September 11, 2011

Now what for Dawgs?

Ok. Now what?

With Saturday's 45-42 loss to 12th-ranked South Carolina, the Georgia Bulldogs find themselves 0-2 for the first time since 1996.

So despite being the only team in the country to open its season against two ranked teams, it's still not the position head coach Mark Richt expected his squad to be in heading into this week's contest against Coastal Carolina.

"I think we certainly learned a lot. We've been through some battles so nothing is going to surprise us from here on in," said Richt. "I think somebody said we're the only team in America that's played two ranked teams in weeks one and two. I guess we get some kind of prize for that. We learned some things. Hopefully, we learned enough to start a win streak."

It will need to be soon.

Although there's no disputing Georgia's four-quarter effort against the Gamecocks, the bottom line is the Bulldogs find themselves winless to start the season and that's not a good place to be for a coach already feeling the heat from a Bulldog Nation growing more and more restless with every defeat.

Gamecock coach Steve Spurrier was impressed with Georgia's effort.

"Give Georgia credit, they outplayed us but we were fortunate to win," Spurrier said. "That's how football is sometimes."

Linebacker Christian Robinson agreed with Spurrier, but realizes the bottom line is all some fans will see.

"I think the people in this room, the people who are in this lockerroom, the players - believe that but there's always going to be people out there that are going to be like, you didn't win, a what have you done for me lately type thing," he said. "But the people in this room are the only ones that matter. We can go out and change it. We can game-plan and we can study; we can put in the hours. People are going to be negative, but I'm choosing not to listen to them."

Richt is not giving up the season, either.

"Historically, and I've said it every year since I've been here - after year No. 1 I knew the team that wins the tight ball games are going to be the ones that win championships in our league. We didn't get this one, but there's going to be a bunch of other ones," he said. "There are seven SEC games to go for us, for South Carolina, for Tennessee, for Florida. There's a whole lot of ball to be played. Will the Eastern Division be won with one or two losses? I don't know. It may be won with three losses - that happened last season, but you can count on us getting better as we go. We're going to improve as we go."

Of course, the Bulldogs can help themselves greatly if they can keep from making the type of mistakes like they did against South Carolina.

A late fumble by quarterback Aaron Murray resulted in a five-yard return for a touchdown by Melvin Ingram, while Antonio Allen's pick-6 resulted in another defensive score for South Carolina. Another fumble - this one by running back Isaiah Crowell - set up an 8-yard touchdown run by quarterback Stephen Garcia.

"I don't know why we fumbled like we did. I don't know why those things happen," Richt said. "I don't have any doubt that our process is good. I think we have outstanding coaches, I think we have enough of a talent base to get it done. "

Murray agreed.

"I think we can play with anyone," he said. "We feel we still have a ton of talent and we've got guys on the field who can make a ton of plays - both offensive and defensively," he said. "We've just got to get rid of the little mistakes. Four plays tonight really killed us."

It was tough to cause Richt to show a little sideline emotion, a lack of which fans have often criticized him for in the past.

Late in the second quarter after South Carolina successfully executed a fake punt which Ingram converted into a 68-yard score, Richt tossed his clipboard, sending his notes flying all over the field.

"I guess I wanted to show people that I can get mad. I threw it (his notepad) pretty far, actually. If I had a visor I would have slammed it," Richt said. "I was just like can you believe it? But they got the touchdown am they went ahead. Halftime they took the lead. It could have put us in a state of shock and finished us, but it (the game) wasn't even close to being finished."

For the effort, Richt was most grateful.

"There were so many bad things that happened to us, we could have folded our tent, laid down and died but no one did," he said. "I love this team, I'm proud of them and time will prove we're going to be a really good team this year."

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