ATHENS — Mark Richt’s tone, and the choice of two words, may have given away the situation Georgia’s head football coach finds himself in right now.
For most of this season Richt has been fairly even-keel in his public comments, and very reluctant to talk about next year. Then on Sunday, 24 hours after a loss to Florida that heightened the questions about his future, Richt was asked if he felt his team had the ingredients to turn things around. Richt’s tone was upbeat — as it was throughout the Sunday media teleconference — and he also went further than just this year.
“I think we’ve got what it takes to turn this thing around,” he said. “I don’t have any doubt in my mind, for the season and going beyond that as well. I think we do have the right ingredients.”
The use of the words “beyond that” was noteworthy. Perhaps it was because Georgia’s hopes of an SEC championship are officially gone. Perhaps it was to make an argument beyond the question that was asked.
Richt started his answer by saying “there’s no doubt” the team has the right ingredients to turn it around.
“A lot of it is just attitude,” Richt said. “A lot of it just a mindset, and I think we’ll have that right mindset.”
Georgia (5-3 overall, 3-3 SEC) opened as a 17-point favorite over Kentucky on Saturday. That’s without knowing who the Bulldogs will start at quarterback, and Richt didn’t shed any knowledge on the subject Sunday. He chuckled when it was the first question of the Sunday teleconference, the media member asking if Brice Ramsey (the only quarterback not to start yet this season) could be a candidate.
“We’re not ready to get to the quarterbacks yet,” Richt said. “But we’ll be discussing all possibilities though, I’ll say that.”
Faton Bauta threw four interceptions in his college starting debut on Saturday, and only rushed three times for four yards. But he had some moments, finishing the day 15-for-33 for 154 yards. Greyson Lambert, who started Georgia’s first seven games, did not play, but was second-team during warm-ups. Ramsey was third-team, but did throw a pass on a fake punt, while taking over as the team’s starting punter.
Georgia’s offense continues to be the focal point of the worries, after failing to score a touchdown in two straight games. Richt, who was Georgia’s play-caller the first six-plus years of his tenure, was asked Sunday if he might take a more active role with the offense. His answer was very similar to when he’s been asked that in the past, saying that he’s present for “just about every meeting” of the offense, discussing personnel and situational planning.
“I mean not everyone wants to hear how close we were on a lot of plays,” Richt said, chuckling. “But we really were.”
One pass was dropped in the end zone for a touchdown, he pointed out. That was when Jay Rome couldn’t haul in a pass in the fourth quarter, and a play later Bauta threw an interception.
Richt said another pass was dropped “that could have scored.” He might have been talking about the third-down pass to an open Rome downfield, though that Bauta pass also appeared slightly behind Rome, so it would have been a very good catch if he made it.
Bauta’s third interception, when he was hit throwing the ball, could have ended up a big play if the pass had gotten off, Richt said. A receiver had gotten open downfield he said.
There were also a couple runs that could have been broken open, Richt said, “if one guy does a better job of cutting off a backside linebacker.”
“So when those things don’t happen part of it is the fact that we’re just not quite executing to perfection,” Richt said. “But you can see how close we are. But close doesn’t do much for you unless you’re playing horseshoes. We all understand that. Close doesn’t count. But when you know how close you are it encourages you that we’re not far off from being able to move the ball better and get the ball in the end zone.”