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As accolades mount, Georgia coach Mark Richt calls big win ‘just a start’

Bulldogs’ second-rout rout of Clemson brings praises

Georgia linebacker Amarlo Herrera (52) reacts with cornerback Damian Swann (5) after a sack against the Clemson on Saturday. (Reuters)

Georgia linebacker Amarlo Herrera (52) reacts with cornerback Damian Swann (5) after a sack against the Clemson on Saturday. (Reuters)

ATHENS — Georgia’s second-half rout of Clemson in the season opener Saturday brought a predictable avalanche of accolades for the Bulldogs.

ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit ranked Georgia his No. 1 team in the nation for this week. The Walter Camp Foundation named Georgia tailback Todd Gurley the national offensive player of the week. The hashtag “Gurley4Heisman” was trending on Twitter.

An impressive win against a respected opponent on opening day tends to unleash praise, which Georgia coach Mark Richt was keeping in perspective.

“I’m not going to get too excited yet,” Richt said. “We’ve got a long way to go.”

He laughed when told that the 45-21 victory against Clemson immediately moved some national analysts to project Georgia as bound for the College Football Playoff.

“The old saying is true: You’re probably never as good as you think after a win and never as bad as you think after a loss,” Richt said. “When you look at the film, there’s so much to correct. And we’ve got to get better in a lot of areas, or we could get exposed.

“We know that’s just one game, a great emotional day. We were at home; we fed off the crowd; we finished strong. So that was good, but it’s just a start.”

The accolades didn’t surprise Richt, who noted after the game: “We’re going to hear probably good stuff for two weeks, and South Carolina is not going to hear much good this week, anyway.”

He mentioned South Carolina because the Gamecocks, blown out by Texas A&M last week, are Georgia’s next opponent Sept. 13 in Columbia.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier watched the Georgia-Clemson game on TV and, like other viewers, got an eyeful of Gurley, who had 198 yards rushing and 100 more on a kickoff return.

“Those runs by Gurley — you wonder how anybody is going to tackle him right now,” Spurrier said on a conference call Sunday. “But we’ll worry about him two weeks from now.”

Spurrier noted the game was close through three quarters, with the Bulldogs leading 24-21 at that point. “And then for some reason,” Spurrier said, “Georgia just smashed them, just ran it right down their throats and stopped them on defense completely.”

The Bulldogs outscored Clemson 21-0 in the fourth quarter as their defense completed a second-half shutout and Gurley scored two of his four touchdowns.

“We’ve got, like, 15 more weeks to go,” Gurley said when the Heisman talk surfaced afterward.

Herbstreit made a similar point after ranking the Bulldogs No. 1, one spot ahead of defending national champion Florida State.

“It’s going to change every week,” Herbstreit said. “It’s going to be a long ride.”

Asked Sunday if he thinks his team is mature enough to handle the praise it’s getting, Richt said: “I don’t know. We’re really young in so many ways, and then there are a few veterans who kind of understand the deal. I don’t know how good we are, quite frankly. We had a good performance. We had one good game.”