October 30, 2011

Standing by Walsh

Blair Walsh's issues continued Saturday in Georgia's 24-20 win over Florida, but apparently the senior does not have to worry about losing his job.

Sunday, head coach Mark Richt said he hasn't even considered an alternative and Walsh would be on the field as usual, in his usual role for this weekend's game against New Mexico State (CSS, 12:30 p.m.).

"I'll encourage him, keep loving him and as far as trying to make some kind of move or change, that kind of stuff, it hasn't even crossed my mind," Richt said during Sunday's weekly teleconference with beat writers.

It's certainly been a struggle for Walsh, who after kicking a 32 yarder early in the second quarter, missed from what over his career have been chip shots of 33 and 37 yards.

For the year, Walsh is now 13 of 23. His 10 misses are just three removed from the 13 he had missed over his first three seasons combined.

But still, despite his problems, senior Brandon Bogotay won't be getting his chance any time soon, despite getting some kind words from Richt.

"I think he is an outstanding kicker, I really do," Richt said of Bogotay. "He's got a lot of ability."

Richt also denied that Walsh's inconsistencies led him to going for it on fourth down three times.

Georgia converted each one, two resulting in touchdown passes of 20 and 14 yards from quarterback Aaron Murray to Michael Bennett and Tavarres King.

"I didn't go into the game thinking that, but when we went down 14 (17-3) I really thought we'd better score some touchdowns here or we're going to be in trouble," Richt said. "There were some field goal opportunities of course, but after we missed one or two, it wasn't like 'hey, he may miss again.' We were like we've got to make up some point differential here. When it was 17-3, I don't know if it was 17-6 how much that would have made everybody feel better. We needed to score a touchdown, so that's why we did that."

Richt's more pressing concern is what to do about a kickoff coverage unit that ranks dead last in the SEC and Saturday gave up its second straight return for a touchdown in as many weeks.

"We've got to figure something out don't we? I'm not quite sure what the answer is yet, but we're going to hammer it down (Sunday night) after I sit and watch the film with all the kicking teams and we start deciding what we need to do," Richt said. "There will be some good discussion. I don't know if we'll have some final answers, but we'll knock it around pretty good."

Walsh, whose 14 touchbacks are actually fourth in the league, will continue to handle the kickoff duties despite his recent struggles there as well.

"Statistics can be deceiving because your average may be good, and I'm not saying this is the case with Blair, but the bottom line is if you're in the game with some wind at your back you're probably going to knock it out the back, and he will. But if you don't, and it's short, then you have to cover kicks," Richt said. "There's no question that Blair's capable of kicking the type of ball that will enable our guys to get down there in good position to make plays. We started out pretty darn good, but I don't know if we've lost some confidence or what. But once we got exposed a little bit, it festered again and we've got to get it stopped."

NOTES: Georgia rose to 18th in this week's BCS standings. The Bulldogs are also ranked 18th in the Associated Press Top 25 poll … Richt said that starting guard Dallas Lee (broken leg) will miss Georgia's four remaining regular season games but "has a very good chance" of returning for the Bulldogs' bowl game. … Richt said running back Richard Samuel (sprained ankle) is day-to-day.

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]