JACKSONVILLE – As bad as it seemed over this past month, as much as the Georgia football team knew it was flailing and had big problems, there was always something to cling to. Fix things, win out, and it could still be playing for a championship in December.
That faint chance is gone now too, a casualty of the 27-3 loss to Florida. And afterwards, the season now seeming hopeless, players and coaches tried to answer the simple question:
Where do they go from here?
“No shot now (at the SEC East),” head coach Mark Richt said. “That’s when you’ve just gotta decide how you’re gonna prepare and how you’re gonna perform when the main goal is gone. How are you gonna do now? You’ve gotta keep battling. That’s life.”
Richt said his message to the team afterwards was “to be men about this.”
“We need to guard our words, because in emotional times things get said, things get tweeted, things get out there that most of the time you regret,” Richt said. “In the heat of a loss like that you can really feel a certain way and then maybe the next day not feel quite the same. We know the season’s gonna continue. It’s not gonna end. We know that we need to get back to work and get ready for Kentucky. I told them that’s football and that’s life.
“There’s a lot of disappointing things that happen in fotoabll, a lot of disappointing things that happen in life. You can’t lose your composure, you can’t lose your integrity in the process – or at least damage it.”
Where does the offense, which doesn’t have a touchdown in two games, go from here? Receiver Malcolm Mitchell had a quick answer.
“Well we can only go up, huh?” Mitchell said, then laughed. “So that’s my answer then.”
Mitchell is a senior who now knows he will never win an SEC championship. He at least got to play in two SEC championship games. But the final five games of his career – four plus (presumably) a bowl will be about different goals.
“Nobody wants to lose, regardless of what your record is,” Mitchell said. “So next week, I don’t wanna go lose the next game. I want to beat the next team. And I think that’s enough drive to keep us going.”
Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, asked what there’s to play for now, said the big picture hasn’t changed.
“Our deal is we don’t talk about winning championships, we talk about trying to be a champion every day,” Pruitt said. “And to me that goal hasn’t changed for us. On the field, off the field, in the classroom. And we’re trying to build. Trying to build and figure out each day.”
Pruitt’s defense is actually a small source of hope for Georgia. Yes, Florida put up 413 yards, but 126 came on two plays, and thanks to an anemic Georgia offense its defense had to be on the field for 36:51.
Two weeks ago Pruitt’s unit dominated in a 9-6 win over Missouri. Pruitt was asked if the showings the past two games showed movement in the right direction.
“I don’t know, what do you think?” he said.
It seemed like improvement, except for those two big Florida plays.
“Two plays. But those two plays count. We’ve gotta eliminate those plays,” Pruitt said. “We eliminate those plays, I don’t know, we get beat 7-3.”