If ever a team deserved an open date on its schedule, it’s probably Georgia right about now.
The Bulldogs have already experienced a wave of emotions with a rugged slate of back-to-back games against top-10 teams in Clemson and South Carolina to start the season.
Georgia’s season hit a mini-crisis after a Week 1 loss by three points to the Tigers and its spirits soared after a 41-30 win Saturday against the Gamecocks.
“It’s kind of like dog years,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “You feel a little older than you are sometimes, but also it’s so gratifying to win. Back when I was at Florida State we won a lot of games, but we didn’t celebrate many victories because there was a bigger margin of victory. The battles were a little bit different. There were two or three battles a year where you really had to get your blood pumping. You’re probably eight to 10 in our league and who we play out of conference. It’ll wear you out.”
Sixteen teams in this week’s Associated Press top-25 poll have not played a ranked opponent yet this season. Georgia is the only team to play two and they were ranked No. 6 and No. 8 at the time.
“Losing your first game is not fun at all, especially when it’s that big of a game and the whole world is watching, but I’d have to say it helped us in game two,” said Richt, whose team heads into the bye week having moved up to No. 9 in the AP poll and No. 10 in the coaches’ poll. “We realized there’s no margin for error in big games.”
South Carolina isn’t the only SEC East rival of Georgia licking its wounds.
Florida is coming off a 21-16 loss at Miami. It plays its first SEC game Sept. 21 at home against Tennessee. The Gators have to play Georgia in Jacksonville, Fla., and have games at South Carolina and LSU.
Georgia’s path back to a third consecutive the SEC championship game appearance still includes a home game against No. 8 LSU on Sept. 28.
South Carolina isn’t taking consolation knowing that Georgia lost to the Gamecocks the past two years but still reached the SEC title game.
“I hope we’re just sort of back to earth that were not a really good team right now,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday. “We don’t have to worry about any kind of division or SEC championship. We’re worried about going to a bowl game right now.”
On his TV show, Spurrier said: “Georgia dominated the game and defensively it was one of the worst games we’ve had around here in a long time. … We got our butts kicked up and down the field by Georgia.”
Georgia had two players, tailback Todd Gurley and quarterback Aaron Murray, who looked like Heisman Trophy contenders.
Gurley has rushed for 286 yards and three touchdowns in two games and is averaging 6.8 yards per carry.
“Just watching Gurley run was fun,” Richt said after viewing film Sunday.
Murray was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation Offensive Player of the Week after completing 17 of 23 passes for 309 yards and four touchdowns against South Carolina.
Georgia essentially has three weeks to prepare for LSU.
The Bulldogs’ next game is Sept. 21 against North Texas, which lost at Ohio 27-21 Saturday after beating Idaho 40-6. North Texas plays Ball State on Saturday.
Notes: The injury news was good for offensive tackle Kenarious Gates (ankle) and tailback Keith Marshall (knee). Richt said both are expected back for North Texas. … Marshall Morgan again is the starting kicker after coming off a two-game suspension. He’ll replace Patrick Beless, who made all 10 extra points he attempted this season and the two field goal tries Saturday from 22 and 37 yards. Morgan was suspended for two games after being arrested for boating under the influence. “Marshall has made a mistake, Marshall’s been disciplined for that and I’m not going to continue to punish him,” Richt said. “Right now I’m expecting Marshall to come in and take over the kicking duties, but it’s good to know that Patrick is capable and has been in big games and can come in a pinch if we need to.” … South Carolina defensive assistants Kirk Botkin and Deke Adams had to be separated by defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward after a sideline dust-up. “They’re OK now,” Spurrier. “They were out of character. Obviously that need not happen anymore. When the guys are very competitive and we can’t get a stop … it was one of those things.” Richt couldn’t remember something similar happening on his staff in a game since he’s been at Georgia. “I’ve had plenty of stuff on the practice field that if it was out in the open, everybody would be like, ‘What’s going on?’ Guys are very competitive and tempers get hot every once in a while, but everybody’s fine when it’s over.” … Tailback Brendan Douglas and wide receiver Reggie Davis made their Georgia debuts on Saturday, bringing the total number of scholarship freshmen to play this season to 11.