‘Things can be different this time’: Georgia players not dwelling on heartbreaking past with Alabama

INDIANAPOLIS — Saturday was Media Day ahead of the College Football Playoff national championship game.

Typically, in the before times (before COVID-19), that would mean every Georgia player would be available and peppered with burning questions at in-person interview heading into the game.

This time since the press conference was on Zoom instead, offensive tackle Jamaree Salyer, inside linebacker Nakobe Dean, quarterback Stetson Bennett and nose guard Jordan Davis were the only players available.

They handled the actual questions, fine. It was an earpiece with a wire attached that gave them problems. One reporter told Bennett he was sorry he was having so much trouble with it as he adjusted it several times.

“Yeah, dude, this sucks,” Bennett said. “I’m about to just shove it all the way down into my ear drum.”.

“Let me try this thing,” Davis said at the start of his session after Bennett. “It’s like James Bond or something.”.

One of the big storylines heading into Monday night’s game continues to be Alabama’s stranglehold of Georgia, with the Crimson Tide piling up seven straight wins starting in the 2008 “Blackout” game in Athens.

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“It’s definitely motivation,” Salyer said. “I wouldn’t say I’m tired of it. It is is what it is. You can’t really run away from the truth. That’s what it is. That’s our record. We try not to make it an emotional thing. We want to be calm, collected and have a composed attack and be able to play our game. … We’re good enough in what we do. We have great coaches, great players and a great game plan.”.

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Dean, a junior linebacker, is also motivated by Alabama having Georgia’s number but only in the two previous meetings he’s played in — 41-24 scores both times last season in Tuscaloosa and in the SEC championship game Dec. 4.

The national championship loss following the 2017 season and the 2018 SEC championship game — both in Mercedes-Benz Stadium — came before Dean got to Georgia.

“I can’t speak too much on the past, I don’t like to dwell on the past at all,” Dean said. “I didn’t play them back in the day. Right now, I’m just focused on winning this game. That’s the only thing on my mind, on my teammates’ mind also.”.

The Alabama game came after a dominant regular season for the Bulldogs where it blew out one opponent after another after the opener. Players said that woke them up and they realized they hadn’t arrived yet.

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“Definitely this game is a lot more mental than physical,” Davis said. “And these teams are pretty much evenly matched when it comes to personnel and physicality and everything. And the thing that really sets us apart is just mentally and who does things better.”.

Georgia was in the right frame of mine in the Orange Bowl when it took it to Michigan and had control of the game in the first half en route to a 34-11 win.

“It just kind of felt different,” Salyer said. “We all kind of felt like we were pushing in the same direction. That worked out really well for us in the first half. We played really well.”.

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The 6-foot-6 Davis, who weighs in the neighborhood of 350 pounds, said busted plays on defense and conditioning played into the last Alabama game.

“Coach (Kirby) Smart has been working us hard,” Davis said. “And actually, I’m about to go run right now after this meeting. So it’s definitely about pushing yourself to the next level. You just want to do the things — this is for all the glory. So, if you’re not pushing yourself to the absolute limit, then it’s like what are you here for?”.

Salyer said Georgia was outexecuted and Alabama had a better game plan in the SEC championship game, but the Bulldogs have made adjustments this time around.

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“It’s a different game, a different environment, one definitely different than I’ve ever played them in,” Salyer said. “Yeah, the stakes are different. We want to play this game, not really worry about the last few. …Things can be different this time. It doesn’t have to be the same narrative over and over again. We control our destiny, not anybody else.”.

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