ATHENS -- Georgia president Michael Adams circled the postgame locker room, shaking hands with players and assistant coaches. Athletics director Greg McGarity stood at the front of the room, looking calmly around.
Two days after Adams and McGarity had to listen as two UGA athletic board members expressed concern about the football program, the feelings were better. That was despite Georgia having lost again, this time 45-42 to No. 12 South Carolina.
But after a woeful performance against No. 5 Boise State in the opener, the Bulldogs enter this week’s respite against Coastal Carolina feeling much better about themselves.
“Somebody said we’re the only team in America to play ranked teams in week one and two. I guess we get some kind of prize for that,” head coach Mark Richt joked. “We learned some things. But hopefully we learned enough to start getting on a winning streak here.”
The Bulldogs may have come out of the game with renewed confidence, but they didn’t come out with a win -- or their defensive captain.
Junior inside linebacker Christian Robinson, who led the team in tackles the first two games, is out at least a couple of games with a foot injury. That comes one week after the other inside linebacker, Alec Ogletree, suffered a broken foot that will sideline him until at least midseason.
Mike Gilliard, a junior, should move into Robinson’s starting spot, which has the main play-calling responsibility for the front seven. The team was worse off last week when Ogletree went down, leaving senior walk-on Jeremy Sulek and freshman Amarlo Herrera to split time.
But the depth at the position is bad enough now that Richt said a couple of outside linebackers, freshman Ramik Wilson and sophomore Chase Vasser, could see time inside.
Robinson suffered the injury late in the game, and his absence ended up being the reason Richt elected to go for an onside kick with 2:15 left, rather than kicking off deep with all three timeouts left.
Robinson was the captain of a unit that actually performed well despite the score. South Carolina scored three touchdowns on defense or special teams, and a long fumble recovery and return (down to the 5-yard line) set up a fourth touchdown.
“I would say our defense really and truly gave up 17 points in the game,” Richt said.
Georgia’s offense or special teams didn’t play badly either. The mistakes were the difference -- as well as reliable place-kicker Blair Walsh missing a 33-yarder in the first half and South Carolina’s Jay Wooten later making a 49-yarder.
So Richt was continuing his mantra of optimism Sunday.
“I’d just like to see us continue to progress as we have,” Richt said. “We really have made a lot of improvement since the first game. In the second game there were certainly some errors. But the thing we continued to do is play physical and with some energy.”
Other notes from Richt’s teleconference Sunday:
While Isaiah Crowell took blame after the game for his key fumble, Richt indicated that quarterback Aaron Murray also contributed to it. Murray had taken a hit on the previous play, and the quarterback didn’t execute the handoff as “deep” in the pocket as he normally would.
“Isaiah should have been more patient,” Richt said. “But certainly the timing was different because of Murray (being hobbled).”
Tight end Orson Charles didn’t record a catch against South Carolina, after leading the team in receptions in the opener. But Richt said the junior still played outstanding.
“I think Orson Charles had his very best game as a blocker. Run blocking, pass protecting, I don’t think I’ve seen him play with that kind of intensity,” Richt said. “Sometimes the ball comes your way; sometimes it doesn’t. ... You can always control how well you block, and I’ve got to tip my hat to Orson for blocking in this game.”
Left guard Kenarious Gates, the starter in the opener, is likely to be ready to play this week after sitting out with a leg injury. But Richt liked how Dallas Lee performed as his replacement, and right guard Chris Burnette also improved his play from the opener.
“We’ll have to figure out how we’re going to roll that around, who’s going to start out of the six,” Richt said.