October 12, 2012

Plenty of work to do

One loss as it was, Georgia coach Mark Richt admitted earlier this week that results like last Saturday's 35-7 debacle at South Carolina was different than most.

There's certainly been a lot to ponder.

"A lot of really good thing had been happening, but when you lose a game the way we did, then you start to evaluate everything," said Richt, whose 14th-ranked Bulldogs (5-1, 3-1) go into this week's bye still smarting from the program's worst loss in the history of the series against the Gamecocks.

Not surprisingly, with the season at its halfway point, Richt is trying to keep everything in perspective, although he acknowledges last week's loss left his team with a different, unsettling feeling.

"Whether you lose by 28 points or 1, it's still one loss. It's not five losses. It feels like three or four losses, but it was only one," Richt said. "Fortunately for us the way the SEC works, the team at the end with the best record in the division wins the East. There's a lot more football to be played, a chance to get back on the winning track. Everybody's got a bunch of games to play. We don't know how it's going to shake out yet. The best thing we can do is work out our mistakes."

Unfortunately, there's plenty of work to do - on both sides of the ball.

Although Georgia's offense continues to rank among the league's best from a statistical standpoint, last week's effort against a tough South Carolina defense begs other questions.

For example, what will the Bulldogs' offensive line be able to learn from the Gamecocks, whose ability to control the line of scrimmage left quarterback Aaron Murray scrambling for his life?

But it's the defense - or lack thereof - which continues to be Richt's biggest concern.

One year after finishing fifth nationally in total defense, the Bulldogs - who returned nine of 11 starters - rank ninth from a conference standpoint (373.8). More distressing is the fact Georgia is 10th against the run, giving up 161.5 yards on the ground. Only Vanderbilt (179) Tennessee (186.2), Kentucky (187) and Auburn (189.7) are giving up more.

"I don't want to say anything that's going to sound like an excuse because we don't have any excuse other than we haven't done as well - obviously," Richt said. "We've given up too many big plays. It's been communication on the back end. I'm not going to make any excuse. We've just got to get better."

But how?

That's a question. It's also one ESPN announcers Kirk Herbstreit and Brent Musberger wanted to know, when they called out Richt and the Bulldog program for "failing to show up" in Saturday's nationally televised game.

"We had opportunities to make plays. The first pass they (South Carolina) threw, if (Bacarri) Rambo squeezes it and come down with it, it changes momentum. Maybe we turn around and score, I don't know," Richt said. "We just never were able gain momentum. We tried to get it. We did drive the field and tried to score a touchdown instead of a field goal. If we can get down 21-7 at half and with the ball to start the third, maybe it's different."

So, what's next?

The Bulldogs wrapped up practice on Thursday before most of the players went their separate ways, most to spend time with family before returning to school on Sunday to begin preparations for next week's game at Kentucky (7 p.m.).

Richt didn't rule out some personnel changes moving forward, including the possibility of junior Garrison Smith getting more reps on the defensive line.

"The best thing we can do as coaches is find out what our players are not doing well and try to find way to improve it," Richt said. "I still think we've got very good coaches, very good players and a very good team. I think the future's bright."