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Bulldogs in black?
Speculation surrounds seniors' 'blackout' plan

ATHENS - Georgia's seniors are calling on all Bulldog fans to wear black between the hedges Saturday.

Will the players be part of the blackout, too?

There's plenty of speculation that Georgia will don black uniforms for its crucial Southeastern Conference game against Auburn, though coach Mark Richt scoffed at the notion of giving up the team's traditional red jerseys on such short notice.

'It's hard to order up jerseys in a week's time,' he said. 'That's impossible.'

Still, it's an intriguing idea to consider, and Georgia wouldn't be the first team to break out new uniforms in hopes of getting an emotional boost. Notre Dame is well known for switching to green jerseys for some of its biggest games.

'We probably should go with some black jerseys,' said linebacker Marcus Washington, quickly getting into the spirit.

Don't count on it, said cornerback Asher Allen.

'You ain't ever going to see that happen,' he said.

Taking up a request from the seniors, Richt asked all Georgia fans to wear black to the game instead of their usual red. Coca-Cola jumped on the bandwagon, announcing it would print up 5,000 black T-shirts to be distributed to students on the day of the game.

'I'm just doing what the seniors asked me to do,' Richt said. 'They wanted me to encourage the Bulldog nation to wear black. When I asked them why, they said, 'We think it would be cool.' I think it would be a very good sign of unity.'

Richt even came to his weekly news conference wearing a black shirt and pants, and it's likely he will have the same look on game day.

'I'm trying to get it started,' he said.

Normally, 92,000-seat Sanford Stadium is a sea of red when the Bulldogs are at home, so it's going to take quite an effort to get so many people to change colors.

'It's a quick turnaround,' Richt said. 'I hope the fans will get excited about it and do it.'

The seniors came up with the 'blackout' among themselves and didn't even let their younger teammates know about it. But all were excited when they heard about Richt's public plea.

'I think it would be a cool idea,' sophomore quarterback Matthew Stafford said. 'Hopefully everybody kind of catches on and does it.'

Home not so sweet

The Deep South's oldest rivalry also has one of the strangest quirks: the home-field disadvantage.

Georgia has beaten Auburn only three times in their last 15 meetings at Sanford Stadium. Conversely, the Bulldogs are 9-5-2 in their last 16 trips to Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Coach Mark Richt prefers to look at the series in the shorter term.

'If you go by history, we've won one of the last two times we've played here,' he said, referring to a 26-7 victory in 2003. 'Fifty percent. That's pretty good.'

Georgia receiver Mohamed Massaquoi said he doesn't worry about the past.

'Each week is its own individual week,' he said. 'You can't go back and look at what happened before. It doesn't help what's going on now.'

Of course, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville is hopeful that history will repeat itself Saturday.

'When you have rival games, you get the most and best out of both teams,' he said. 'When that happens, anything can happen. There's not really a road or home-field advantage in a rival game. It's going to be a hard-fought game, and usually the best team comes out with a win.'

Stat corner

This is the 111th meeting between Auburn and Georgia, making it one of just 23 series in the country that have been played at least 100 times.

Minnesota and Wisconsin lead the way with 116 games between them. Auburn-Georgia is tied with Oregon-Oregon State for the seventh most.

They said it

'He's nothing but a faithful warrior to this program.' - Georgia coach Mark Richt on senior running back Thomas Brown, who hopes to play this week after missing the last two games with a broken collarbone.

GEORGIA TECH

Nesbitt may be an option for Yellow Jackets at QB

ATLANTA - So far, backup quarterback Josh Nesbitt has looked like a pretty good running back.

Nesbitt has thrown only seven passes but has 31 carries for 187 yards, an average of 6.0 yards per carry, as a freshman for Georgia Tech.

It may be time to learn if Nesbitt is more than just a running quarterback.

After starter Taylor Bennett reached a low with his four interceptions in last week's loss to Virginia Tech, could Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey consider giving Nesbitt more snaps on Saturday at Duke?

Gailey appeared to leave that option open when asked about his quarterback plans.

'It'll be a change-of-pace deal,' Gailey said before adding about Nesbitt: 'We'll continue to give him the package, and if it looks like there's a spot where he may get more than that, then we'll take that opportunity.'

Nesbitt (6-1, 204) has been able to show off his running skills early because the rest of the offense is more difficult to learn for a true freshman. Ultimately, he may surprise some observers who have him pegged as only a running quarterback. As a senior at Greene County High in Greensboro, Nesbitt passed for 2,256 yards and 32 touchdowns with only four interceptions. He was regarded among the nation's top dual-threat quarterbacks in last year's recruiting class.

Nesbitt is only 3 of 7 passing for 35 yards with an interception, but his teammates say he has proved his passing skills in practice.

'He's a great talent running and throwing the ball,' said Tech center Kevin Tuminello. 'He really hasn't had the chance to throw that much, but he has a great arm and he's definitely a dual-threat quarterback.'

Bennett passed for 326 yards and three touchdowns against West Virginia in last season's Gator Bowl, but he has passed for only two touchdowns in nine starts this season. He has thrown seven interceptions for Tech (5-4 overall, 2-4 Atlantic Coast Conference).

Tech fans had boos for Gailey at the end of the 27-3 loss to Virginia Tech, and shaky play at quarterback may be the motivation for some of the negative reviews.

In the last two games of his 2006 senior season, four-year starter Reggie Ball completed only 6 of 22 passes with two interceptions in a 15-12 loss to Georgia and only 9 of 29 passes with two interceptions in a 9-6 loss to Wake Forest in the ACC championship game.

Ball completed fewer than half his passes in each of the last three years of his wildly unpredictable career, including a career-low 44.4 percentage as a senior.

Bennett lacks Ball's skills as a runner but was supposed to provide more stability as a passer. He has completed only 50.4 percent of his passes: 120 of 238 for 1,494 yards.

Bennett had a quick reply when asked how he has handled his four-interception game against Virginia Tech.

'Definitely forget about it,' he said. 'That's never happened to me before in a game or even in a season. I have to try to forget about all that and worry about the three games ahead of us and move on.'

Gailey has made no indication he is considering a significant change at quarterback, though he said Nesbitt is improving.

'It all depends on him,' Gailey said of the freshman. 'You can't push him too fast. It's not fair to him and that's not fair to the team. But at the same time, you don't want to take him too slow.

'He does improve. He gets better. But to do everything is going to take some time. He is getting better. That's the encouraging part. He has not hit a wall, which is good.'

Gailey said he is working with Bennett on 'overall game management'

'Just making sure of his reads, making sure he understands about taking care of the football,' Gailey said. 'Making sure he understands what it takes for our team to win.'

Academic honors

Tuminello and defensive tackle Darryl Richard were named to the Academic All-District 3 team announced Thursday by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

Tuminello and Richard advance to the ballot for Academic All-American. Tuminello is a building construction major. Richard is a management major.

Bowl talk

Gailey has reminded his players that the last three games against Duke, North Carolina and Georgia will determine their standing among the ACC's bowl-eligible teams. The first task is to become bowl-eligible with a sixth win.

With a win over Duke on Saturday, Tech would become eligible for its 11th straight bowl season. Tech is one of six schools to play in bowls each of the last 10 years, joining Georgia, Florida, Florida State, Michigan and Virginia Tech.