ATHENS — Bacarri Rambo left little doubt, a little more than 48 hours later, that he was feeling terrible. He said he loafed. He said he failed as a leader.
“Every dog has their day. I guess Saturday was my day,” said Rambo, Georgia’s starting safety. “I just can’t let that happen to me again, because it cost us the game.”
And that was from the player who actually led the Bulldogs in tackles.
There was a lot of that self-criticism around the Georgia football team the past 48 hours. Every facet of the team — offense, defense and special teams — came up short in Saturday’s 17-6 loss at South Carolina.
Two days later, the Bulldogs were still trying to regroup.
“Right now we just look at it as if the train fell off the tracks,” senior linebacker Akeem Dent said.
But the task for the Bulldogs is making sure their season doesn’t become a train wreck.
A victory this week against No. 13 Arkansas would go a long way towards restoring confidence. A loss, especially at home, would lead to even more questions.
On the face of it, Georgia lost by 11 points to a team now ranked No. 13 in the country.
But the Bulldogs didn’t look good in any facet, and trailed the entire game, after the Gamecocks scored on a long opening drive.
Defensively, the lack of tackling was the dominant issue. South Carolina freshman Marcus Lattimore had 182 yards on 37 carries; Georgia linebacker Darryl Gamble said he read online that Lattimore had 140 yards after contact.
The theories varied on what went wrong. Rambo mentioned not swarming to the ball-carrier. Dent talked about just not wrapping up. Boykin said Lattimore also made it tough to leg tackle because he ran with his legs high.
“The opportunities were there,” cornerback Brandon Boykin said. “Sometimes we tried to big-hit him or didn’t wrap up, things like that.”
On offense, the line has surprisingly become an issue. The veteran group — three seniors and two juniors, all returning starters — were supposed to be a pillar of the team. But the run blocking has been lackluster, and the starting guard spots could be up in the air.
“We haven’t been playing well, we haven’t been playing up to our potential,” senior tackle Clint Boling said. “We’ve got some veteran guys up front, and been all offseason talking about how we need to put it on our shoulders and carry this team. And we haven’t been doing that yet.”
Ironically, entering the season having a redshirt freshman at quarterback was supposed to be the key concern. Aaron Murray has been solid the first two games, albeit without star receiver A.J. Green. Without Green, the Bulldogs’ downfield passing game has suffered.
Against that entire backdrop, Georgia faces one of the SEC’s up-and-coming teams on Saturday. Through two games, albeit against weaker opposition, Arkansas leads the SEC in both total offense (509 yards per game) and defense (187.5).
It also presents an entirely different kind of challenge. Where South Carolina rode Lattimore’s for 182 yards, Arkansas will air it out with Ryan Mallett, who had 408 passing yards and five touchdowns against Georgia last year.
The task is not impossible, and the game is regarded as a toss-up at this point.
But the Bulldogs seemed to realize that their first loss of the season had made things tougher.
“The last time we lost to South Carolina, we went to the Sugar Bowl and finished No. 2,” Boling said. “So that was a pretty successful year. But we’ve just gotta do a better job.”
“Nobody’s really pouting on it,” Boykin said. “You can’t sit there and let South Carolina beat us twice by everybody saying something (negative). You’ve just gotta continue to get better and move on to this week.”