ATHENS — Faton Bauta dashed off the field after shaking hands with a couple Florida Gators following the first start of his career. The fourth-year quarterback was the first player to hit the tunnel back to the locker room as his Georgia teammates hugged friends and prayed with players on the opposing team.
It wasn’t from embarrassment. And it wasn’t anything new.
He’s been the first player off the field every game this season, starting quarterback or not.
It’s not in protest of the quarterback situation. It’s not anger about an outcome. The answer is simple and personal.
“I respect the game, I respect the other team,” Bauta said. “It’s not a sign of disrespect, but as a competitor I just go out there, I do my job and return right back to where I have to be and where my team is.”
Bauta, known for his leadership and work ethic, has a no-nonsense approach to football. Teammates say he studies the playbook more than anyone else. He’s the holder, a scout team safety and already has his degree.
“I love that about him,” Richt said. “That’s leadership to me. That’s a competitive spirit. That’s a guy who wants to help Georgia win. I admire that about him.”
In his first start for the Bulldogs, Bauta threw four interceptions and the offense didn’t score a touchdown for the second game in a row.
After the 27-3 loss to Florida, the players swarmed to the middle of the field, half with heads hung in disappointment and half with smiles beaming in glory. Not an unusual postgame ritual but an increasingly difficult one as the Bulldogs’ SEC East hopes evaporated at EverBank Field.
“Rivalry games are always hard to see them celebrating, especially a game like that,” senior lineman Kolton Houston said. “That’s part of the game. But it’s not fun to go shake their hands after a game like that.”
Often players use post game to talk with high school teammates and players they remember from recruiting days. After the Florida loss, Greyson Lambert hugged former Virginia teammate Jake McGee. Following the Tennessee loss, Bauta stopped to chat with Curt Maggitt, who he knew from Dwyer High School.
But for the most part, Bauta doesn’t know opposing players. Nor doesn’t he feel the need to join in the fellowship.
“Just as a competitor, I love the game. I think sportsmanship is important,” Bauta said. “But to me, I’m out there to get a job done.”