Beating Auburn gives Dogs' Smart highlight for debut season
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) Georgia's upset of then-No. 8 Auburn gave fans and recruits a much-needed glimpse of where first-year coach Kirby Smart hopes to take the program.
It also made some upperclassmen wish they could stick around for that future.
As he relished Saturday's win with teammate Chuks Amaechi, junior linebacker Lorenzo Carter said he wished he could be a recruit who was starting his career under Smart.
''We were walking to my car and we were just talking about how ... I wish I were a recruit for this game,'' Carter said Monday. ''It was an amazing atmosphere. It just showed the path for the University of Georgia and the program, where Kirby wants to take us.''
The 13-7 win over Auburn gave Smart the signature game he needed from his otherwise lackluster debut season. It also kept alive the chance for a strong finish for Georgia (6-4, 4-4 Southeastern Conference), which will look for its third straight win when it plays Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday.
Smart was animated in his jubilant postgame celebration, giving high-fives and hugs to players and reaching up to slap hands with fans as he exited the field. He was back in his restrained game-week mode on Monday.
''I certainly felt there was good energy in the building, good energy after the game, whether it be in the locker room or with those guys,'' Smart said, adding his time with recruits ''was certainly positive'' even though none immediately promised to sign with Georgia.
Senior defensive back Maurice Smith, who returned an interception for Georgia's only touchdown, said it was important for current and future players to see the Bulldogs show they can beat a top 10 team.
''I think it will be a great accomplishment and also a confidence-builder for the team and the coaching staff, just to let us know we're still able to contend and compete with the best,'' Smith said.
Georgia has back-to-back wins over Kentucky and Auburn after losing four of five games, including a devastating home loss to Vanderbilt.
''We've shown a lot of resiliency and also just a lot of strength, going through the challenges that we've faced, injuries and also being down in games,'' Smith said. ''We have showed a lot of perseverance.''
Smith is a graduate transfer from Alabama, where Smart was the defensive coordinator. He said he has been surprised to see Smart more relaxed despite having more responsibility.
''I think he's a lot more loose right now, more free,'' Smith said. ''He's the head coach, so you would think that would give more pressure to him, but I think he has taken it the best way he can. He's showing that as a head coach he really enjoys his job and I'm very happy for him.''
NOTES: Smart said he hopes OG Isaiah Wynn, who left the game with a sprained knee, and LB Natrez Patrick, who was held out with a shoulder injury, can return this week. Another starter, DT DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle (ankle) also may return this week. ... Georgia disclosed before Saturday's game that punter Marshall Long suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice, leaving Brice Ramsey as the starter. Ramsey also is the third-string quarterback. Long is the only Georgia player to suffer a season-ending injury.
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