MEMPHIS-The Liberty Bowl was not much fun for any fan of good football. The game saw a lone touchdown and plenty of turnovers. It was a sloppy postseason affair. However, it was the Knights of UCF that could smile and celebrate on Beale Street last night. Georgia’s offense never generated the production it needed to beat the Conference USA champion. The Dawgs only needed 11 points and failed to get there.
Here is the stat line for the game:
Aaron Murray: 21-38, 198 yards, two interceptions
Washaun Ealey: 16 carries, 60 yards
A.J. Green: Eight catches, 77 yards
Kris Durham: three catches, 47 yards
Brandon Boykin and Branden Smith both had an interception.
Here are some quotes from coaches and players:
Coach Mark Richt: “The only thing you can do at this point is congratulate Coach O’Leary and Central Florida…UCF, I think they would like to be called UCF and they certainly earned that tonight. They did a great job. They certainly played great defense. They made plays when they had to make plays offensively. Their special teams were very outstanding. It was a hard fought game and a very good football game if you like defense. I think the turnovers were pretty much a loss. Both teams had a couple. They just did what they needed to do when it counted most. It wasn’t a lack of fight or effort on our guys part.
Richt on Murray wearing gloves: “The glove decision:he’s been practicing in them when its been wet. He’s been throwing the ball really well with the gloves. I don’t think that was a factor. It was really more windy than wet. But I don’t think the wind was a factor. He just misfired and tried to force it a few times. Alot of it had to do with the defense being played”
Richt on if he would go for the touchdown instead of a field goal in the first quarter if he had a do over: “Well if I’d known what the final score was, yeah. But I think it was the right thing to do at the time. I think a couple players were upset that I didn’t go for it at that time. But I was like, if you wanna make it, make it on third-and-one, don’t tell me you wanna go for it on fourth-and-one. I don’t think it was a bad decision”
Richt on season: “We’re all disappointed. We didn’t want to finish with a loss. We didn’t want to finish with a losing record. Nobody could have probably predicted that. It is what it is. There are reasons why we ended the way we did. We have got to make changes. We gotta make sure that doesn’t happen again in the future. We’re going to improve. We’re going to get Georgia where it belongs.”
On A.J. Green returning punts. Richt:”As we practiced, A.J. was much cleaner and much more sure-handed during practice. We had a comfort level with A.J. fielding the ball. ”
Green:” He told me a couple of weeks ago [I'd be returning punts], but I didn’t believe him. It’s fun back there. I love the ball in my hands. I feel I can make a play anytime.”
Brandon Boykin on season: “I’ll start off by saying that this game wasn’t what we expected. At the same time, while everybody is disappointed right now, I think this team showed alot of resiliency throughout the year. Having a 1-4 start, not many people expected us to get to .500. To have a chance to be at a bowl is a blessing. It showed the way that our players never stopped fighting. The senior class we had was awesome. We wanted them to go out with a win, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.”
A.J. Green on his day: “You’ve got to give a great deal of credit to the UCF players. They are a hell of a defense. They came up with some pretty good schemes to keep me in tact-just keep me in front of them. They had a really good gameplan. They kept me in front of them and contained me real well. Shout out to them.”
Blair Walsh on submitting paperwork to NFL advisory board: “You can read it to it as much as you want, but I’m not going anywhere. I’m not ending like that, I can tell you that.”
Walsh and where team goes from here: “Up, up, we can’t go down. It’s embarrassing to be part of a losing season. My three years here haven’t been what I wanted them to be. The culture of our program is changing and our players are as well. We’ve got a new regime of seniors in and we’ll go from there. We’re going to start a new philosophy in January and go from there.”
Walsh on what needs to change: “Our attitude needs to change. We’re not entitled to win any games. Even though it was UCF, it was Conference USA, I think we felt like we were entitled to win this game. We can’t feel that way. They’re a great team, they absolutely are. But we need to play better and win. At the end of the day you’re playing football, you’re not playing conference, and which conference is better.”
Tavarres King on expectations for next season: “No goal is too high for this team, ever. So we’re going to use this game right here as motivation-this season as motivation-put Georgia back on the map. You know we are not going to stop working and grinding.”
King on what has to change to put Georgia back on the map: “Not much. Gotta push through the hard times.”
Coach Grantham: “I’m fully aware of the things we’ve got to work on and the things we’ve got to do. We’ve got to continue to recruit and develop. That’s number one.”
Simply, Georgia played a terrible game of football. The running game never got going and Aaron Murray began throwing into coverage way too often. The immediate ramifications of this game will be seen the strongest in the opinions surrounding Mark Richt’s job status. Fans will have the entire off-season to pontificate on this loss. However, I fail to see how a Liberty Bowl will be indicative of the job Mark Richt can do. This should not be the last straw in a person’s argument to find a different coach. UCF fans told me that if Georgia does get rid of Richt, then send him their way. Your opinion on Mark Richt was most likely determined before the bowl game. The Liberty Bowl should not have much bearing on that.
The athletic department has announced previously that Richt will return for 2011 and the Liberty Bowl will not change that.
Next for Georgia is the announcement of NFL departures and addition of new recruits.
Thanks for reading WUOG for Liberty Bowl coverage. It’s been a pleasure. You can hear me on the Friday Pregame show on Fridays at 5pm on wuog.org and 90.5 FM.
-Dayne Young, WUOG.