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Curtis Compton / AJC
Georgia offensive lineman Ben Cleveland, right, said the Bulldogs are challenged to go out and prove something after the upset loss.

Critics tackle Georgia, players feel challenged ‘to go out and prove something’

ATHENS — Georgia football doubters and critics emerged from the shadows Saturday night and Sunday, finally able to take a clear shot at Kirby Smart and his talented roster.

The Bulldogs’ 16-game home win streak and 15-game streak against SEC East opponents, dating back almost three years, finally came to an end and some couldn’t take shots fast enough.

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There were and are many anxious to stir the pot on Jake Fromm, suggesting the junior is overrated and that UGA should have somehow supplanted Fromm with Justin Fields last season.

It’s a preposterous notion, as anyone who follows the program closely would attest.

Smart made his feelings known on Saturday when asked about social media attacks in the aftermath of the 20-17 overtime loss to South Carolina.

WATCH: Jake Fromm takes responsibility for loss to Gamecocks

“They have a right to use whatever they want and display whatever they want, (because) that’s what Twitter is about,” Smart said. “I believe in Jake Fromm. Jake Fromm is a leader of men. He gives tremendous effort week in and week out. He tried to throw the ball away and didn’t get enough on it to get it of bounds and the kid picked it off. We fumbled the snap. That rarely happens with our guys.

“I can’t tell you exactly why it happened … it was a tough day.”

Georgia offensive guard Ben Cleveland says the loss provides the team with a challenge.

“This shows we can be brought down for a minute,” Cleveland said, “but it also gives us a great opportunity to go out and prove something.”

That “something” would be that the Bulldogs are indeed a championship caliber program, even though they dropped to No. 10 in the rankings on the heels of not making the College Football Playoffs last season.

Tailback D’Andre Swift put the loss in perspective and provided some insight into how Georgia will deal with it.

“You can’t put it on one person, offensively we have to do a better job executing, work on turnovers, work on third downs,” Swift said. “It’s over, we can’t do nothing about it.

“I’ve been through this before, my  first year and second year; you have to say close as a family.”

And, cornerback Eric Stokes said, get back to work.

“It was pretty shocked in there (locker room), we worked our tail off this week and we were prepared to win, but it doesn’t work like that all the time,” Stokes said. “We’re just going to go into next week and work, and go game by game and day by day, and keep improving.”

Receiver Demetris Robertson, whose role continues to increase with each injury and game under his belt, provided evidence of just how bought in the Georgia players are with one another and their head coach.

“After a loss like this, it’s distraught,” Robertson said, “but we’re a team and we’ll come together, and we’ll keep on chopping, and keep on playing for the next game.”

Indeed, that was Smart’s message.

“When it gets thick, we get tight, and we love on each other,” Smart told his team, as recorded in a team video. “Everything we want to achieve is still in front of us.

“I love every one of you guys, we’ve got to stay a team and stay tight.”

 

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