Bulldogs don’t forget poor start

semerson@macon.comNovember 9, 2011 

ATHENS -- It was the kind of question that normally invites a canned quote. Something about moving on, never looking back, forgetting all the negative.

Instead, Orson Charles went the other way when asked if, with his Georgia football team now 7-2 and eyeing a division title, the team’s 0-2 start seemed long ago.

“To tell you the truth, it’s still in the back of our heads,” Charles said. “Yeah we’re winning, but we definitely don’t want to go back to that feeling. I mean it was brutal. And I feel like we have to remember how we got to this point.”

That sums up the Bulldogs. They’ve recovered from the bad start, quieted (for now) their head coach’s critics and are on the verge of accomplishing something.

But they also feel that a return of the bad feelings is just one loss away, especially if it happens Saturday against Auburn.

“I know (that) you never know what tomorrow is going to bring, so it’s not like we’ve arrived or anything like that,” head coach Mark Richt said.

Richt’s job security was the overriding issue of the first half of the season. It hasn’t gone away quite yet, despite the winning streak.

Still, Richt got reflective Tuesday when asked how he handled all the criticism after the season-opening losses to Boise State and South Carolina. The Georgia head coach, who has always been outspoken about his Christian faith, cited a Bible verse (Colossians 3:23).

“That’s kind of how I navigated that time, and there will be more tough times I’m sure,” Richt said. “That’s the way life is.”

The caution for Georgia, which is currently ranked No. 14, is that it hasn’t exactly gone through a murderer’s row in building up its winning streak. None of the seven vanquished opponents are even receiving votes in the AP or coaches’ polls.

Beating Auburn, which is ranked 24th in the AP poll, would at least be the Bulldogs’ first win over a ranked opponent.

But the Bulldogs’ main goal remains winning the SEC East, which is theirs if they win their final two games, both at home. Players said this week that even when they were 0-2, they were reminded by coaches that the hope was still there for a division title or more.

“We knew we still had a chance, even when we went 0-2, and people were like, ‘Oh the season’s over with,’ ” sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray said. “South Carolina has never gone a season without losing at least three SEC games. So we’re like, ‘Hey just because we’re one behind them you never know what could happen.’ They could lose one, two, three.”

The Gamecocks have lost twice, most recently at Arkansas. But the door may have truly opened for Georgia when South Carolina fell at home in October -- to Auburn.

That slip-up may prove to be the reason the Gamecocks don’t win the division. But first Georgia may have to avoid the same fate.

“It’s definitely probably a little more difficult to play when you’re in front, when people are patting you on the back, and you’re feeling great,” Murray said. “But our guys don’t listen to the outside stuff, all the noise about, ‘Y’all are in the lead, you’re in position to get back to Atlanta.’ ”

Charles was asked what’s changed now that they’re not also waiting for South Carolina to lose.

“It’s definitely a stress reliever. We definitely feel comfortable. We’re definitely gonna be juiced up for this game because now if we lose (the division) it’s because of us. We’re not really waiting around for South Carolina. Everything is in our hands.”

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