Georgia finished its 2003 season on the first day of 2004 by beating No. 12 Purdue 34-27 in an overtime thriller Thursday afternoon in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla. It was the Bulldogs' sixth win in the last seven bowls, and, more importantly, its 11th win of the season.
"I'm just thrilled about what happened," Mark Richt said Friday.
"It was a
great year. We're disappointed we didn't win the SEC, but considering
everything we went through, it went pretty well."
Despite losing seven starters to the NFL Draft and another four to
season-ending injuries, Georgia recorded just its sixth season ever with
more than 10 wins. It also won its second straight SEC East
Championship, and two of its three losses came against LSU, which will
play for the national title on Sunday.
The No. 11 Bulldogs are expected to jump into the Top 10 when the final
Associated Press poll is released next week. If they do, it will be the
first time since 1983 they have finished back-to-back seasons in the Top
"If we do, two years in a row is outstanding," Richt said.
play in such a tough league that even if you feel like you're loaded,
it's tough to come through in the top 10."
Thursday's victory, in which Georgia blew a 24-0 lead but won on a
1-yard run by freshman Kregg Lumpkin, is expected to help the Bulldogs
heading into next season, when they could be ranked in the nation's top
"We've got a chance to be better," Richt acknowledged.
There are a number of personnel issues Richt will have to deal with in
the coming weeks, mainly the decisions of defensive end David Pollack
and safety Sean Jones. Pollack and Jones are considering leaving early
to enter the NFL Draft, and Richt has told him he would like an answer
by Jan. 9.
"I think there's a good chance they stick around," he said.
think they've counted us out anyway."
There are also health concerns. Both of the team's starting guards -
Bartley Miller and Josh Brock - missed significant time due to chronic
shoulder injuries. Miller doesn't believe his will need surgery, but
Brock's could after he aggravated it in the first quarter of the Capital
"It seems to be a chronic problem for him," Richt said.
just needs rest and an offseason."
Only four of the Bulldogs who started against Purdue were seniors so
there won't be too many holes to fill. However, one of the losses will
be place-kicker Billy Bennett, who will leave the school as the NCAA's
all-time leader in field goals (87).
"I hope we don't miss him a lot because it means we didn't find a
replacement, but right now I'm thinking that might be the No. 1
concern," Richt said.
Freshman Andy Bailey, who redshirted this season, didn't perform
consistently enough in practice this year to mark himself as the heir
apparent, and Richt said punter Gordon Ely-Kelso and several walk-ons
will compete with Bailey for the job.
"It's wide open as you could get," he said.
Richt Likes What He Sees
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