ATHENS – The Georgia football team is reeling, is unranked for the first time in two seasons, and just lost its best player for the season.
It was also just installed as a 16-point favorite against the two-time defending champion of its division. So at least Las Vegas still has confidence in the Bulldogs.
As for the team itself, it finds itself in moving-on mode for the second straight week. Last week it was a four-touchdown drubbing at home. This week it was a one-touchdown loss on the road, but after blowing a 21-point halftime lead, and losing star tailback Nick Chubb for the season.
The last two games have sent the fan base into a tizzy, many calling for the end of coach Mark Richt’s 15-year tenure, despite the best winning percentage in program history. The frustration outside the program has clearly reached beyond a boil.
Richt was asked Sunday night if it would be difficult to get his players “back off the mat” mentally this week, as it prepares to host Missouri.
“Oh I don’t know. I think these guys are pretty resilient,” Richt said. “I think they like football. I think they understand it’s gonna be a great challenge and a great opportunity and a great atmosphere that our fans are going to provide this weekend, in a night game under the lights. And still an awful lot to play for. So I think they’ll be fine.”
The problem for the Bulldogs is that no one area can be pinpointed as the problem – and now the one spot assumed to be a strength is in question, thanks to Chubb’s injury.
It’s become apparent the last two weeks that Georgia’s defense is far from ready to compete at a high level. Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt sounded the warning about youth and inexperience before the season, and has issued reminders the last two weeks; Georgia started three true freshmen and three true sophomores on Saturday. And the team has been subbing in young players as well.
“The deeper you go into your depth, the younger it gets,” Richt said. “And that’s true for everybody in America. But we’re already starting some guys that are probably a little too young to play. But that’s just where we’re at right now. We’ve gotta keep giving these guys opportunities to grow. “
The offense wasn’t blameless either. Quarterback Greyson Lambert had some good moments on Saturday but that was after beginning the game with three straight three-and-outs. By the end of the game Georgia had possessed the ball for just 25:57, the same exact time of possession as the week before.
“I mean, it’s everybody. We’ve gotta execute better,” Richt said. “We actually had a couple of them just be within less than a yard, but that’s not good enough. We’ve gotta get extra yard, whether that’s the extra yard after contact, or whatever that may be. We’ve gotta get the chains moving, get the offense in a rhythm, get points on the board. So we’ve just gotta do a better job.”
When Jeremy Pruitt was at Alabama and Florida State from 2010-13, he only experienced five losses, and just two in the three years before he came to Athens. In a season-and-a-half as Georgia’s defensive coordinator, he has now been on the losing end five times.
He was asked Saturday night where this team goes from here.
“Our goal as a football team is to try to get better every day. That’s our ultimate goal, is to get better every day,” Pruitt said. “All we can worry about is what we can control. Hopefully we’ll come back, and I think we’ve got a really good bunch of young men that’s going to pull together, and we’ll try to correct our mistakes, and get better on Monday.”