Ending Dogs’ drought against Florida starts between ears

Mark Richt was doused by players after beating Florida in 2004, but there haven't been many celebrations in last 21 years.

Mark Richt and Dogs celebrated after 2004 win over Florida, but celebrations have been few.

ATHENS – It was the Tuesday of Florida week, and Mark Richt took the expected route for a coach who has been on the losing end of too many of these things. Downplay the history. Downplay the emotions. Downplay any suggestions that the other team is in Georgia’s heads.

Like that first play of the game last year when Aaron Murray threw an interception to Janoris Jenkins? It wasn’t about Murray being overcome by the moment, Richt said. “I think it has a lot more to do with the fact [Florida] just played well. A guy breaks on the ball and he makes a play. I don’t think it had anything to do with emotion. It’s more of an execution issue, really.”

Here’s the problem with execution issues: An athlete’s body parts can do only what the head tells them to, and sometimes there are all of these things that get in the way. Nerves. Atmosphere. Confidence. The general dread of, “We’ve been here before.”

This was Murray’s answer to the same question Richt was asked: “There were definitely a lot of nerves, a lot of jitters, and I definitely didn’t start out the way I wanted to.”

Georgia plays Florida again Saturday. A case could be made that this is the most important game in the series during the Richt era. There are potential ramifications for both this season (SEC East race) and the big picture. Theoretically, the Bulldogs could lose to Florida and still win the East. (Richt: “This wouldn’t bury us, the way things are happening in this league. It wouldn’t count us out, [but winning] it wouldn’t count us in.”)

But a loss would drop Richt to 2-9 against Florida. That would be a difficult thing to sell to the administration after this season, especially since the Gators carry a three-game losing streak into this game for the second consecutive year (and won last season 34-31).

Richt must win this game. The Florida game is simply that important to the season and to the program. Florida matters more. It follows that it has caused the most misery.

The numbers are dizzying: three consecutive losses, 11 of 13, 18 of 21.

Vince Dooley went 17-7-1. His 25-game winning percentage: .700. Since then, Ray Goff (1-6), Donnan (1-4) and Richt (2-8) have gone 4-18. Their 22-game percentage: .182.

How can players and coaches not think of that history, even if they weren’t here for most of it?

Some players weren’t even born yet. Murray? He actually was born Nov. 10, 1990 — the day Steve Spurrier’s Gators tortured Goff’s Dogs, 38-7. That’s when this 21-game stretch started. So it’s all Murray’s fault.

When one signature program loses 18 of 21 games to another, it’s not just about talent. At some point, it’s between the ears.

Georgia’s starting quarterbacks in the past three meetings have thrown nine interceptions. Florida’s, one. The Dogs have committed 12 turnovers. Florida, one.

That not about athleticism. That’s one team being calm and the other having a meltdown.

Richt has tried different ways to prepare his players. Twice, he brought in former players and coaches who had previous success against the Gators to speak to the team during the bye week.

“One year we won, one year we lost,” he said. “I think we might be better off just focusing the things that truly matter: What’s your job? What’s your assignment? What are you going to do if this happens? When we get there, I don’t think we’ll have any problem with emotions.”

Easier said than done. Defensive back Sanders Commings said, “It’s hard not to get caught up” in the hype and surroundings. Early in last year’s game, Florida’s Trey Burton fumbled at Gators’ 14-yard-line. Commings had a chance to fall on the ball. Instead, he tried to pick it up and run for a touchdown. But he failed, and the Gators kept possession, eventually driving 91 yards for their first touchdown.

“It was early, but it could’ve changed the game,” Commings said. “Next time I’ll just fall on the ball.”

That’s the way it has gone for most of the past 21 years. Richt made history in Athens, winning two SEC titles early in his tenure. But this is one part of history he hasn’t been able to change. And as much as he wants to try to play this off as being just another game, it isn’t.

By Jeff Schultz

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347 comments Add your comment

NC Dawg

October 25th, 2011
4:21 pm

jaglaw

October 25th, 2011
4:23 pm

jaglaw

October 25th, 2011
4:24 pm

jaglaw

October 25th, 2011
4:28 pm

Jeff, you are always so positive. Same can be said when Tech plays UGA…I look forward to seeing this same article in November.

sanders

October 25th, 2011
4:29 pm

Its Commings

harold

October 25th, 2011
4:32 pm

3-18 IN THE LAST 21 GAMES AGAINST GATORS. RICHT HAS ONLY “2″ WINS. IF RICHT ISN’T IN THAT SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME HE IS DONE!

