Georgia looking to regain its bite in the Southeastern Conference Print
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Wednesday, 19 September 2007 23:32
NCAAF Headline News

 ATHENS, Ga. (AP) -Leave it to perennial Georgia nemesis Steve Spurrier to sum up the Bulldogs' woes in the Southeastern Conference.
After his South Carolina Gamecocks pulled off a 16-12 upset between the hedges, the ol' ball coach proclaimed on his TV show that it really wasn't much of a surprise to beat the Dawgs.
``It wasn't like they were some big, powerful team,'' Spurrier said a day later. ``They've actually lost five in a row to Eastern Division opponents. Kentucky and Vandy beat 'em last year.''
Ouch.
The truth hurts.
``He beat us,'' quarterback Matthew Stafford said this week, ``so he can say it.''
After a dominating four-year run in which they won two SEC championships, played in three title games and dropped only seven regular-season games within the conference, the Bulldogs lost some of their bite.
No. 22 Georgia (2-1, 0-1) has two wins in its past seven SEC games, a stretch that was marred by stunning upsets at the hands of usual back-markers Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Most troubling, all the defeats came on the Bulldogs' side of the conference, the East Division.
``This sport is kind of, what have you done for me lately? Are you winning now?'' Stafford said. ``It doesn't really matter how many years ago you won the SEC or anything like that.''
The Bulldogs know the only way to turn things around is to start winning some games. Their next chance is Saturday when they travel to Tuscaloosa to meet No. 16 Alabama (3-0, 2-0), which surged back into the rankings with a thrilling win over Arkansas.
Just the sort of win that Georgia so desperately needs.
``Winning would really help,'' coach Mark Richt said. ``I don't know if a lot of coaches and players are saying, 'Gosh, Georgia has not won an Eastern Division game in a while.' But (Spurrier) is right. He was just stating facts.''
If Georgia loses another conference game, it will likely have to win out for any chance at contending for its third SEC title in six years.
``We're happy to be back in the SEC playing another game,'' Stafford said. ``We want to be able to get back that loss, so hopefully we can go in and battle Alabama tough.''
So, what has changed for the Bulldogs?
During their not-so-long-ago glory days, Georgia had four straight years of experienced quarterback play, beginning with David Greene and followed by D.J. Shockley. Greene guided Georgia to the SEC championship in 2002, while Shockley duplicated the feat three years later when he finally got a chance to start as a senior.
Last year, the Bulldogs juggled three different starters at the most crucial spot on the field before deciding on Stafford, who was less than a year removed from high school and endured plenty of growing pains.
Stafford came into this season as the undisputed starter, but he struggled with his accuracy against the Gamecocks. In addition, Georgia has floundered for two years trying to come up with a reliable set of receivers, a problem that again showed up when the Bulldogs had a couple of drops near the end zone in their last defeat.
On the other side of the line, Georgia no longer has the sort of intimidating presence it once had with players such as Thomas Davis, David Pollack and Charles Grant - all first-round NFL draft picks.
As the losses piled up, the Bulldogs' confidence suffered.
``I think we get down on ourselves sometimes,'' senior safety Kelin Johnson said. ``I believe we just have to learn to keep having fun and forget the mistakes that we make. If you're having fun, that outweighs everything that you do on Saturday. You might say, 'Yeah, I messed up, but we got the W.' That's all that matters.''
Yep, that's all that matters. The Bulldogs need a win or two - and quick. Otherwise, it's going to be even tougher to claw their way back to the top of the SEC.
``You've got to win to look good,'' Richt said, ``so that when people turn on the film, they have some respect for what you're doing.''
 

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