ATHENS — A span of a few hours between Saturday night and Sunday morning summed up the current woes of the Georgia football program.
First it fell at Mississippi State, handing Georgia its first three-game losing streak in two decades.
A short time later, a freshman who didn’t make the trip to Starkville became the 10th player arrested this year. Demetre Baker, who had yet to play this season, was dismissed from the team Sunday after his three charges stemming from a DUI.
Head coach Mark Richt agreed that, given everything on and off the field, this was the toughest time in his 10 years as Georgia’s head coach.
“It’s obvious it is,” Richt said Sunday after announcing Baker’s dismissal. “The bottom line is we’re 0-3 in the league, and we’ve never been there. And we have had enough issues off the field that it’s been a big distraction and sad for our young men and our university. There’s no doubt that it’s the toughest bit of adversity that we’ve faced since I’ve been here.”
Still, Richt said the best way to react was to “stay the course.” That means no immediate coaching changes or anything program-wide. He nixed the idea of having much-maligned offensive coordinator Mike Bobo move to the press box during games, saying Bobo was comfortable on the field.
There might be player personnel changes, which were set to be discussed Sunday evening at coaching staff meetings.
“If you sit there and try to make a wholesale change in midstream, then you’re asking for more trouble,” Richt said.
Richt was 90-27 in his first nine seasons at Georgia, winning two SEC titles. Before that he spent years as an assistant at Florida State, when it was one of the nation’s best programs.
The coach said he would try and draw on those positive experiences as he tries to correct matters.
“The good news is that we know what success looks like, we know what it takes to have success,” Richt sad. “If this was my second or year of coaching at a place that had never had success at all, we’d be like, ‘Well what do we do now?’ But we know what it takes to get it right. We know that we’re not far off. We know that if we stay the course it’s gonna be our best chance to get it on track in a positive way.”
One personnel change is known and welcomed by Georgia: Star receiver A.J. Green’s NCAA suspension is over and he is eligible to play Saturday at Colorado.
But there are plenty of other problems for the Bulldogs to fix.
While freshman quarterback Aaron Murray has been solid, he hasn’t been able to put many points on the board. The Bulldogs rank 10th in the SEC in scoring offense and ninth in total offense.
Troubles in the red zone and with the running game have been the main culprits. The run game was expected to be a strength, yet it ranks 11th in the SEC and 86th (out of 120) in FBS in rushing offense.
The defense has slightly better rankings. But it has yielded touchdown-scoring drives in all three SEC games and has forced a total of two turnovers in those conference games.
Before the season it was thought that Colorado (2-1) would be one of the easiest games on Georgia’s schedule. But given the Bulldogs’ recent play, it hardly seems like that anymore.
“We’re gonna talk more about personnel on each side of the ball and just anything else in general that we think will help us turn this thing around,” Richt said. “We’ll probably be soul-searching just a bit deeper.”