Wounded Bulldogs Limp Into Jordan-Hare

Athens, Ga.--Auburn's next opponent, the Georgia Bulldogs, don't resemble the Bulldogs that Auburn has played in recent years. It was just 11 months ago that Georgia beat LSU 34-14 to win the SEC Title, but now the Bulldogs have struggled on way to a 6-4 record and are 3-4 in conference play.

Heading into the Tennessee game on Oct. 9 Georgia had allowed just 34 points all season on way to a 5-0 start. However, the Vols put up 51 on the Bulldogs, the most they have allowed in a game since Georgia beat them 51-48 in 1999. Including the loss to Tennessee they have lost four of their last five games and suffered defeats to Vanderbilt and Kentucky for the first time in the same season since 1973.

"We had a tremendous four-year run, in my opinion," says head coach Mark Richt. "Not like we just dominated the league but we won an awful lot of ball games in those years. This year we're just not getting it done."

Georgia had a 44-9 record and two SEC Championships from 2002-2005, but have struggled across the board in recent weeks. One of the more glaring statistics is the 14 turnovers in the last three games with a true freshman in Matthew Stafford at quarterback.

"We're certain we're going to stick with Matthew," Richt notes. "That's a definite. He's a very outstanding playmaker. He made some beautiful throws (against Kentucky), some great throws and some runs to keep drives going.

"There were a lot of times he made good decisions not to throw the ball and he made some good yardage running," he adds. "And he threw a couple away. He's getting better and he's made an abundance of very fine plays for us, but we're having to live through some of the growing pains with him."

Stafford has for 1,230 yards, four touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 10 games.

An eighth loss to Florida in their last nine meetings as well as the loss to Kentucky surely has to hurt the psyche of the players, but with a rival ahead Richt says his team won't have any problem getting over the losses in recent weeks and his guys are still showing a positive attitude.

"There is no doubt that who we're playing is going to help with the motivation factor," he notes. "I think also they still have some pride, they want to play hard and show that we're still a good football team.

"I don't think that there is any question that across the board there has been enough inconsistent play that no one has the ‘I'm doing my part but no one else is' attitude. I don't see that happening right now."

Defensive end Charles Johnson, right, has been the star of the defense this season with 14 tackles for a loss.

With kicker Brandon Coutu out for the season and his replacement, Andy Bailey, missing two field goals and an extra point against Kentucky, Richt says that punter Gordon Ely-Kelso will handle field goals and extra points this week against Auburn.

Senior Mario Raley, who was taken to the hospital during the fourth quarter against Kentucky after laying still on the turf for 10 minutes, received positive news on Sunday.

"Mario has had a lot of tests on his head and neck and everything has come out negative (in the medical sense)," Richt says. "Everything is checking out in a good way. I talked to him (Sunday) morning and he feels a little stiff and sore, not unbelievably stiff and sore. He feels good and healthy and the prognosis for Mario is outstanding."

Like Auburn, Georgia is playing its 11th game of the season without an off week and the physical grind hasn't helped a team trying to gain consistency.

"Right now we've got a limited number of guys that aren't healthy and fresh enough to go play as hard as you'd like them to play," Richt explains. "The more guys that get hurt, the more guys that have to play special teams and play more downs. There is no doubt that it's taken its toll. Just about everybody in the country is dealing with that to a certain degree."

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