Riley Ridley

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Two Georgia players opt to forego draft, return to Bulldogs

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Georgia was on the receiving end of some positive personnel news this weekend not long after it was hit with a significant exodus of draft-eligible players.

Sunday evening, kicker Rodrigo Blankenship confirmed on his personal Twitter account that he will be returning to the Bulldogs for his senior season.  Roughly an hour and a half later, teammate and safety J.R. Reed used the same social media vehicle to deliver the same message.

Reed began his collegiate career at Tulsa before transferring to UGA in June of 2016.  After sitting out that season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, Reed has started 29 straight games for the Bulldogs.

This season, Reed is currently second on the team in tackles with 66.

The bespectacled Blankenship has served as the Bulldogs’ primary placekicker for each of the past three seasons.  He was a semifinalist for the 2018 Lou Groza Award as part of a season in which he connected on 19-of-23 field goals and all 65 extra point attempts.

Late last week, Georgia’s top three receivers in both catches and yards — tight end Isaac Nauta, wide receivers Mecole Hardman and Riley Ridley — as well as its second-leading rusher, Elijah Holyfield, all announced that they would be foregoing their remaining eligibility in order to enter the April NFL draft.

Georgia RB Elijah Holyfield joins fellow Bulldogs turning pro

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Add one more Georgia Bulldog to the list of players leaving Athens early for a shot at the NFL. Running back Elijah Holyfield joined a handful of Georgia players making their decisions known Friday evening.

Holyfield shared a statement on his Twitter account to confirm he is leaving behind a year of eligibility to go to the NFL in 2019.

“I would like to take this time to officially declare for the 2019 NFL Draft,” Holyfield said in a statement on his Twitter account. “I go forward, while always reflecting on my time in Athens, knowing I will work tirelessly to make dawg nation proud.”

Holyfield was one of Georgia’s leading rushers this season with 1,018 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Together with D’Andre Swift, Georgia featured one of the top running back combos in college football this past season. Now, Swift will likely take on the lead role while Kirby Smart looks to get another running back ready to step in to

Holyfield joins receivers Riley Ridley and Mecole Hardman and tight end Isaac Nauta in declaring early for the NFL Draft today.

Georgia losing top three receivers early to the 2019 NFL Draft, one more player to transfer

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It was a busy day of decision making for Georgia football players, and this has nothing to do with Justin Fields. Georgia’s top three receivers from the 2018 season — wide receiver Riley Ridley and Mecole Hardman and tight end Isaac Nauta — all declared themselves eligible for the 2019 NFL Draft on Friday.

“I could not imagine any other program preparing me for the next step the way this one has,” Ridley said in a statement shared on his Instagram account. “Thank you to coach [Kirby Smart] and the entire phenomenal coaching staff for molding me into the athlete I am today. My experience here has been nothing less than absolutely amazing.”

“After thinking through this decision and speaking with my family and my coaches, I have decided to forgo my senior season and declare for the 2019 NFL Draft,” Nauta said in a statement on his Twitter account Friday afternoon. “I truly feel in my heart that this is the best decision for me, and I am ready to pursue another life long dream of mine, playing in the NFL.”

Joining the parade of social media statements was Hardman, who said “After much prayer and thought, my parents and I have made the decision that it is best that I forgo my final year at Georgia and enter the 2019 NFL Draft.”

Ridley was Georgia’s leading receiver with 570 yards this season and a team-high nine touchdowns. Hardman was just behind him with 532 yards and seven touchdowns on 10 fewer receptions this season. Hardman had mroe receiving yards than Ridley in 2017 with 418 yards to 218 yards as both came behind Javon Wims and Terry Godwin in the stat sheet.

Nauta was Georgia’s third-leading receiver this season with 430 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games. His season was highlighted by a season-high 81 yards with a touchdown in the SEC Championship Game against Alabama when he averaged 20.25 yards per reception. Nauta had nine catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns in 2017, which was a drop from his 2016 season with 361 yards and three touchdowns.

On top of all of that news, and the idea that Justin Fields is about to officially transfer to Ohio State comes the news that Georgia is also losing another tight end to a transfer. Luke Ford is leaving Georgia for another Big Ten school, Illinois. Ford announced his decision with a statement on Twitter as well, citing the health of his grandparents as a factor in wanting to be closer to them as he moves forward.

