Georgia‚Äôs fifth win of the season didn‚Äôt cause a ripple in the weekly polls or improve its chances much in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division race, but losing the game certainly would have changed the complexion of what remains of its season.
Georgia coach Mark Richt yells from the sideline during the Bulldogs' win over Florida on Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla.
‚ÄúIf we lost to Florida, we knew our season was over with,‚Äù outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins. ‚ÄúI feel like the morale would have definitely been hurt. … With this win, we just know we can still come to practice working and ready for something.‚Äù
Quarterback Aaron Murray tweeted an Instagram photo on Sunday of him and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo holding up three fingers in front of a Georgia-Florida game backdrop to signify the Bulldogs third straight win over the Gators, a feat not accomplished by Georgia since 1987-89.
‚ÄúWe talked about fighting for 60 minutes and not backing down and keep throwing punches, not literally, but stand in there,‚Äù Bobo said after Georgia had to hold on for a 23-20 win Saturday in Jacksonville.
Senior defensive lineman Garrison Smith shed tears during a postgame interview, saying he was emotional.
‚ÄúI wanted to go out bad with a win,‚Äù Smith said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm tired of losing.‚Äù
The Bulldogs (5-3, 4-2 SEC) are still holding out hope that Missouri (8-1, 4-1 SEC) stumbles.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs so important for us to be in the race,‚Äù Georgia coach Mark Richt said Sunday. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs just easier to get up and go to work the next day. It‚Äôs tougher to fight through a three-game losing streak. It‚Äôs rough. We‚Äôre thankful we‚Äôre not having to think about that.‚Äù
Georgia would win the SEC East if Missouri loses two of its last three games against Kentucky, Ole Miss and Texas A&M and Georgia beats Auburn and Kentucky. Missouri would win a head-to-head tiebreaker with Georgia and a three-way tiebreaker with South Carolina (7-2, 5-2) and Georgia if it beats Kentucky because it would only have one division loss.
‚ÄúI guess the biggest thing is we can think about what can be instead of what could have been,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúIt just makes it easier to motivate and easier to get up and get going.‚Äù
In the polls, Georgia remains outside the top 25, second in receiving votes in both The Associated Press and USA Today coaches‚Äô polls. The win over a now .500 Florida team only gave Georgia eight more points in the AP poll.
Georgia should finally have a low-stress game Saturday.
The opponent for the 12:30 p.m. game on WSB-TV is Appalachian State, which is 2-7 after losing at home to Chattanooga 35-28 on Saturday.
The Bulldogs need one more win to become bowl-eligible.
Notes: Wide receiver Chris Conley isn‚Äôt likely to return before the Auburn game on Nov. 16. He didn‚Äôt play against Florida due to an ankle injury.
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt think there‚Äôs much of a chance this week,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt think he‚Äôd count himself out this week by any means, but just kind of listening to how it was feeling last week and even gameday, he won‚Äôt be practicing anytime soon. Hopefully, Auburn, but I just can‚Äôt predict it at all.‚Äù … Safety Tray Matthews didn‚Äôt play Saturday in part because of a lack of practice time after getting cleared for the first time on Tuesday. He was out three games with a pulled hamstring. ‚ÄúAs he moves forward and shows me the things I want to see, he‚Äôll play,‚Äù defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. Freshman Quincy Mauger started his fourth straight game. Josh Harvey-Clemons mostly played safety rather than nickel back coming off an ankle injury, Richt said. … Junior college transfer Jonathon Rumph played for the first time this season in game after being sidelined by a hamstring injury. He did not have a catch. ‚ÄúWe want to get him in there more. Hopefully we get some balls thrown his direction just to see he can get excited about catching some balls again. It‚Äôs been a while for him.‚Äù ‚Ä¶ Richt‚Äôs sister, Mikki, played volleyball at Appalachian State in the mid-1980s.