September 24, 2010

Georgia-MSU all about survival

Last week, Georgia coach Mark Richt talked about how big last week's game against Arkansas was from the standpoint of staying in the hunt for the SEC East title.

Saturday night in Starkville against Mississippi State (7 p.m., FSN), it's all about survival in the nation's most unforgiving conference.

For the ardent Bulldog fan, it's not a pretty scenario.

Another loss would mark the first time in Richt's 10-year tenure that Georgia would have dropped three games in a row; not good news at all, especially for a team some thought might push Florida for a division crown.

Linebacker Christian Robinson admits such thoughts weigh heavy on the players' minds.

"It's difficult, but at the end of day, with our group of guys, we come together and say the only people that matter at the end of the day are the people in this room. We stick together and count on each other," Robinson said. "I really feel like we have gotten better, and when we are called upon to get a stop, we have the capability of doing that. If we continue to work hard and correct the things that we've done wrong, and if we continue to do what we are good at the right way, we have a chance to get to a better place that people might not think we are capable of getting to."

Mississippi State (1-2, 0-2) is feeling some of Georgia's pain.

After opening with an impressive victory over Memphis, the Bulldogs have struggled offensively, dropping back-to-back games to Auburn and LSU.

"It's a big game for both programs. You know, you're looking at someone coming out of this game with a pretty good jump start on the rest of the season," Mullen said. "I know both of us have been playing very difficult, early season schedules in conference. If we get out of this run at 2-2, that will hopefully set us up to have a successful season."

Richt feels the same.

If the Bulldogs can get past MSU, Georgia's schedule sets up nicely with Colorado, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky on the docket before the annual grudge match with Florida in Jacksonville the final Saturday of October.

Also, next week Georgia welcomes back wide receiver A.J. Green whose four-game suspension levied upon him by the NCAA will be up, which by itself should inject some needed optimism to carry on through the rest of the year.

But even with Green, Richt knows there are other areas of his team's play that need addressing, including the offensive and defensive fronts where the Bulldog coach wants to see both lines of scrimmage become more physical at the point of attack.

"The South Carolina game, of course we weren't too pleased with what happened on the defensive front or the offensive front for that matter. I think our lines played much better this past game," Richt said. "Other than that, (last Saturday) the protection was very solid. The run-blocking definitely improved. I thought the backs got a little bit better at getting more than what was blocked for, but you still have tight ends that have to keep getting better and fullbacks too. I think they improved."

Mullen said Mississippi State has been having similar issues with its offensive front as well.

"For an experienced group we are just not communicating very well. It's kind of taking care of themselves, instead of taking care of the line and you need all five guys to play together. On our 13 play drive that we scored the other night (against LSU), nine of those 13 plays all five guys graded best doing the right thing for us," Mullen said. "It's a shock what happens when all five offensive linemen, all on the same play, do the right thing and nine of those 13 plays on that drive they all did their job and we were successful. So we have just talked to them a lot about communicating and being on the same page to get the job done and if we do that, then I do expect us to play much better on the offensive line."

Still, Mullen believes his offense is making strides.

Like Georgia, the Bulldogs' second-year coach believes with a little consistency, good results will start to show.

Mullen said he'll continue using both junior Chris Relf and redshirt freshman Tyler Russell at quarterback to hopefully make that happen.

"The strength is that we're not far off. When you watch film, the weaknesses are we just have no consistency. We had one offensive penalty the other night, coming after our longest play of the game, a 22 yard gain and then we jump offsides. That is what great offenses don't do. They capitalize on one play after another and play with consistency," Mullen said. "That's what I haven't seen out of us, that consistent performance offensively. Now, when you watch it on film, you can point to it on every single play. We watched it as a whole offense yesterday, and we're not far off we just need to be more consistent."

Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has been singing a similar tune.

Inconsistency on the defensive side has led to some big plays by opposing offenses, a fact Grantham hopes to have shored up in time for Saturday's game for the Bulldogs who are anxious to get that losing taste washed out of their collective mouths.

"Our main objective is to win games. Unfortunately we're on a losing streak now, which is not something we wanted or imagined. We have to try to focus on getting better and pulling it out this week," Durham said. "We're going to have to stay together. We can't point fingers at whose making mistakes and who's not. We have to try to make plays when given the opportunity. We have to stay focused and stay with the task at hand. We need to be willing to get back out there and throw it all out there, put it all on the line."

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