No. 15 Texas begins 2019 by dumping Sugar on No. 5 Georgia

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The Allstate Sugar Bowl began when Bevo rushed Uga during a pre-game photo op, and then a group of Longhorns did the same to the Bulldogs. A No. 15 Texas team that will play the 2019 season with Big 12 championship and College Football Playoff expectations showed exactly why, showcasing superior physicality and execution to dump No. 5 Georgia in a 28-21 win that wasn’t as close as the final score.

After spending the past month — and Saturday night specifically — chirping about how they belonged in the Playoff over Notre Dame and Oklahoma, Georgia (11-3) backed that talk up by playing its worst game of the season. The Bulldogs fell into a 17-0 hole early in the second quarter and never recovered. The SEC’s best rushing team was out-rushed by a team that entered the game No. 95 in the country on the ground — and out-rushed emphatically, 180-72.

But this night was about Texas, and right from the start.

The Longhorns accepted the ball to open the game and rolled 75 yards in 10 plays to open the game with a touchdown. Sam Ehlinger completed all five of his passes for 61 yards — including a 3rd-and-7 to Humphrey to set up a first-and-goal, which Ehlinger converted with a 2-yard keeper.

Georgia’s first possession saw Jake Fromm convert a 3rd-and-6 with an 11-yard strike to Terry Godwin, but a following 3rd-and-9 saw pressure from Charles Omenihu and BJ Foster, forcing a throw away. Jake Camarda blasted the ensuing punt 53 yards to the Texas 6-yard line, but replay showed Camarda brought his knee to the ground as he corralled a low snap from Nick Moore, flipping the ball from the Texas 6 to the Georgia 27 — a 66-yard change in field position. Georgia’s defense forced a three-and-out, but instead of a Texas punt from its own end zone, Cameron Dicker converted a 37-yard field goal to put the Longhorns up 10-0 at the 6:05 mark of the first quarter.

Georgia actually got off a punt on its second possession, but Camarda shanked this one for just 11 yards, handing Texas (10-4) the ball at midfield. UT pushed to the Georgia 32 but went backward from there and punted. However, Georgia was not done giving Texas first quarter gifts, as D’Andre Swift fumbled the ball to Texas defensive tackle Gerald Wilbon at his own 12.

When Ehlinger rushed in on a 3rd-and-7 for his second score of the game at the 14:53 mark of the second quarter, Texas had a 17-0 lead and a 110-8 total yardage advantage.

Georgia snipped at their yardage deficit on their first drive of the second quarter with a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. The score came on a 17-yard Fromm pass to Brian Herrien, but the key completion was a 12-yard strike to Riley Ridley on a 3rd-and-11 from the Texas 29.

Texas answered Georgia’s score, but not with a touchdown. Dicker’s second field goal, a 30-yarder, pushed the UT lead to 20-7 with 4:37 to go in the first half. The key play of the drive came on a 1st-and-10 from the Texas 37, when Ehlinger ducked a blindside sack and turned it into a 17-yard scramble.

Swift fumbled the ball inside his own territory on Georgia’s next possession, but the Bulldogs hopped on this one and eventually reached the Texas 31, but Anthony Wheeler sacked Fromm on a 3rd-and-10, giving Texas just their third third down stop on eight first-half tries.

After a scoreless third quarter, Ehlinger’s third rushing touchdown of the game put Texas up three scores with 11:49 left, but it didn’t come easy. After Ehlinger kept a 4th-and-1 rush from the Georgia 13, Texas called his number on six straight snaps — a 5-yard run on 2nd-and-15, a 10-yard conversion on 3rd-and-10, and then four straight quarterback runs up the gut from the Georgia 1. Finally, on fourth down, Ehlinger got in, and replay review showed he had the nose of the ball on the first white blade of the Superdome’s goal line FieldTurf when his knee hit the ground, upholding the touchdown call on the field. Texas went for two and gave Ehlinger a break, hitting Collin Johnson with a fade to push its lead to 28-7.

