Georgia coach Mark Richt was all smiles after his Bulldogs beat Ole Miss on Saturday, and he warned his players on Sunday not to overlook Auburn this week.
ATHENS — Mark Richt issued stern instructions to his team minutes after Georgia’s runaway win over Mississippi: “Get your jaw set” for a tough game at Auburn.
“I told the guys ‘Get your mind right, right now,’” Richt said. “We know they’re capable of knocking us off.”
A win Saturday night at Auburn would give Georgia the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern division title and its second straight trip to the conference championship game in Atlanta.
The Bulldogs (7-1, 6-1 SEC) moved up two spots to No. 5 in The Associated Press Top 25 on Sunday.
Led by a resurgent defense, Georgia rolled to a 37-10 win over Ole Miss. Richt didn’t wait to emphasize the point that his Bulldogs can’t look past Auburn (2-7, 0-6), which must beat Georgia or No. 1 Alabama to avoid a winless SEC campaign.
The Tigers were off to their worst start in 60 years before beating New Mexico State 42-7 to snap a five-game losing streak. Freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace made his first start.
Since losing at South Carolina on Oct. 7, Georgia has won three straight. The key was a 17-9 win over then-No. 3 Florida that would give the Bulldogs the tiebreaker if each they all finish 7-1 in the East.
Aaron Murray threw four touchdown passes against Ole Miss, and Todd Gurley had 117 yards rushing for his sixth 100-yard game of the season
Georgia’s defense was dominant after giving up the first 10 points of the game. Linebacker Alec Ogletree led the defense with 11 tackles, one sack and one interception.
The Bulldogs struggled against the Rebels’ fast-tempo offense and blitzing defense early in the game, raising concerns the team wouldn’t match the intensity it showed in the win over Florida.
“There was so much at stake, so I didn’t think there was any way we would not take this game seriously,” Richt said. “It’s hard to get as emotional for any game like we did against Florida. That game was bursting with emotions. Mentally, we were ready to play, but this one was not quite as emotional.”
Richt said Georgia’s final SEC regular-season game won’t be easy, even if the Tigers are at the bottom of the SEC West.
“We’re one game away from our goal of winning the Eastern Division,” Richt said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then. It’s never easy going to Auburn. They’ll be playing out of their minds. We’ve got to be prepared for that.”
Senior wide receiver Tavarres King, who had a 40-yard touchdown catch from Murray with 3 seconds remaining in the first half, said motivation won’t be a problem against Auburn.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity we have,” King said. “This is what we wanted, an opportunity to go back to the (Georgia) Dome.”
Murray was sharp as he completed 21 of 28 passes for 384 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Georgia had 533 total yards.
Murray said the players “stayed extremely focused” against Ole Miss, even when they trailed 10-0.
“Once we got going, we were good to go,” he said.
Murray said he expects the players’ mindset won’t change as the focus shifts to Auburn.
“We are going to be extremely focused this week,” Murray said. “There’s so much on the line, and getting back to Atlanta has been our goal all year.”
BROWN LOST FOR SEASON
Georgia receiver Marlon Brown, who is tied for the team lead in catches, will miss the remainder of the season after hurting his left knee in Saturday night’s win over Mississippi.
Richt said Sunday Brown tore the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee. The injury will end the senior’s college career, but Brown is expected to make a full recovery following surgery.
“We know he’ll be able to continue with his pro career because I think he was well on his way to have that happen for him,” Richt said.
Brown and another senior, Tavarres King, share the lead with 27 catches. Brown has four touchdown catches.
“I’m very sorry for him and for Georgia, too,” Richt said. “It’s just a hard thing to swallow right now.”
The injury comes one month after another top receiver, Michael Bennett, hurt his right knee in practice, ending his season.
Brown had three catches for 113 yards, including a 66-yard touchdown, in Georgia’s 37-10 win over Ole Miss. Georgia plays at Auburn on Saturday night.
Richt says Rhett McGowan and Justin Scott-Wesley could see more playing time behind King, Malcolm Mitchell, Rantavious Wooten and Chris Conley. King and Brown started against Ole Miss.
“We still have some play-makers,” Richt said. “We’ll miss him, but other guys will have to step up and get after it.”
Richt said offensive guard Chris Burnette, who left the Ole Miss game with a left shoulder injury, is day to day.