Texas Falcon

October 25th, 2011
4:35 pm

Good read. Definitely a mental thing. They have lost 3 in a row. We have won 5. Thats the pre-game speech.

liberalefty

October 25th, 2011
4:38 pm

UGA has had as much talent as any team in the country over the yrs , so i think it is mental

HammerDawg

October 25th, 2011
4:38 pm

Fire Bobo and things will change!

What if

October 25th, 2011
4:38 pm

What if UGA wins the east? Do they really want to play LSU or Bama? It would be the worst SEC championship game in history, somewhere in the neighborhood of 45-3.

BarryW

October 25th, 2011
4:40 pm

Positive emotions are really good if they are accompanied by a good game plan, and even better execution by the players. The so called, “emotions” must be part of positive, fruitful practices and video study of the opponent, well before the game. Emotions have a way of dissolving with the first few solid hits. And if you are on the receiving end – - – getting the “stew” knocked out of you – the emotions fade even faster. Bulldog touchdowns and defensive stops will stimulate “in game” emotions. Those are the important ones! If we( Dogs) play really well, and don’t get stupid penalties, we will win………….even if we don’t jump the highest coming out of the dressing room before the game.

The Publisher

October 25th, 2011
4:43 pm

Jeff, you are the master of the obvious…almost John Madden-like. Are we still paying $5 per sports story? I was hoping to learn something different from reading this story; yawn. Oh well, thanks for writing. Oh yeah. Can you tell us what we’re paying per story now? We need to cut the budget :)

Skeeter

October 25th, 2011
4:44 pm

“It’s Saturday between the ears”

Even though it doesn’t sound right, against Florida, it’s true…….

norman

October 25th, 2011
4:47 pm

You’re a brave man Schultz, writing another negative article about UGA. Didn’t you learn your lesson last week about the UGA-Vandy incident.

Ole Smoky

October 25th, 2011
4:50 pm

Gators just have the Dogs number… Not sure it’ll ever change …

Paddy

October 25th, 2011
4:51 pm

What if………”if UGA won the East would they really want to play LSU or Bama?” Something in that statement tells me you never strapped it on! Stay out of my locker room little fella!!!!! Pop Warner could not find a place for you. Geez!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Beginning of the End

October 25th, 2011
4:53 pm

Question:

Do you not have to have something between your ears before you use what is between your ears?

The Beginning of the End

October 25th, 2011
4:56 pm

What if

October 25th, 2011
4:38 pm
What if UGA wins the east? Do they really want to play LSU or Bama? It would be the worst SEC championship game in history, somewhere in the neighborhood of 45-3.

Nice point….I bet the post game celebration would be very peaceful and with the stadium and parking lots being empty it would mean quick trips to the concession stand, restroom and a quicker exit out of town to Baton Rouge or Tuscaloosa with all the UGA fans at home watching “Cops” or Beevis and Butthead.

Parade of Knuckleheads

October 25th, 2011
4:57 pm

`
Is talented coaching the issue?

Brooksdawg

October 25th, 2011
4:58 pm

Its Georgia vs Florida week…all the BS aside– play your game DAWGS and victory is yours..now GATA

The Beginning of the End

October 25th, 2011
4:59 pm

This saturdays CBS game will be the best one on air all fall unitl November 5th, but the problem with this game is they are both playing for a shot in the East and both teams are about the 5th, 6th or 7th best teams in the entire conference.

Saying that…The Missouri Tigers will feel right at home in the east in 2012 where they may have a shot at winning that division in its first year in the league.

Les Nessman

October 25th, 2011
5:02 pm

Although it’s fashionable for the media to make a big deal out of this game, a loss won’t make a coaching change inevitable. Sorry. Dawgs could go 8-4, not win the SEC-East and Richt would still probably stay. And why not ? That’s improvement, and I just can’t see 8-4 costing a coach his job. Won’t happen.

The Beginning of the End

October 25th, 2011
5:02 pm

I hope CMR does not plan to have his team celebrate in the endzone after a touchdown…..Muschamp would lose it and the football game would turn into WWE with Muschamp and Grantham rolling around midfield like two Manatees fighting over some cabbage….alot of heavy bodies moving but no real physical act of violence.

Frank Lane

October 25th, 2011
5:05 pm

I went to my first GA-FLA game when I was six months old in 1944. Always a thrill.

The Beginning of the End

October 25th, 2011
5:06 pm

Les Nessman

October 25th, 2011
5:02 pm
Although it’s fashionable for the media to make a big deal out of this game, a loss won’t make a coaching change inevitable. Sorry. Dawgs could go 8-4, not win the SEC-East and Richt would still probably stay. And why not ? That’s improvement, and I just can’t see 8-4 costing a coach his job. Won’t happen.

