ATHENS — Mark Richt called it one of the most frustrating offensive games of his career. He was probably being kind by not mentioning the defense.
In truth, virtually every aspect of Georgia’s game was exposed by Tennessee on Saturday in a 45-19 rout that would have been much worse had it not been for a few big plays by the defense and special teams.
Despite the struggles, however, Richt isn’t ready to throw in the towel, and he isn’t planning on shaking up his roster just for the sake of change.
“You can get a knee-jerk reaction sometimes and make decisions that you probably shouldn’t make, so we’re not going to sit here and make a bunch of wholesale changes right this second,” he said.
That’s not to say changes won’t be made. Richt said the outcome Saturday was unacceptable and certainly players need to improve their production.
But while Georgia is just 3-3 this season, the previous five games showed potential, and Richt isn’t willing to ignore months of practice and performance because of one admittedly disastrous game.
“Guys are always fighting for positions, but there’s a reason why we’ve got guys in certain spots — they’ve proven to be the best man for the job,” he said.
While wholesale changes don’t seem imminent, there remains plenty of speculation surrounding the most prominent position on the field.
Quarterback Joe Cox struggled mightily down the stretch Saturday, missing on 13 of his final 22 passes as the offense mustered just three points in the game.
Richt said he hasn’t ruled out using one of his two true freshman quarterbacks — Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger — and Cox’s backup, Logan Gray, earned snaps on the Bulldogs’ final two drives against Tennessee.
Still, Richt said a change at quarterback isn’t likely to fix any problems. The Bulldogs’ running game has been non-existent the past three weeks, and the offensive line has struggled to open holes and keep the pass rush under control.
“I think Joe took a couple of shots that probably shook him up a little bit,” Richt said. “He probably would never admit to that. But before we have any successful quarterback play, we’ve got to run the ball better and pass protect better than we did.”
The one position Richt said could see a shakeup is at safety, where redshirt freshman Baccari Rambo is likely to see his role increase after he provided one of Georgia’s few highlights, intercepting a Johnathan Crompton pass and returning it for a touchdown.
Beyond the interception, however, Georgia’s safeties — primarily Reshad Jones and Bryan Evans — were far from effective.
“We need to split that workload a little bit more, and I think that’ll help all those guys,” Richt said of the safeties. “We need to be productive on a more consistent basis.”
Throughout the rest of the roster, there will be plenty to evaluate. The Bulldogs have failed to crack 100 yards rushing in four of six games. The offensive line has struggled, and the defensive line was held without a sack Saturday. The secondary has been burned repeatedly, with three different opposing quarterbacks topping 300 yards in a game. Even the special teams have been rocky, with the kickoff coverage and punt return teams coming under the most fire.
But while a long-term shakeup may still be on the horizon, Richt said his main focus remains this Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt.
“We’re not going to have open tryouts or anything like that,” Richt said. “We’re going to get right back to work preparing for Vanderbilt and try to get the best man at every position. But it’s not going to be some kind of open tryout.”
Not this week, at least. Going forward, however, things must get better, Richt said. Mistakes can be forgiven, but the season cannot be lost — and that burden falls upon everyone.
“We’ve got to get better, period,” Richt said. “We’ve got to get better at defense, get better on offense, we’ve got to get better in all areas. And we’ve got to get better at coaching.”