Struggling Dawgs limp into Jacksonville

ATHENS – After notching their first win Saturday in three tries, Georgia's players trudged out of the locker room with long faces and burdened strides.

The Bulldogs (6-2, 3-2 SEC) had just beaten Mississippi State 27-24 but looked about the same as they had in the previous two weeks after losses to Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

"We're just tired," center Nick Jones said. "It was a long grind. This is the ninth week, and we're just a little tired emotionally and physically."

Georgia will play its ninth straight game Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla., against No. 9 Florida at 3:30 p.m. in Alltel Stadium. For the first time in recent memory, the Bulldogs aren't focused on the miserable history of this series. (Florida has won 14 of the last 16 meetings.)

These Bulldogs are worried only about how to survive their shaky present. It's not just their losses that are troubling. Georgia's last three wins have come by an average of three points over teams that are a combined 5-19 this year.

The Gators (6-1, 4-1), meanwhile, had an open date last weekend, giving them two weeks to prepare for Georgia.

"Right this minute, I can't think of a place where we've got an advantage," Bulldog coach Mark Richt said. "I'm not going to lie to you; we're tired; we're banged up, but that's the way the schedule is set. It's just what we have to play. We have to find a way to prepare our team without wearing them down."

Georgia hopes to have injured offensive lineman Chester Adams (ankle), tight end Martrez Milner (toe) and cornerback Ramarcus Brown (hamstring) back in time to play the Gators.

"When we play Florida, we'll have everybody back, and it's going to be a different ball game," running back Danny Ware said. "It's going to be one of those fight-to-the-end, scratch-and-claw and go-out-there-and-do-whatever-to-get-a-victory games."

In the last five games, Georgia has been in more of a whatever-it-takes-to-lose mode. The Bulldogs' five turnovers against Mississippi State give them 12 in the last five games.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford had the second three-interception day of his career against Mississippi State, but there's not any thought of replacing, or even relieving, him.

"I just think in order for him to continue to get better and get as good as we need him to be down the stretch here, we had to give him opportunities to grow (against Mississippi State)," Richt said.

If the Bulldogs can iron out their mistakes and catch their second win, there's still time to turn this season around, Richt said.

"Quite frankly," he said, "the season is not over yet. Some people think it is, but there's still a lot of football to be played and a lot of history to be made."

Notable: Saturday's win over Mississippi State marked the first time this season the Bulldogs have used only one quarterback. … Georgia moved to the top spot in the Others Receiving Votes portion of the Associated Press rankings. Essentially, that means the Bulldogs are No. 26 this week. … The Bulldogs had season highs in passing attempts (32) and passing yards (267) against Mississippi State.

Quotable: "I just got tired of punting and kicking field goals." – Georgia coach Mark Richt on why he called a pass play on fourth-and-one in Bulldog territory. Tight end Tripp Chandler made his first collegiate catch, and scored a touchdown, on the play.

Injuries: Richt described himself as "hopeful" that offensive lineman Chester Adams (ankle), tight end Martrez Milner (toe) and cornerback Ramarcus Brown (hamstring), all starters who missed the Mississippi State game, will play against Florida. He doesn't expect to know for sure until Tuesday's practice. "Until you get out there and start doing it, it's hard to get a good gauge," he said. "We don't know how they'll do in the grind of a practice and in the grind of competition and with some good resistance." Freshman linebacker Darius Dewberry, the top backup on the strongside, is doubtful due to a hamstring injury suffered against Mississippi State. Reserve cornerback Asher Allen (hip) and starting defensive tackle Ray Gant (back) are expected to play against Florida. Center Nick Jones played all of Saturday's game on a sprained knee but had only minor swelling and soreness Sunday. He will play.

Up next: vs. Florida, Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Jacksonville, Fla., Alltel Stadium, CBS

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