You are probably right, correct and dead on. However does anyone really want to hear the excuses from the Bulldawg nation next year when they are losing two or three games and still not competitive with the big boys in the conference?

Bigdsel

October 25th, 2011
5:07 pm

Go out and play hard nosed football and the dawgs will win

Dawgs win

October 25th, 2011
5:08 pm

FL is not prepared for this avalanche pouring down on them.

Atlanta Gator

October 25th, 2011
5:10 pm

I really miss Tony Barnhart’s columns during Florida-Georgia week. Barnhart would actually engage in reporting, and write columns based on what his sources had to say on point. The remaining AJC sports columnists, who shall remain nameless, seem to believe that all that is required is that they post a blog topic based on their opinion and very little else. Really a sad commentary on the current state of the AJC sports department, and its reporting on college football in particular.

Real V Dawg

October 25th, 2011
5:11 pm

Ga wins this game easily—mark it down. These Dawgs are on role and will beat fla by 17+. Florida’s offense is bad and will not be able to score much against Grantham’s d, which may be playing best in the sec. Fla will end up in some crummy bowl and Ga’s going to the SEC title game!!!!!!!!

What if

October 25th, 2011
5:15 pm

Paddy,
The pop warner game is Saturday in Jacksonville. The men’s game is in Tuscaloosa the following weekend.

B'dawg

October 25th, 2011
5:15 pm

Yes it is absolutely a mental block. We have to go into this game convinced we can win. No gimmicks, no alternate uniforms. We MUST be well prepared, and the execution must be precise. We cant give the game away as we have in the past. I believe we will be ready. TOO much is riding on this game. But dont tell our players that! Line up in the I FORMATION and pound the ball until they prove they can stop it. We have to gain the mental edge. If we come out and slap them in the mouth and make them think for 1 second, WE GOT EM! If we come out flat and predictable its gonna be a long afternoon. If Blair Walsh isnt successful, SIT HIM DOWN! If we start getting flag happy, pull them and sit them down! We have to play flawless and as a team. I think we will, finally put a complete game together. DAWGS WIN 24-17.

Unless Penn Wagers and crew are calling the game. I hate that douche bag!

The Beginning of the End

October 25th, 2011
5:16 pm

Real V Dawg…

Glad your confidence level is so high…..please report back here on Saturday evening around 6:45 to face the 17 point spread comment. How many of your buddies are you giving that 17 points to. I need to find one of them and bank roll them.

The Beginning of the End

October 25th, 2011
5:18 pm

Atlanta Gator

October 25th, 2011
5:10 pm
I really miss Tony Barnhart’s columns during Florida-Georgia week. Barnhart would actually engage in reporting, and write columns based on what his sources had to say on point. The remaining AJC sports columnists, who shall remain nameless, seem to believe that all that is required is that they post a blog topic based on their opinion and very little else. Really a sad commentary on the current state of the AJC sports department, and its reporting on college football in particular.

Yeah we do to. CBS Sports ..nice write ups….But the AJC has some fine sports writers as well, the Bulldawg nation will disagree but they do a fine job.

The Beginning of the End

October 25th, 2011
5:19 pm

What if

October 25th, 2011
5:15 pm
Paddy,
The pop warner game is Saturday in Jacksonville. The men’s game is in Tuscaloosa the following weekend.

Is this college versions of The Bud Bowl?

B'dawg

October 25th, 2011
5:22 pm

Richt walks away after the season regardless of the turn out. Ive just got a feeling he walks. He looks tired walking the sidelines, and he doesnt seem to be serious during his press conference every week. I dont think he coaches again.

Mike

October 25th, 2011
5:24 pm

Jeff, its not as simple as records. Sure Vince Dooley had his way with UF, but UGA typically had the week off before while Florida played Auburn. Dooley had an extra week to prepare while Florida played a heated rivalry game.

Spurrier flipped this around as soon as he became coach at Florida. Since then, UF has only played 4 times before the UGA game and lost 2 of those to Richt. When you look at most of Richt’s losses to UF, UF jumps out to an early lead, and UGA climbs back but falls short. The week off matters in this series. Vince Dooley never beat UF when they had a week off and neither has Richt. Donnan’s win is the only one of that nature.

This time both teams have the week off, so yeah, no excuses this year. But to trivialize this series like it’s one team in the head of another is wrong. Spurrier knew exactly what the problem was when he became coach, and the rest has been history.

phil

October 25th, 2011
5:27 pm

Schultz is dead on….How is it being negative to point out that we’ve lost 18 of 21….WE HAVE!!!!

