Malcolm Mitchell

AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser

Georgia holds off Penn State rally for TaxSlayer Bowl victory

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Georgia (10-3) once led Penn State (7-6) 24-3 in the TaxSlayer Bowl but a furious rally by the Nittany Lions with a backup quarterback fell just shy. Georgia’s 24-17 victory was made official when a Hail Mary attempt from Trace McSorely fell incomplete at the goal line.

Georgia’s defense knocked out Penn State starting quarterback Christian Hackenberg in the first half of the game. He returned on the sideline in the second half in street clothes, giving way to backup McSorely for his first serious playing time at Penn State. It was a rough adjustment once he entered the game but McSorely and Penn State eventually got in a groove and established some momentum through the air. McSorely passed for 142 yards and two touchdowns to lead the second half rally, but Georgia had done enough to grab the win.

Georgia running back Sony Michel and Keith Marshall played a key role on the ground for the Bulldogs. Neither had a big performance, but Michel’s 85 yards and touchdown and Marshall’s 62 rushing yards came at key moments to move the first down markers in the fourth quarter and keep the clock running. Georgia’s Greyson Lambert completed just 10 of his 20 pass attempts for 115 yards, but they also seemed to be picked up at key moments when needed. Malcolm Mitchell hauled in 114 receiving yards and a touchdown, but it was receiver Terry Godwin who caught Penn State’s defense off guard for the touchdown play to Mitchell in the first half.

Georgia’s defense did more than knock Hackenberg out of the game. The run defense was well prepared for Penn State freshman running back Saquon Barkley. Barkley was limited to 69 yards on 17 carries and the Georgia defense always seemed to have a presence in the backfield to shut down any play attempting to develop laterally. Penn State’s offense did gain some juice in the second half though, and the Nittany Lions rolled up 401 yards of offense to Georgia’s 327. Penalties proved costly for Penn State though, with six penalties totaling just 39 yards, but that included a crucial 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call on Austin Johnson on Georgia’s final offensive possession of the game to move the ball into Penn State territory.

With the win by Georgia, the SEC improves to 7-2 in bowl games this bowl season. The SEC still has a handful of games to be played, including Alabama’s national championship appearance against Clemson. The Big Ten closes out the postseason with a 5-5 record in bowl games, including a 1-3 mark against the SEC. Georgia interim head coach Bryan McClendon earned his first career bowl victory as a result of the game as well. Penn State’s James Franklin dropped to 3-2 in bowl games in his first loss since his bowl debut in 2011 with Vanderbilt.

Georgia will now turn the page as a program by ushering in the Kirby Smart era, just as soon as Smart is done with Alabama’s championship run in Tuscaloosa. Smart was on hand for the game to check out his new program. Penn State may also be turning a page depending on what happens with Hackenberg. If Hackenberg is on the move, Penn State got a glimpse of what may come in 2016 by seeing McSorely get some playing time and find himself in the offense. The two-minute drill with no timeouts left plenty of room for improvement, but McSorely was thrown into the fire for the first time for any extending playing time. If Hackenberg turns pro, McSorely will likely be the starting quarterback in 2016 for the Nittany Lions.

Georgia will open the 2016 season in Atlanta against North Carolina from the ACC in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. Penn State’s 2016 season kicks off against Kent State at home in Beaver Stadium before taking to the road to renew an in-state rivalry with Pittsburgh.

Not even Mother Nature could slow down No. 9 Georgia vs. ULM today

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Heisman hopeful Nick Chubb rushed for 120 yards and a pair of touchdowns as No. 9 Georgia (1-0) powered its way past ULM (0-1) Saturday afternoon in Athens, 51-14. Not even a weather delay could slow down the momentum of the Georgia offense. Lightning in the area forced the game to be suspended for over an hour, but Georgia had long since had their way with the WarHawks.

Chubb opened the scoring with a 14-yard touchdown run early in the first quarter and Virginia transfer quarterback Greyson Lambert (who started for the Bulldogs) got in the score sheet with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jeb Blazevich just 20 seconds later. Aaron Davis intercepted a pass from ULM quarterback Garrett Smith on the first play of the ensuing drive after Chubb’s touchdown run.

The onslaught of Georgia offense continued in the second quarter with the Bulldogs adding three more touchdowns before ULM could get on the board just before halftime. Special teams got involved in the second half for Georgia with a blocked punt netting the team two more points midway through the third quarter. Lambert added his second touchdown of the game minutes later with a 28-yard pass to Malcolm Mitchell.

Chubb is going to continue to be the main cog in Georgia’s championship plans, but it must have been encouraging to see Lambert have himself a solid afternoon running the offense. Brice Ramsey did see some playing time as well, completing his only two pass attempts of the game for 51 yards and a touchdown, but Lambert proved why he was named the starter by Mark Richt. Now let’s see what he does in the next game.

