ATLANTA — Mark Richt insists his confidence in his Georgia players and assistants remains firm after a lopsided loss to South Carolina left the Bulldogs in a hole in the SEC East.
Georgia has an open week before it plays at Kentucky on Oct. 20. The No. 14 Bulldogs (5-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) trail two undefeated teams, No. 3 South Carolina and No. 4 Florida, in the Eastern Division after their 35-7 loss to the Gamecocks on Saturday night.
The loss was complete in all phases. South Carolina took a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, and the rout was on.
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Georgia scored more than 40 points in five straight wins before being shut down by South Carolina. The defense couldn’t stop Connor Shaw, who passed for two touchdowns, or Marcus Lattimore, who ran for 109 yards and a touchdown.
Richt conceded South Carolina “just physically whipped us.” He said that’s no reason to panic.
“I’m definitely not losing confidence in this team at all or our coaching staff or anything like that,” Richt said Sunday. “That’s the worst thing you can do and that’s what teams do when they panic, they tend to fall apart. Georgia is not going to fall apart. We’re going to go ahead and get back to work and just get better at what we do and if we’ve got to make changes, we’ll do that.”
Richt said his players can look back to the 2011 season for a lesson on remaining confident. Georgia opened last season with back-to-back losses to Boise State and South Carolina before winning 10 straight games to earn a trip to the SEC championship game.
“A year ago we were 0-2 and everybody wants to decide the sky has fallen and it’s over for Georgia,” Richt said. “What did we do? We stayed firm. We believed in each other. We began to bang away and before we know it we won the Eastern Division.”
The 2011 team finished 10-4.
The loss to South Carolina was devastating, but Richt said “It’s one day, it’s one game.”
“It’s unfortunate it came out the way it did with so much at stake, but there’s still a lot at stake as the season comes along,” he said. “The sun did come up and we’ve got to get back to work.”
Last year’s 10-game winning streak ended with a 42-10 loss to LSU in the SEC championship game. Richt said South Carolina might compare with recent SEC championship teams.
“You know what, they looked that way,” Richt said. “It will be interesting to see. They’ve got a couple games away from home where they will have to see if they can continue that type of momentum and that type of emotion and that type of execution. I think time will tell. There are still some mighty big tests for them as there are for all of us in our league.”
It was difficult to find a bright spot for Georgia in the ugly loss.
Quarterback Aaron Murray completed only 11 of 39 passes for a career-low 109 yards.
Freshman tailback Todd Gurley, who rushed for more than 100 yards in four of his first five games, had only 39 yards on 13 carries. Keith Marshall, the team’s other freshman, had only 37 yards.
Ken Malcome led Georgia with 45 yards rushing. He scored the team’s only touchdown with less than 2 minutes remaining.
“After watching the film, some of it we just flat-out weren’t blocking well enough, but I think a couple of times we could have gotten a couple big runs if we had hit it just right,” Richt said. “I think we missed a couple here and there.”
Murray learned after the game his father, Denny Murray, was to have surgery on Monday in Tampa for thyroid cancer. Murray tweeted Monday the surgery was successful.
Murray and his roommate, senior linebacker Christian Robinson, returned to Athens late Saturday night to discover their home had been egged and littered with toilet paper.
“Probably the worst 12 hours of my life,” Murray said on his Twitter account Sunday.