Richt regrets incident against UF
Published: Friday, July 25, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 24, 2008 at 12:33 p.m.
HOOVER, Ala. — The day after his team's emotional victory over Florida last season, Georgia coach Mark Richt felt compelled to call Urban Meyer and explain the Bulldogs' premeditated controversial excessive celebration penalty after UGA's first touchdown.
If he was looking for forgiveness, it didn't work.
Meyer won't forget.
In a Meyer biography coming out in September, he has this to say about the entire Georgia team storming the field: "That wasn't right. It was a bad deal. It will forever be in the mind of Urban Meyer and in the mind of our football team. We'll handle it. And it's going to be a big deal."
Meyer reiterated his feelings at SEC Media Day on Wednesday, saying, "It was uncalled for."
Inevitably, Richt was asked about the celebration during his turn at the podium Thursday. He offered the same explanation to the media that he said he gave to Meyer the Sunday after the game.
"In hindsight, I asked our team to do an unsportsmanlike act. I shouldn't have done that," Richt said. "It could easily have turned into a big, stupid brawl."
Richt admitted he told his players during an open week before the game that he wanted to see a celebration penalty after the Bulldogs' first touchdown to hopefully give his team an emotional jolt coming off a blowout loss at Tennessee and a lackluster, last-second victory over Vanderbilt. But he said he did not foresee the celebration that occurred, with the entire Georgia bench emptying onto the field and celebrating in the end zone (and among the UF defensive players). Richt said he envisioned 11 offensive players celebrating.
"Well, somebody in the crowd thought I meant everybody," he said. "We score a touchdown, then bang, guys start leaving the sideline. I was in shock as much as anybody else. My initial reaction is, 'Oh, heck, you know, what's going on?
"Then I'll say this: When I saw the exuberance, when I saw the energy, when I saw the passion and the fire get unleashed that had been dormant in this football team, I got excited. I got fired up.
"Now, I didn't even think that it could probably have turned into a melee. The other thing I didn't think about was that (touchdown) was under review. If that thing wasn't a score, It would have been third-and-30. That would have been ugly. But, again, I had no intention for out team to clear the bench.
"I called Coach Meyer on Sunday and told him what I told you. I said I was a coach desperate to try to get some enthusiasm, and I was willing to take a 15-yard penalty."
Richt said after the loss to Tennessee, he felt he needed to become more emotional and show more fire. When the Bulldogs didn't respond in the Vanderbilt game, Richt came up with the celebration idea during the open date before the UF game.
When he saw individuals celebrating after scoring against the scout team, he said he told the Bulldogs he wanted a team celebration.
"I'm thinking in my mind, my little pea brain, 11 guys in the game, score a touchdown, 11 guys jump up and down and celebrate until the official throws the flag," he said.
At the hotel the morning of the game, Richt said he tried to explain to his players what he was looking for.
"I said, 'Number one, I am going to stay true to my word and let you celebrate after the score. But I don't want some individual to do a little dance or throw the ball in the stands. It's not an individual celebration. I want it to be a team celebration,' " he said.
When tailback Knowshon Moreno scored on a 1-yard run (a play that would be reviewed), the offensive players began to celebrate, then the players on the bench starting pouring on to the field to join in.
Defensive tackle Jeff Owens said the team-wide celebration was spontaneous and had not been planned.
"People say we planned it. It was not planned," he said. "Guys were seeing other guys running on the field, so everybody else ran on. I ran out there. I didn't want to be the last one on the bench with the television camera looking and I'm the only one sitting there.
"It fired us up big time. We had six personal foul penalties in that game. Guys were Gator chomping and everything. I felt we had our swagger back after that."
The Bulldogs carried the swagger through the remainder of the season and say they still have it heading into 2008. With so many players returning, The Bulldogs are favored by many to win the SEC and make it to the BCS National Championship Game.
Of course, the Gators will have a say in that. And Meyer has made it obvious that his players will not forget what happened in last season's game.
That celebration (and UGA victory) has thrown gasoline on what had been a smoldering rivalry.
"I don't think there's any doubt it's intensified the rivalry," Richt said. "But what intensified the rivalry is that we won, OK? I mean, that's the reality."
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