ATHENS — It was the first time this season it was deemed necessary: A player rose to speak to the rest of the Georgia football team at their Monday meeting. In fact, two players rose up.
Senior offensive tackles John Theus and Kolton Houston took to the floor in the first-floor team meeting room at the Butts-Mehre complex. Their message, according to fellow senior Jay Rome, was
“The season is far from over,” Rome said. “We have plenty of more games ahead of us. We can’t look too far ahead. We can’t look behind us anymore. But all we’ve gotta do focus on today’s practice. Tomorrow we’ve gotta focus on tomorrow’s practice. And so forth. We’ve gotta take it one day at a time, one play at a time, and eventually good things will start happening again.”
This would certainly seem the time for such speeches. The Bulldogs have dropped two in a row, dropping from the national rankings and their SEC East hopes now out of their hands. Oh, and their best player, tailback Nick Chubb, has been lost for the season with a knee injury.
Guard Greg Pyke, a fourth-year junior, was asked if the team needed to hear that message from Theus and Houston.
“I think so,” Pyke said. “We’ve got some young guys on this team that kinda maybe think, ‘Oh we lost twice, maybe next year.’ But no, it comes (down) to if we do our job every week going on, and some teams lose, we’re right there. I think that’s what the team needed to hear. You’ve got some veteran guys here too, but we do have a lot of young guys playing. So it was good for them to hear that.”
Georgia’s chances to get back in the SEC East race may have gotten a boost on Monday when first-place and unbeaten Florida saw its starting quarterback, Will Grier, suspended for a year because of a failed drug test. Georgia plays Florida in three weeks.
But first the Bulldogs have to show they can beat anyone without Chubb, as well as a defense that is suddenly very vulnerable and a passing game that continues to be less than stellar. There isn’t too much going extremely well for this team now.
Outside the Butts-Mehre building, the fan base is demoralized and upset. Senior linebacker Jordan Jenkins posted a picture on Twitter of a fan who wrote unflattering things about Jenkins and senior receiver Malcolm Mitchell. (The fan quickly deleted his tweet.)
Inside the Butts-Mehre, the players said they’re obeying coach Mark Richt’s longtime message: “Ignore the noise.”
“I don’t listen to the noise that’s outside of this building. All I care about is the guys in this building, my teammates and the coaching staff,” Pyke said. “We don’t listen to that kind of stuff outside.”
“I feel like if you had come to practice today you wouldn’t even know we had two straight losses,” Rome said. “There was a lot of energy, a lot of people moving around. Like I said, we’re ignoring the noise. There’s nothing we can do about the losses that we had, so there’s no point in looking back at them. The only thing we can do is be excited because we have another game of football to play.
“Sometimes people forget that football is a game, and we do do this because it’s fun for us.”