Getting it Fixed

ATHENS – It was a game Georgia would rather just forget. In fact, that's mostly what the Bulldogs have tried to do since last Saturday's 49-10 loss to Florida. But head coach Mark Richt said this week has been a difficult balancing act as his players have tried to put the game behind them while not forgetting the lessons he hopes they learned.

The Gators played well, but they also exposed a number of problems for the Bulldogs, and quarterback Matthew Stafford said Georgia had only itself to blame for the loss.

 "We just had too many missed assignments," Stafford said. "We weren't getting on the right guys when we were blocking, we weren't running the right routes, maybe missing a check. Everybody's guilty."

 This week, everybody has paid the price with a week of practice Richt said earned his praise and respect. He said he actually thanked his players after practice Wednesday for their immense effort, and wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi said the answers to the Bulldogs problems are all within reach.

 "Everything's correctable," Massaquoi said. "Not taking anything away from Florida, they played a great game, but at the same time, we had some mental errors, we turned the ball over and we had way too many penalties."

 That, however, was just the start of things. There were plenty of other errors that earned Georgia's focus this week.


The kicking game


 Freshman kicker Blair Walsh began the season with a bang, connecting on a 52-yard field goal on his first career attempt. For the past three games, however, Walsh has shown his inexperience, missing five of his past eight tries, including four kicks of 40 yards or less.

 Walsh said he feels fine and the problems are just a minor flaw in technique.

 "I just need to keep my head back," Walsh said. "I'm looking too early. I want to see the results before it actually goes through."

 Walsh's two misses in the first half against Florida last week were costly early, but Richt remains confident in Walsh's ability. More importantly, Richt said, his kicker hasn't shown any signs of freshman jitters – a good indication the slump is just a temporary thing.

 "He's a pretty confident kid," Richt said. "I really don't believe his confidence is shaken. I'm sure he was down about what happened, but I don't see him shying away from wanting to kick a 55-yarder if he has the chance."


Red-zone offense


 Georgia ranks fifth in the SEC in red-zone offense, but far too often lately, the Bulldogs have settled for threes and zeroes inside their opponents' 20-yard line.

 Against Florida, Georgia's only red-zone touchdown came late in the game against the Gators' second-string defense, and the Bulldogs failed to find paydirt in any of their three trips to the red zone in the first half.

 "You play LSU and do a pretty good job of it then the very next week you can't get the touchdowns," Richt said.

 Georgia has scored touchdowns in 22 of its 35 red-zone appearances this season, but has done so on only nine of its past 18 trips. The task won't get much easier this week, as Kentucky features the SEC's third-best red-zone defense.

 The key to changing the Bulldogs' fortunes, Richt said, is simply execution. He said the coaching staff has called the right plays, but the team simply hasn't made them work.

 "You watch the film, you see that the plan for the most part gives us a chance," Richt said. "There are some plays that we look at and say, ‘That wasn't very smart,' or we thought the defense might react a certain way and did not. Most of the time we had a chance if we executed."


Red-zone defense


 The Bulldogs haven't been much better in the red zone on the other side of the ball.

 Georgia ranks ninth in the SEC at stopping teams inside its own 20, having allowed 21 touchdowns in 35 chances. Florida was a perfect five-for-five scoring touchdowns in the red zone last week.

 "Most of the time, it's off of a turnover or a special-teams play, so they pretty much have all the momentum," linebacker Darryl Gamble said. "They go into the drive having a lot of momentum, and it's a short field, so offensive coordinators' eyes are opened up a little wider when they have so little field to work with and have more options of what plays to use."

 That doesn't ease the pain for the defense any, senior Jeremy Lomax said. While Georgia's offense has backed its defense into the corner on too many occasions, Lomax said any touchdown the unit allows is unacceptable.

 "We've been kind of getting the short end of the stick, but still, if there's an inch to go to the goal line, they've still got to get that inch," Lomax said. "It's still on the defense."

 Kentucky's offense is 10th in the conference in red-zone scoring, however, so the Bulldogs may get a break this week, but the long-term fix has to start with better play by Georgia.

 "We have the red-zone blues," Lomax said. "It's trouble. On both sides of the ball, it's trouble. The red zone is killing us. We need to go out there and really hone in on it, get the right plays and just execute."


The interceptions


 Against LSU, Georgia had a turnover differential of plus-three and won the game handily, but for the season, the ration is a less encouraging minus-one, including four turnovers last week.

 The biggest culprit has been Stafford, who threw three interceptions against Florida and has at least two picks in three of his past four games.

 Richt said many of the turnovers weren't Stafford's fault but rather a function of a strong pass rush by the defense or a bad rout by the receiver.

 "Ultimately it's his responsibility to avoid the picks, but there are some circumstances that are a little bit out of his control, too," Richt said. "I have not lost any faith in Matthew whatsoever."

 Stafford said his top priority against Kentucky will be protecting the football, but that won't be easy against an aggressive Wildcats secondary. For the season, Kentucky has the second-best turnover ratio in the SEC.

 "They make some great interceptions," Richt said. "A lot of guys can catch it when it just comes to them, and they'll do those, too, but I've seen them make some acrobatic interceptions."


Missed assignments


 On both sides of the ball against Florida, too many Georgia players weren't where they were supposed to be.

 On offense, the line failed to pass protect or open significant running lanes, while running backs – Caleb King in particular – failed to pick up blocks on passing plays.

 "We definitely didn't play as well as we're capable of playing, and we've got to do a better job up front," left tackle Clint Boling said. "We've just got to do a better job of opening up some more holes and giving Matthew more time. We know if we do that, they can make plays. Overall it was just not a very good game."

 The same was true on defense, where Lomax said the game plan was strong, but the execution wasn't, meaning the Bulldogs spent a bit more time in the film room and more practice on the fundamentals this week.

 "Every play, somebody's assigned to something," Lomax said. "You have a gap, and even if it's a bad call, you can make it a great call if you just execute the play. It's just hard in the red zone. You've got to bow your neck."


The post-Florida let down


 Of all the concerns Georgia had to address this week, perhaps none was bigger than the team's emotional wellbeing following the 49-10 loss that put an end to many of the Bulldogs' preseason goals.

 With an early kickoff against a lower-tier opponent, defensive tackle Corvey Irvin said there's a chance Kentucky could post similar numbers to Florida, which is why he has concentrated on making sure his teammates are looking ahead rather than focusing on last week's loss.

 "We're going to wipe our emotions off and get ready for Kentucky," Irvin said. "Florida's over. They beat us. We've got to make a statement against Kentucky."

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