Nearly 500 miles from Nashville on Saturday afternoon, Mark Richt accomplished one of his top priorities at Miami.
Beat Florida State.
Richt avoided what would’ve been Miami’s longest losing streak ever against its in-state rival. His team celebrated. Miami fans celebrated. Richt admitted Wednesday that fans were still celebrating the long overdue victory against the Seminoles. It was easily his most important win since he arrived in Miami.
A few hours before the Hurricanes’ finally got past FSU, Richt’s former team made a little history of its own. With a blowout victory at Vanderbilt, Georgia clinched its first 6-0 start since Richt’s 2005 squad went 7-0.
The Bulldogs are rolling in Year 2 under Kirby Smart, who replaced Richt after he spent 15 seasons in Athens. Already, it appears that Smart is well on his way of accomplishing one of his top priorities at Georgia.
Get on Alabama’s level.
Richt’s inability to take Georgia to those heights was ultimately why the program let him go after the 2015 season. Now, he has to watch somebody else lead many of the guys he recruited and coached.
So what’s that been like for Richt? I asked him.
Everyone knows that Richt doesn’t have a bitter or jealous bone in his body. He understood why Georgia made the decision it did, and he’s perfectly happy to be back at his alma mater.
That’s important to note because a lot of people in Richt’s position might say one thing and really mean another. When Richt talked about Georgia’s rise on Wednesday, he seemed about as genuine as he could’ve been.
“It’s exciting to see that,” Richt said. “I’m happy for Georgia. I’m happy for all the kids I recruited and I’m happy for all the guys I didn’t recruit. Georgia is a great place. It has a special place in the hearts of myself and my wife and I’m all for them having a lot of success.”
That’s what I or anyone would’ve expected him to say. Richt would be the last person to take anything from Smart and the job he’s done so far.
Richt, of course, recruited guys like Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Smart, on the other hand, recruited guys like Jake Fromm and Andrew Thomas. Smart’s defense is loaded with upperclassmen whom Richt recruited. And while it was Richt who got many of those standout defensive players to Athens, it was Smart who got them to stay in Athens.
So far, that’s paid huge dividends. In addition to posting its best start in 12 years, Georgia, ranked No. 4, won its first three SEC games by an average of 33 points.
Richt noticed that.
“The most impressive thing is the scores,” Richt said. “I really haven’t watched any games. I’ve probably seen a little highlight here and there after one of our ballgames, maybe watching them on TV.”
The schedule hasn’t really worked out for Richt to watch a full Georgia game yet. He had more important things to worry about during Miami’s unscheduled bye week when Hurricane Irma devastated the state of Florida.
His next real chance to flip on a Georgia game might have to wait until the final Saturday of the regular season when the Bulldogs square off with Georgia Tech. Miami will take on Pitt that Friday, which means that Richt would theoretically have a free Saturday to watch his old team.
This Saturday, it’ll be Richt’s squad that takes on Georgia Tech. Perhaps Richt and Smart will exchange some game film to prepare for Georgia’s regular-season finale. The two already exchanged friendly tweets before the start of the season. Even if he can’t watch Georgia this year, it’s clear that Richt is all about supporting his former team.
And like many are after six weeks, Richt is a believer in Georgia.
“When you see the scores and the point differential and what looks like really lights out defensive play,” Richt said, “that’s what champions are built of.”