Georgia will jump into SEC play in Week 2 with a road trip to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt. The Commodores are coming off a tough loss at home against Western Kentucky on Thursday night.

ULM gets a home game next week and should bounce back. The WarHawks will host Nicholls State, but they go to Alabama two weeks later after a bye week.

Alabama lands 12 players on preseason All-SEC media selections

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Before we closed the books on the SEC’s week-long football preview week, the SEC released its annual media preseason all-conference selections. As if one team of preseason All-SEC players is not enough to hold us over, the good folks at the SEC made sure everyone working in the sports information offices throughout the conference (except for Vanderbilt) were busy by naming not two but three All-SEC teams.

The first team offenses is led by one of last year’s biggest breakout stars, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott. He is joined by two of the conference’s, and perhaps the nation’s, top two young running backs; Nick Chubb of Georgia and Leonard Fournette of LSU. Fournette also received a nod on the All-SEC Special teams with a second team recognition. Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell is expected to have a big return after seeing his 2014 season cut a little short by a tough ankle injury. He was named to the All-SEC First Team by the media this week. He is one of three Rebels to appear on the All-SEC First Team offense.

Among the three All-SEC teams put together by the media, no school had more players recognized than Alabama, with 12. Vanderbilt was the only school without a player selected.

OFFENSE
First-Team
QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State (170)
RB Nick Chubb, Georgia (189)
RB Leonard Fournette, LSU (180)
WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss (169)
WR D’haquille Williams, Auburn (154)
TE Evan Engram, Ole Miss (128)
OL Cam Robinson, Alabama (167)
OL Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss (159)
OL Vadal Alexander, LSU (131)
OL John Theus, Georgia (129)
C Ryan Kelly, Alabama (144)

Second-Team
QB Jeremy Johnson, Auburn (89)
RB Derrick Henry, Alabama (151)
RB Jonathan Williams, Arkansas (82)
WR Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina (147)
WR De’Runnya Wilson, Mississippi State (59)
TE Hunter Henry, Arkansas (97)
OL Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M (124)
OL Dan Skipper, Arkansas (95)
OL Denver Kirkland, Arkansas (85)
OL Greg Pyke, Georgia (83)
C Mike Matthews, Texas A&M (108)

Third-Team
QB Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee (62)
RB Alex Collins, Arkansas (80)
RB Kenyan Drake, Alabama (34)
WR Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia (50)
WR Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M (39)
TE O.J. Howard, Alabama (87)
OL Sebastian Tretola, Arkansas (72)
OL Alex Kozan, Auburn (69)
OL Avery Young, Auburn (57)
OL Brandon Shell, South Carolina (50)
C Evan Boehm, Missouri (81)

DEFENSE
First-Team
DL Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss (173)
DL A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama (160)
DL Myles Garrett, Texas A&M (155)
DL Carl Lawson, Auburn (131)
LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama (181)
LB Jordan Jenkins, Georgia (121)
LB Curt Maggitt, Tennessee (102)
DB Vernon Hargreaves, Florida (186)
DB Cyrus Jones, Alabama (126)
DB Jonathan Jones, Auburn (122)
DB Jalen Mills, LSU (118)

Second-Team
DL Jonathan Bullard, Florida (115)
DL Derek Barnett, Tennessee (105)
DL Jonathan Allen, Alabama (99)
DL Chris Jones, Mississippi State (93)
LB Kendell Beckwith, LSU (93)
LB Leonard Floyd, Georgia (92)
LB Cassanova McKinzy, Auburn (80)
DB Tony Conner, Ole Miss (117)
DB Cameron Sutton, Tennessee (115)
DB Will Redmond, Mississippi State (79)
DB Tre’Davious White, LSU (61)

Third-Team
DL Montravius Adams, Auburn (90)
DL Jarran Reed, Alabama (60)
DL Davon Godchaux, LSU (40)
DL Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss (34)
LB Kris Frost, Auburn (77)
LB Antonio Morrison, Florida (66)
LB Kentrell Brothers, Missouri (61)
DB A.J. Stamps, Kentucky (59)
DB Eddie Jackson, Alabama (58)
DB Jamal Adams, LSU (56)
DB Johnathan Ford, Auburn (52)

SPECIALISTS
First-Team
P JK Scott, Alabama (161)
PK Marshall Morgan, Georgia (100)
RS Speedy Noil, Texas A&M (117)
AP Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina (112)

Second-Team
P Drew Kaser, Texas A&M (92)
PK Elliott Fry, South Carolina (87)
RS Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina (75)
AP Leonard Fournette, LSU (85)

Third-Team
P Jamie Keehn, LSU (52)
PK Austin MacGinnis, Kentucky (59)
RS Leonard Fournette, LSU (66)
AP Speedy Noil, Texas A&M (84)

SEC release list of player attendees for Media Days

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Back in June, the SEC released the dates and times the 14 coaches will appear for the conference’s Media Days this month.  Five days ahead of the start of the SEC Media Days July 13, the league has released the list of players who will travel to Alabama with their respective head coaches.

