Richt remains calm following Georgia’s disappointing loss

semerson@macon.comOctober 7, 2012 

ATHENS -- Mark Richt has been here before. He has been in a spot where his team has had a high-profile flameout, the fans are up in arms, and his program is being dismissed.

So Richt is taking the same tack as before. The Georgia football head coach is still projecting calm, not threatening to bench or fire anyone, and moving on with a season he says is far from over.

“Sometimes you have a bad game, period,” Richt said Sunday, a day after his team was humiliated 35-7 by South Carolina.

“You play and you run into a situation of a team (where) they’re at home, they had some outstanding ballplayers, they put together a good plan, they grabbed momentum early and fed off the energy of the fans. Sometimes that happens, and it happened (Saturday). You hate to be the victim of it, but that’s what happens.”

The loss dropped Georgia (5-1) from fifth to 14th in the Associated Press poll and 12th in the coaches’ poll. But in the debut of the Harris poll, which along with the coaches poll is one-third of the BCS formula, the Bulldogs are at No. 11.

The national title hunt now seems all but over, but Richt and the Bulldogs are still talking about winning the SEC East. That may also seem far-fetched, but it happened last year under similar circumstances.

“A year ago we’re 0-2, and everybody wants to decide that the sky is falling and it’s over for Georgia,” Richt said. “But what’d we do? We stayed firm, we believed in each other, we kept banging away, we began to win, and before you know it we won the Eastern Division. It’s one day, it’s one game, it’s unfortunate it came out the way it did with so much at stake. But there’s still a lot at stake as the season rolls on.”

Richt’s line was echoed by players who spoke to the media after the game.

“We’ve still got life. It’s a long season. We’ve got more games to play,” sophomore receiver Malcolm Mitchell said. “If we dwell on this game, we’ll lose the next one, then lose the next one. We’ve gotta stay focused and keep pushing.”

“The same thing happened last year. We lost to South Carolina, and they ended up losing two SEC games so we got to play for the SEC championship,” senior cornerback Sanders Commings said. “We’re definitely gonna remember that and go correct all the mistakes we made (Saturday) and just continue to win. Hopefully we get some help from people around the league and we get back to Atlanta.”

Still, the loss to South Carolina was indicative of a bad trend for the Bulldogs. They are now 2-8 in their most recent games against ranked teams and haven’t beaten a top 10 team since 2008.

Georgia enters its bye week with a number of issues having been exposed in the loss. The offensive line was dominated, and its defense continues to struggle.

But Richt bristled at the suggestion that his team came out flat Saturday night.

“I wouldn’t say it was a flat performance,” Richt said. “I would say that South Carolina just physically whipped us.

“I’m definitely not losing confidence in this team at all, or our coaching staff or anything like that. That’s the worst thing you can do. And that’s what teams do, teams panic and they tend to fall apart. But that’s not what Georgia’s gonna do.”

Also from Richt’s Sunday teleconference:

• There are no plans for a major personnel change on the offensive line. The one possibility is getting sophomore Mark Beard more playing time at left tackle, which moves Kenarious Gates to guard. But otherwise Richt said they plan to go with who they’ve been playing.

“I know Watts (Dantzler’s) ankle has been bothering him, so he really hasn’t had a chance to truly compete,” Richt said of the sophomore tackle. “But I still think we’ve got our best five in there, or at least our best six as we move that combination (with Beard) around. The big thing is we definitely have to acknowledge what happened, watch film of what happened, make any corrections that can be made. But the main thing is getting back to work and continuing to believe in each other and coming back with a strong performance. That’s really the best medicine that we have right now.”

• Tailback Ken Malcome, who scored Georgia’s lone touchdown, looked like he did when he ran with success against LSU last year, according to Richt. But that doesn’t necessarily mean more playing time for the sophomore, who was supplanted earlier in the season by the freshmen tailbacks.

“Sometimes when a game is already pretty much been decided, how much heart is left in the defense ... so I don’t know, I can’t sit here and say how many starters were in the game,” Richt said of South Carolina. “But Kenny’s drive was a very positive one and one where he took advantage of the opportunity he got. And I was very proud of him.”

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