."

Georgia is sure kicking itself, so to speak, for squandering a chance to force overtime in that 31-30 loss to Auburn last weekend.

When the Bulldogs scored a touchdown with 12 1/2 minutes left to reclaim the lead, 26-21, Richt recognized the need to go for two. At that stage of the game, there's not much difference between leads of five and six points. Either is trumped by a touchdown and a PAT.

Richt already had a play in mind. He knew he wanted to place the ball on the left hashmark. Unfortunately for Georgia, it wasn't as obvious to everyone else on the team.

Kicker Brandon Coutu got about halfway on the field before he heard the frantic cries from the sideline, ordering him to return. Some other members of the kicking team also had to scramble back.

"We were in a state of confusion," Coutu said.

Offensive coordinator Neil Callaway usually gives the signal for the kicking team to go on the field. But Coutu admitted that he wasn't thinking about the possibility of the Bulldogs going for two after they scored the touchdown.

"It was still early," he said. "The two-pointer didn't really cross my mind. Everybody was celebrating the touchdown, so we just ran on the field."

While the coaches were trying to sort that out, Richt was trying to get a play to Shockley. The Bulldogs had been in the no-huddle offense the entire game, so the play clock was never really a factor.

Until now.

By the time Shockley got the play, made sure the right players were on the field and began making his reads, the 25-second clock was winding down. The senior quarterback wasn't still barking out signals when it reached zero. The Bulldogs were penalized five yards for delay of game. They wound up settling for Coutu's kick.

"The whole game, I was getting the play before the play clock even started," Shockley said. "But by the time I looked up, the time had run out. A lot of that is on me. I've got to communicate with the offense and make sure everybody knows what's going on."

The Bulldogs (7-2) already have squandered two chances to clinch the SEC East, but they've got another this week against lowly Kentucky (3-6). They don't want to let this one get away.

"I didn't do a good job of communicating," Richt said. "Now, we've got to make sure that never happens again."

For more coverage of the Georgia Bulldogs, check out UGASports.com.



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