As has been the standard for years, each of the 14 teams will send three players to represent the schools, for a total of 42.  Not surprisingly, given the lack of returning talent at the position, there will be just five quarterbacks in attendance: Arkansas’ Brandon Allen, Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott, Missouri’s Maty Mauk and Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs.

Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia , Kentucky and Mississippi State are sending all-senior contingents, while South Carolina will be represented by nothing but juniors.  38 of the 42 players are either juniors or seniors, the lone exceptions being sophomores Brandon Powell (Florida, wide receiver), Leonard Fournette (LSU, running back), Nigel Bowden (Vanderbilt, linebacker) and Ralph Webb (Vanderbilt, running back).

The Gamecocks are the only team to bring one of their kickers (placekicker Elliott Fry), while Texas A&M is bringing three linemen (two offensive, one defensive).  All three Razorback players come from the offensive side of the ball.

Below is the complete list of SEC player attendees:

Alabama
*Reggie Ragland, Sr., LB
Kenyan Drake, Sr., RB
Ryan Kelly, Sr., OL

Arkansas
*Jonathan Williams, Sr., RB
Brandon Allen, Sr., QB
Keon Hatcher, Sr., WR

Auburn
*Jeremy Johnson, Jr., QB
Jonathan Jones, Sr., DB
Kris Frost, Sr., LB

Florida
*Jonathan Bullard, Sr., DE
Brandon Powell, So., WR
Vernon Hargreaves III, Jr., DB

Georgia
*Malcolm Mitchell, Sr., WR
John Theus, Sr., OT
Jordan Jenkins, Sr., OLB

Kentucky
*Melvin Lewis, Sr., NG
Jordan Swindle, Sr., OT
A.J. Stamps, Sr., S

LSU
*Leonard Fournette, So., RB
Vadal Alexander, Sr., OT
Kendell Beckwith, Jr., LB

Ole Miss
*Evan Engram, Jr., TE
Mike Hilton, Sr., DB
C.J. Johnson, Sr., LB

Mississippi State
*Dak Prescott, Sr., QB
Taveze Calhoun, Sr., DB
Ryan Brown, Sr., DE

Missouri
*Kenya Dennis, Sr., DB
Maty Mauk, Jr., QB
Evan Boehm, Sr., C

South Carolina
*Elliott Fry, Jr., PK
Pharoh Cooper, Jr., WR
Skai Moore, Jr., LB

Tennessee
*Joshua Dobbs, Jr., QB
Curt Maggitt, Sr., LB/DL
Cameron Sutton, Jr., DB

Texas A&M
*Mike Matthews, Sr., C
Germain Ifedi, Jr., OT
Julien Obioha, Sr., DL

Vanderbilt
*Ralph Webb, So., RB
Nigel Bowden, So., LB
Spencer Pulley, Sr., C

* ‘Beyond The Field: Stories of the SEC’ Representative

Georgia receives huge boost from four returning underclassmen

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An often overlooked aspect of recruiting, particularly at high-profile programs, is the ability to retain the talent already on the roster.

Each year the NFL comes calling. It’s too tempting for some. Inevitably, very talented rosters all around college football’s Power Five conferencex lose talented underclassmen that could be a major contributors during the following season.

Georgia received a major boost when four starters decided to bypass the NFL for another year in Athens.

Head coach Mark Richt announced the return of left tackle John Theus, wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell and outside linebackers Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins Friday, via The Macon Telegraph.

The ability to retain this volume of experienced talent is more important to Georgia than anything the coaching staff could have achieved with its 2015 recruiting class.

Floyd’s decision may be the most surprising of the group. The outside linebacker was considered a potential first-round talent by ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Toddy McShay. Floyd, a redshirt sophomore, leads the Bulldogs with six sacks.

Jenkins serves as Floyd’s bookend at outside linebacker in Georgia’s 3-4 defensive scheme. Jenkins is second on the team with nine tackles for loss and leads the Bulldogs with 23 quarterback hurries.

Mitchell remains one of the most talented Bulldogs when he’s on the field. The wide receiver can even start at cornerback if needed. In eight games this year, Mitchell is third on the team with 28 receptions and three receiving touchdowns.

Theus made the transition from right to left tackle as a junior. He didn’t miss a beat on the blind side. Theus is a three-year starter and the top talent along the team’s offensive line.

The Bulldogs can also add right tackle Kolton Houston to the equation after being granted a sixth-year of eligibility Friday by the NCAA.

With all of this returning talent, Georgia appears to be the early favorite in the SEC East next season. Plus, Richt and company are poised to add a Top 3 recruiting class to the roster, according to Rivals.com.