Georgia needed a quick response and got one, moving 66 yards in six plays and 84 seconds to pull within 28-14 at the 10:25 mark of the final frame on a 3-yard toss to Mecole Hardman. Texas put together a brief drive but punted back to Georgia at their own 15, with exactly half the fourth quarter to play and momentum on their side.

Instead, Georgia punted — immediately. Gary Johnson sacked Fromm on first down, and pressure forced two incompletions on second and third down. Texas burned all but the final 70 remaining seconds and both of Georgia’s available timeouts. A plethora of penalties — Texas had two defensive backs ejected for targeting on the drive — helped Georgia pull within one score on a 5-yard pass to Swift, but with just 14 seconds remaining. Collin Johnson recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the win.

Ehlinger closed a fantastic sophomore season by hitting a modest 19-of-27 passes for 169 yards while carrying the load in the Texas rushing game with 21 carries for 64 hard-fought yards and all three of his team’s touchdowns.

He will enter 2019 as a Heisman Trophy candidate and his team, which just won a New Year’s Six game for the first time since Colt McCoy and company did so in 2008, will enter the year with championship expectations. Tuesday night’s game showed exactly why.

Texas leads Georgia in smash mouth Sugar Bowl

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Tuesday night’s Allstate Sugar Bowl was supposed to be a consolation game between two conference championship game losers, but it’s turned into anything but that as No. 15 Texas holds a 20-7 lead over No. 5 Georgia at the half in New Orleans.

Texas accepted the ball to open the game and rolled 75 yards in 10 plays to open the game with a touchdown. Sam Ehlinger completed all five of his passes for 61 yards — including a 3rd-and-7 to Humphrey to set up a first-and-goal, which Ehlinger converted with a 2-yard keeper.

Georgia’s first possession saw Jake Fromm convert a 3rd-and-6 with an 11-yard strike to Terry Godwin, but a following 3rd-and-9 saw pressure from Charles Omenihu and BJ Foster, forcing a throw away. Jake Camarda blasted the ensuing punt 53 yards to the Texas 6-yard line, but replay showed Camarda brought his knee to the ground as he corralled a low snap from Nick Moore, flipping the ball from the Texas 6 to the Georgia 27 — a 66-yard change in field position. Georgia’s defense forced a three-and-out, but instead of a Texas punt from its own end zone, Cameron Dicker converted a 37-yard field goal to put the Longhorns up 10-0 at the 6:05 mark of the first quarter.

Georgia actually got off a punt on its second possession, but Camarda shanked this one for just 11 yards, handing Texas the ball at midfield. UT pushed to the Georgia 32 but went backward from there and punted. However, Georgia was not done giving Texas first quarter gifts, as D’Andre Swift fumbled the ball to Texas defensive tackle Gerald Wilbon at his own 12.

When Ehlinger rushed in on a 3rd-and-7 for his second score of the game at the 14:53 mark of the second quarter, Texas had a 17-0 lead and a 110-8 total yardage advantage.

Georgia snipped at their yardage deficit on their first drive of the second quarter with a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. The score came on a 17-yard Fromm pass to Brian Herrien, but the key completion was a 12-yard strike to Riley Ridley on a 3rd-and-11 from the Texas 29.

Texas answered Georgia’s score, but not with a touchdown. Dicker’s second field goal, a 30-yarder, pushed the UT lead to 20-7 with 4:37 to go in the first half. The key play of the drive came on a 1st-and-10 from the Texas 37, when Ehlinger ducked a blindside sack and turned it into a 17-yard scramble.

Swift fumbled the ball inside his own territory on Georgia’s next possession, but the Bulldogs hopped on this one and eventually reached the Texas 31, but Anthony Wheeler sacked Fromm on a 3rd-and-10, giving Texas just their third third down stop on eight first-half tries.

Ehlinger was 10-of-13 for 90 yards through the air while rushing seven times for 27 yards and both of his team’s touchdowns. Tre Watson leads all runners with 49 yards on 10 carries, which equals the rushing total from all three of Georgia’s running backs (on 16 combined totes).

Fromm completed 9-of-15 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown, which wouldn’t be a problem for Georgia if the running game was clicking. The running game is not clicking. Georgia’s 118 first half yards were a season low.

Whether that trend stays or flips will decide the game.

Georgia will receive to open the second half.