ATHENS – Sometime after Georgia won, South Carolina lost and Florida not only got boat-raced by Alabama but watched quarterback John Brantley get dragged off with a “lower leg” injury – team officials seldom get into specifics, less KAOS find out – Bulldogs coaches got busy texting this past weekend.
“Coaches started sending out mass texts,” tight end Aron White said. “They just told us to keep believing, that we have a lot of momentum, continue to build on it. This thing is still wide open.”
Georgia can’t completely distance itself from a 0-2 start. People keep records. But this team gets credit for not belly flopping into oblivion. The Dogs could have followed the white light and didn’t. Or maybe they just punched through the dirt from the grave site, like that final scene in “Carrie.”
Granted, the three wins have come over Coastal Carolina and the two Mississippi schools (who check in at a combined 0-5 in the SEC and 4-6 overall). But Georgia is not dead. Not dead gives you a chance in the SEC East.
The events of last weekend “puts a little more oomph in things,” defensive end Abry Jones said.
Oomph can add a gear this week. Georgia travels to Tennessee on Saturday. The Volunteers are not the best team in the SEC, or the East, or maybe even the state. But Tennessee represents a test the Dogs haven’t had since the South Carolina game and won’t have again until the Florida game. It’s also the second toughest road game the Dogs will play all year. Their past two trips to Knoxville resulted in losses of 35-14 (2007) and 45-19 (2009).
When asked what he remembered about last year’s game, Jones said, “That annoying song.” (”Rocky Top,” for the uninitiated.)
Mark Richt suggested something else Tuesday. His team quit. Twice.
I can’t recall Richt ever suggesting this before, even immediately following those losses in Knoxville. But when asked about the defeats at his weekly news conference, he said, “Both of those games, before it was over, it looked like they beat us to the point where we gave in. We haven’t had many of those since I’ve been at Georgia.”
A victory Saturday doesn’t ensure anything against Florida. It doesn’t change the tiebreaker situation against South Carolina. As Richt said, “We still don’t control our own destiny.” But winning in Knoxville would cause just a little more sunshine to peek through the clouds. Confidence can go a long way, especially in a season when Florida and South Carolina are having quarterback issues — the Gators with Brantley and the Gamecocks with the now-benched Stephen Garcia.
This isn’t the best Georgia team we’ve seen. It’s young and mistake-prone. It’s certainly unproven. But falling dominoes around them and a gift-wrapped conference schedule creates possibilities that didn’t seem plausible after the losses to Boise State and South Carolina. We’ll know more this week.
Richt, alluding to Florida’s loss to Alabama and South Carolina’s to Auburn last week, said, “It’s definitely a motivating factor for everybody. That’s why we have those plaques on the wall.” As he spoke, he glanced at a wall where SEC and East title plaques were hanging.
“We’re shooting for the Eastern Division title. Everybody certainly got excited about how the standings are sitting right now compared to how it was a week ago. But it’s crucial that we take care of our business because if we don’t, it’s not going to be that much fun any more.”
White watched the 2007 Tennessee game on TV. “It was the first time I saw a Georgia team get their throats stepped on,” he said. “They kind of laid down a little bit.”
And about two years ago: “That was one of the worst games I’ve played in. I remember waking up the next day feeling like I had been hit by a train.”
A feeling they also experienced at 0-2. Suddenly, they’re not laid out on the tracks.
By Jeff Schultz