Richt tells Georgia players to 'get your jaw set' to clinch spot in SEC championship game
ATHENS, Ga. – 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 team finishes 7-1 in the SEC East.
Aaron Murray threw four touchdown passes against Ole Miss. Freshman 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."