Bulldogs’ morale on upswing after beating Gators

Georgia’s fifth win of the season didn’t 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.

AJ Reynolds/Staff
Georgia coach Mark Richt yells from the sideline during the Bulldogs' win over Florida on Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla.

“If we lost to Florida, we knew our season was over with,” outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins. “I 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.”

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.

“We talked about fighting for 60 minutes and not backing down and keep throwing punches, not literally, but stand in there,” 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.

“I wanted to go out bad with a win,” Smith said. “I’m tired of losing.”

The Bulldogs (5-3, 4-2 SEC) are still holding out hope that Missouri (8-1, 4-1 SEC) stumbles.

“It’s so important for us to be in the race,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said Sunday. “It’s just easier to get up and go to work the next day. It’s tougher to fight through a three-game losing streak. It’s rough. We’re thankful we’re not having to think about that.”

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.

“I guess the biggest thing is we can think about what can be instead of what could have been,” Richt said. “It just makes it easier to motivate and easier to get up and get going.”

In the polls, Georgia remains outside the top 25, second in receiving votes in both The Associated Press and USA Today coaches’ 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’t likely to return before the Auburn game on Nov. 16. He didn’t play against Florida due to an ankle injury.

“I don’t think there’s much of a chance this week,” Richt said. “I don’t think he’d 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’t be practicing anytime soon. Hopefully, Auburn, but I just can’t predict it at all.” … Safety Tray Matthews didn’t 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. “As he moves forward and shows me the things I want to see, he’ll play,” 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. “We 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’s been a while for him.” … Richt’s sister, Mikki, played volleyball at Appalachian State in the mid-1980s.

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On further review, Richt actually said Todd Gurley is “about 90, 95 percent,” healthy. Now needs to get in top condition.

7 hours ago