Georgia in deep hole as summer turns to fall
These are the dogs days at Georgia.
The offseason was filled with arrests. The star player has yet
to suit up, banished to the sideline after the NCAA found out he
sold his bowl jersey for $1,000. And most troubling to the faithful
outside the hedges: The first 0-2 start in the Southeastern
Conference since 1993, which means any hope of contending for a
title this season is likely gone before the leaves change
”It’s disappointing, it’s frustrating, whatever adjective you
want to throw at it,” receiver Kris Durham said Tuesday. ”When
you come to a school like the University of Georgia, you come to
win a championship.”
First, the Bulldogs need to win an SEC game. So far, they’ve
been pounded into submission by No. 12 South Carolina’s running
game, and been beaten through the air by No. 10 Arkansas’
Georgia (1-2 overall) heads to Mississippi State on Saturday
night, facing an absolute must-win situation if it wants to retain
any hope of salvaging this season. But the Bulldogs will again be
without top receiver A.J. Green, who’s finishing out a four-game
suspension for selling that aforementioned jersey.
”If we lose another game in the SEC, our chances of going to
Atlanta (for the championship game) are very, very, very, very
slim, if they’re possible at all,” quarterback Aaron Murray said.
”I feel like if we win out and go 6-2 in the league, then we still
have a chance. We’ve just got worry about ourselves and make sure
we win every week.”
The Bulldogs did give themselves a glimmer of hope in last
week’s 31-24 loss to Arkansas, rallying from a two-touchdown
deficit in the fourth quarter.
Georgia actually had the ball again at midfield, needing maybe
one more completion to set up an attempt at a game-winning field
goal. But Murray was sacked, Arkansas got it back, and Ryan Mallett
completed three straight passes for the win, the last of them a
40-yard touchdown with 15 seconds remaining.
”I’m extremely proud of the way we fought,” Durham said. ”We
were faced with some adversity and our character showed. We’re
fighters. We’re not going to give up.”
Of course, none of those 92,000-plus who pack Sanford Stadium
week after week is the least bit interested in moral victories.
They expect this program to contend with the Alabamas and the
Floridas of the college football world, but those schools appear to
be pulling farther and farther away.
For Georgia, the turning point is easy to spot. After a
brilliant finish to the 2007 season left the Bulldogs at No. 2 in
the final polls, trailing only national champion LSU, they went
into the next season ranked No. 1.
All the weapons were in place: A quarterback, Matthew Stafford,
who would be the top pick in the NFL draft; a running back,
Knowshon Moreno, who also became a first-round pick; two
pro-quality receivers in Mohamed Massaquoi, who’s in the NFL, and
Green, who figures to be one of the top picks in next year’s
Then, five weeks into the season, Georgia ran into Nick Saban’s
budding powerhouse from Alabama. Before a stunned home crowd, the
Bulldogs fell behind 31-0 at halftime and needed a couple of
meaningless touchdowns just to make the final score a
Before the season was done, there would be a 49-10 blowout at
the hands of eventual national champion Florida and a 45-42 loss to
local rival Georgia Tech, ending a streak of seven straight wins in
that series. The team that started out ranked No. 1 in the country
wasn’t even the best in its own state.
With Stafford, Moreno and Massaquoi off to the pros, Georgia
struggled to an 8-5 mark last season – the worst of Mark Richt’s
nine years as head coach and leading to the first major shake-up on
his staff. Before a consolation trip to the Independence Bowl, he
dumped defensive coordinator Willie Martinez.
Richt is starting to feel some of the expected heat from the
talk shows and in the Internet chat rooms – not only for his recent
record, but for having nine players arrested this year. Still, he
refuses to get dragged into a big-picture look at his program.
Over the last 25 games, the stretch that began with that loss to
Alabama, the Bulldogs are just 15-10 with only one significant
victory, an upset of Atlantic Coast Conference champion Georgia
”The state of the program is we’re getting ready for
Mississippi State,” Richt said. ”It’s early in the year. We’re
getting ready to play another SEC game. We’re trying to get a
victory in league play.”
His message to the fans: ”Just keep supporting and keep
fighting, and we will too.”
But the losses, and the irritating little slights, keep on
Old nemesis Steve Spurrier, who beat the Bulldogs 11 out of 12
times at Florida and relished every moment of it, came into this
season just 1-4 against Georgia at his current school, South
But after the Gamecocks beat up the Bulldogs in a 17-6 win,
piling up 189 yards rushing while throwing only 17 times, Spurrier
delivered a not-so-subtle shot at Georgia’s new defensive
coordinator, Todd Grantham, who had been as assistant in the
”That little inside zone play, the NFL doesn’t run that play.
That’s a new scheme, I guess,” Spurrier said.