Dawgs Forced to Look in the Mirror

ATHENS – In the wake of Georgia's 49-10 loss to its biggest rival in its biggest game, it would be easy for the Bulldogs to wonder what happened.

With the dreams of a national championship evaporated and the hope for an SEC East title hanging by a thread, it would be easy for the Bulldogs to wonder what comes next.

Rather than linger on the remnants of Saturday's debacle in Jacksonville, Fla. or lament their failure to reach their greatest of aspirations, what tight end Tripp Chandler said the Bulldogs will do is simple.

"Show up to practice (today)," Chandler said. "That's all we're going to do."

The coaches will watch film and changes may be in store, but after watching so many opportunities slip through their hands, sail wide of the uprights and dissolve in the wake of a brutal penalty, Chandler said the best medicine for Georgia is simply to forge ahead.

The Bulldogs had their chances to build an early lead on Florida, but missed two field goals, failed to score touchdowns on three first-half trips to the red zone, had a key turnover negated by a penalty, dropped passes and then, in an avalanche of second-half missteps, watched as the Gators ran up the score in one of the Bulldogs' worst losses since head coach Mark Richt took over the program in 2001.

"It's a bad feeling," linebacker Dannell Ellerbe said. "You feel like nothing's going your way."

If Georgia is to have a shot at an SEC title now, everything will have to go its way.

Florida's win puts the Gators a game up in the division with only two more conference games to play, meaning another Florida win or a Georgia loss would end the Bulldogs' hopes of making it to Atlanta for the SEC championship game.

While Richt admits the goal of reaching the Georgia Dome is a long shot, he said his team will continue to work toward it until all hope is lost.

"Until the Eastern Division is mathematically impossible to win, we're still going to be fighting for that," Richt said. "I also said that it's highly unlikely Florida would lose two in a row, but they would have to for us to still be in it. It's not likely, but it's mathematically possible. That goal is still a possibility, so we're not going to say it's over."

What is over is the chance at playing for a national championship. For a Georgia team that ended last season as the No. 2 team in the country and began this year atop the polls, its quest for the ultimate prize came to an early and bitter conclusion.

"We will have to reassess our goals," Richt said. "That's what you hate to do as a coach to start saying, ‘What are we going to do now?'"

One thing the Bulldogs won't do, quarterback Matthew Stafford said, is begin making excuses. Injuries have severely depleted Georgia's depth and the schedule was a difficult one, but Stafford said that wasn't what prevented the Bulldogs from reaching loftier heights.

"I think we've had some tough breaks here and there with some injuries, but that's no excuse," said Stafford, who threw three second-half interceptions against Florida. "That can happen to anybody. We got beat (Saturday) but nobody's going to hang their head."

As bad as the loss was, Chandler said it's hard for the Bulldogs to blame anyone but themselves.

Georgia was the better team for most of the first half, its defense held its own against the speedy Florida offense, and the Bulldogs were driving for a crucial score early in the third quarter before Stafford's first interception was returned 88 yards to the 1. Once Tim Tebow plowed in for the touchdown one play later, the rout was on.

"We just made some key mistakes at bad moments," Chandler said. "I thought we played a good game, but we just didn't execute when we needed to. It's just us making mistakes at the worst possible moment."

Georgia gets its first shot at atonement this week against Kentucky, which is 6-3 overall and 2-3 in the SEC. In the Bulldogs' last trip to Lexington, Kentucky won in an upset. With a 12:30 p.m. kickoff this week and the loss to Florida still fresh in their minds, Richt said the Bulldogs' first order of business will be avoiding a similar fate this time around.

"Our main goal has got to be to get back in the win column," Richt said. "That's it. You can say what you want, but you've got to win, and that's what we're going to do."


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