That’s absolutely pathetic, embarassing and absurd. I want to win some of these games and quit talking about winning them.

I’m not predicting a dad gum thing other than another UGA loss until we actually go down there, just play decent football, and beat these jerks a few times.

There is ZERO good reason to think we’ll win until we actually DO win.

Bob

October 25th, 2011
5:29 pm

It’s not a mental block, it’s coaching. We owned UF during the 60s, 70s, and 80s because our coaching was superior.

Leonard's Loser...

October 25th, 2011
5:30 pm

The red clay paws take their annual trip to that foreign land, south of the border to chew on slimy lizards. The gekko’s think they have this one licked like their eyeball, based on recent history. But these canines have a different plan for the swamp water drinkers. Last years game was a close one as the two played the first OT game in series history. And this year Russ looks to flip that score and start a new streak for the incoming Uga, which it fondly had pre-evil genious period.
The defense looks like it’s trying it’s best to get back to the junkyard glory. And with the reptiles quarterbacks hanging by a thread, those junkyard dogs could wind up shredding them to pieces.
The offense will step enough as the wrath of the Murray kid will befall on his naysayers.
Canines have the bigger bite against these lizards….and who likes an ugly reptile anyways…..Leonards Loser….FL 14-34

dawg4u

October 25th, 2011
5:35 pm

The bottom line for UGA is – no “W” on Saturday means no Richt in 2012 or at least it should!

piermontdawgny

October 25th, 2011
5:37 pm

bobo better come with a new package!

bill

October 25th, 2011
5:42 pm

It’s a mental thing…and I hope that Phil is right abour Richt stepping away at end of season, regardless of how it ends…because while I am ready for a new coaching staff in Athens, I could NEVER root for us to lose to the HATED Gators!!! As Al Davis said, “Just win, baby!”

The Beginning of the End

October 25th, 2011
5:43 pm

Dawggie Whistle

October 25th, 2011
5:36 pm
This is Vern Lundquist along with my partner Gary Danielson. We come to you today from Jacksonville Florida where the Georgia Bulldogs and Florida Gators will fight it out to see if one of them or South Carolina will be so unfortunate to face LSU or Alabama in the SEC Championship game in December. We really tried hard today to show highlight footage for 3 and half hours of LSU and Alabama but our sponsors balked at that plan. So we will go ahead and bring you this game and act like we are really interested.

Now that is funny!

murfdawg

October 25th, 2011
5:44 pm

It’s like running a marathon. You can’t do it till you do it. Everybody can run. But until you pay the price, physically and MENTALLY, you will never get past the wall. That is where UGA football is now. We look good starting the game, but we can’t finish. Maybe this year.

p.s. All bets are off if Penn Wagers show up.

Bill Stanfill

October 25th, 2011
5:44 pm

Of late, Florida has won even when it shouldn’t have. Like last year.

When I was young, the tables were turned–UGA won and won and won.

But maybe the change has come. In my view, Muschamp was a questionable hire for Florida–nothing has happened to change that view, though I know it’s early. There were several highly rated head coaches who would have welcomed the opportunity to go to Gainesville.

Still, UGA needs to play a complete game to win–and the key to that is Aaron Murrary. If Murray has a good game, Dawgs win.

bill

October 25th, 2011
5:44 pm

Actually it was B’dawg that says CMR will step away, but I agree with Phil…I’ll believe we can beat the Gators again when we do it on the field!

jack

October 25th, 2011
5:46 pm

uh…Les. Hate to mention it, but Donnan’s last 4 year were 10-2, 9-3, 8-4 and 8-4. Fired.

The Nature Boy

October 25th, 2011
5:48 pm

Loved your post Leonard…that was good stuff..brought back memories, I miss that radio program, I remember listening to it on the way to Athens in the early 80’s w/ my dad…I think Jeff picking Florida Thursday would help tremendoulsy…(ie the UT game)….that being said, Schultz will pick the Dawgs…or will he..??

Big Al

October 25th, 2011
5:49 pm

Alabama or LSU could bring their scout squads to Atlanta to play Georgia. Save the starters for the BCS Championship game.

The Beginning of the End

October 25th, 2011
5:50 pm

jack

October 25th, 2011
5:46 pm
uh…Les. Hate to mention it, but Donnan’s last 4 year were 10-2, 9-3, 8-4 and 8-4. Fired.

Jim Donnan was a good man and good coach. He really knew how to get folks to “Invest” in his program.