ATHENS — Anybody hoping for a fire-and-brimstone speech was begging for disappointment. After all, this is Mark Richt’s Georgia football program.
The Bulldogs are in danger of their first three-game losing streak in two decades. Losses to South Carolina and Arkansas have some fans ready to panic.
Richt was asked Tuesday, at his weekly news conference, about some fans being happy with the state of the program.
“They’re not? Neither is my mom,” Richt said, smiling.
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Then the head coach turned more serious.
“The state of the program is that we’re getting ready for Mississippi State. It’s early in the year,” he said, pointing out that his team had played just two SEC games. “So just keep supporting and keep fighting, and we will too.”
So even with a 1-2 start — and a slight underdog this Saturday at Mississippi State — Richt and his team are still calm, full-speed ahead.
During the early portion of Tuesday’s practice, secondary coach Scott Lakatos could be heard reminding his unit of the amount of yards it had yielded three days before to Arkansas.
“You gave up 380 yards last game … 380!” Lakatos yelled loud enough to be heard throughout the practice field.
“Just a reminder,” Lakatos said later. “Motivation.”
Otherwise, Georgia is relying on much the same approach it has had for 10 years under Richt.
“I’ve only been with him since last winter,” said Todd Grantham, in his first year as Georgia’s defensive coordinator. “But stay the course. I’ve always been a guy that you got your beliefs, you got your things you believe in, you stay the course and you do your job, and you do it to the best of your ability. And when you do that kind of stuff, the things you’re looking for will come out.”
Georgia was picked in some quarters to win the SEC East this season. That task has become far-fetched with the two early losses. Now goals have to be re-evaluated.
Richt said the team had to “keep grinding” and didn’t have any worries that they would. He sensed a strong work ethic among his players — hence the reason he didn’t feel he had to fire them up.
The offense has been a focus of much of the fan consternation. But offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said the effort wasn’t an issue against Arkansas, unlike the previous week.
“The fight was good,” Bobo said. “We’ve just gotta clean up a few things and that’s every position and every coach, going into next game. I think the fight was there, and the desire was there, compared to the week before in Carolina.”
The Bulldogs have now played three games — and will play one more — without star receiver A.J. Green. Richt came as close on Tuesday as he had so far in talking about that as an excuse.
“I’ve been refraining from making comments about that. I don’t want to sound like we have to have A.J. to win because we don’t,” Richt said. “When he’s allowed to come back and play, we’ll talk a whole lot more about him. I would have to think if I was a defensive coordinator, I would play Georgia differently with him than without him.”
As for Georgia itself, the mantra remained steadiness, no matter what the fans may say.
“We’re gonna have to stay together, stay close knit,” Durham said. “Don’t point fingers at who’s made a mistake and who hasn’t. And just try to make plays when you have an opportunity.”