ATHENS – It was almost dark by the time Jeb Blazevich, Georgia’s junior tight end, arrived at a media session after Wednesday’s practice. He apologized for being late. Then he got the inevitable question: Given the state of things, what does the bye week mean?
“A deep breath,” Blazevich said. Then he literally exhaled to make his point.
But as they take that breath, Georgia players inhale a 4-3 record, the low point (they hope) coming Saturday in the form of a home loss to lowly Vanderbilt. So this is a time of major correcting – at a time where everyone should realize it.
“Obviously we want to win that game, I don’t think there’s ever a perfect time (to lose) at the halfway point. But I will say this, and I think coach touched on it a little bit. This is going to sound terrible: It’s almost good in a way,” Blazevich said. “Because if we do win by a field goal, we still have the same problems, then we might not recognize it the same way we do now. But now it’s in our face, it’s pressing us, we’re almost forced to address all the issues that we were having. …
“Now we almost have to address it, instead of getting a win and falling into that security blanket, whatever you want to call it, ‘Well we won so we can just focus on what’s next.’ It’s like, Hey we obviously have issues, we need to fix it this week.”
The counter to that is obvious: Georgia was already struggling, eking out wins over Nicholls State, Missouri and South Carolina, and getting blown out by Ole Miss. Perhaps the realization should have come well before last Saturday.
Still, with five games left to go, starting with arch-rival Florida a week from Saturday, it’s better late than never.
“If you think way down the road, like, ‘Screw it, we’re 4-3 …” Blazevich said, letting the thought hand. “A lot of fans may be thinking, ‘Hang your head.’ But it’s like, Look, tomorrow we have a tough practice, what can I do better during that tough practice, what can I do for me to get better, so I can help the team so we can continue to salvage the season.”
Earlier this week, Georgia players held what receiver Michael Chigbu called “just a little small talk,” minus the coaches. Chigbu wouldn’t go into details.
“The season’s not going how we want it,” said Chigbu, a sophomore. “Instead of like sitting back like it’s OK, we’re still working to be a better Georgia as a team, be a better unit. Every day we’re going as hard as we were the first day we came out Nicholls, North Carolina, Missouri. We’re still going to work every day.”
So how much change can be done during a bye week? Blazevich said he once heard a coach – during the recruiting process – who summed it up this way: Eighty percent of the team follows what the rest does: Ten percent will be the hard-working leaders who don’t treat a bye week like a week off. The other 10 percent does.
Perhaps one benefit of the Vanderbilt loss, Blazevich opined, is that the right 10 percent will be followed.
“We’re trying to be the loudest ones, drown out these guys, weed these guys out,” Blazevich said. “And then we have everybody on board on the same page.”
Now that Georgia’s main goals appear gone – winning the SEC East would require two Tennessee losses and Georgia not losing to Florida, Auburn or Kentucky – what remains now?
“Yeah. The end-of-the-season goals, to be honest I really don’t know. I really don’t know what awaits for us,” Blazevich said. “We’re obviously trying to win out. But for me personally, and I know for everybody on the team, it’s not about that. It’s about what we need to focus on today.”