JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Georgia coach Mark Richt said his team has practiced well heading into Wednesday's Gator Bowl against Nebraska. But he wanted to make sure his team understood that hard work doesn't guarantee victory.
“You can practice well and play well and still lose,” Richt said. “Sometimes if you lose, everybody thinks you didn't practice well. You can play pretty darned good and still lose. When you play quality opponents, that's going to happen.”
Richt said the Huskers have been preparing just as hard for their first Gator Bowl appearance since 2009.
“I know they have trained well,” Richt said. “They have a great staff and a great program. When you get two teams that do a great job of preparing and getting ready, you're going to see a heck of a ballgame.”
Richt compared playing Nebraska again so soon to preparing for familiar Southeastern Conference opponents.
“The plan this year and having a game against them last year, it's not a lot different than playing another Eastern Division foe again,” Richt said. “The fact that both staffs were intact, mostly the same types of things are being done — it's a guide to see how they'll react to the same things they do.”
Bulldogs prize chance to play in bowl
Georgia defensive end Garrison Smith said he and his teammates have had no problems getting motivated to play in a New Year's Day bowl game after battling though injuries and some fluke situations to finish 8-4.
“I'm thankful just to be in a bowl game,” Smith said. “We had a lot of unfortunate injuries this year. We just kept fighting. We could have laid down, been like a lot of other teams at home right now.
“I'm proud of all the guys. Every game we were in we had a chance, but we fell short. I've got a lot of happy memories down here in Jacksonville, so I'm excited about it. It's going to be a big game.”
Coach praises NU secondary
Richt was asked if he noticed progress made by Nebraska's younger defensive starters, but he quickly turned the question into an opportunity to praise the Huskers' veteran secondary.
“Their secondary is not young. Their secondary is very veteran,” Richt said. “That's the spot on the defensive field, more than any place, it's tough to have youth back there. We've been going through that this year.”
Richt then said he has noticed marked improvement in Nebraska's front seven this season.
“You can tell Nebraska has recruited well,” Richt said. “You can tell they have good body types and the athleticism that it takes to get the job done on the defensive side of the ball. I don't think there's any doubt they improved this season.”
QB looking for faster start
Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason is ready for his second career start.
Mason didn't play against the Huskers in the Capital One Bowl a year ago, but he has studied tape of the game and noticed something he hopes the Bulldogs can avoid Wednesday.
“If you just go back and watch the game from last year, it kind of took us a little while to just kind of get going,” Mason said. “So we know that it's going to be a challenge to throw the ball and be efficient throwing the ball.”
Mason also remembered a number from Nebraska's defense — 44 — from watching tapes of NU's 12 games this season. When the name of No. 44 escaped him, Richt said “Gregory” and Mason's memory came back.
“Gregory is a very good pass rusher,” Mason said. “Just looking at him on film, he looks big and lanky, and he's going to be a challenge.”
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Video: NU coach Bo Pelini at the Gator Bowl press conference:
Video: UGA coach Mark Richt at the Gator Bowl press conference:
Video: Watch the Husker pep rally in Jacksonville: