COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Bulldogs were sacked.
They got punched in the mouth and didn’t know how to respond.
They didn’t have the fire in their bellies. Drag out all the clichés to describe Georgia’s 35-7 loss at South Carolina on Saturday because, like an old saying, it felt awfully obvious and predictable where things were headed after the Gamecocks scored three quick touchdowns.
But come this morning, the reason Georgia lost isn’t going to matter. What’s done is done. All Georgia can control now is what it does next.
“We’ve got to respond,” Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “We hit a chainsaw. We got our tails whipped tonight. We could feel sorry ourselves and start pointing fingers, or we could regroup on Monday.”
With the Bulldogs’ schedule about as advantageous as it could be — minus a looming trip to Jacksonville, Fla., to face the Gators — finishing the season as a one-loss team has got to be the only priority if they even entertain a thought of reaching the Southeastern Conference Championship Game, let alone winning it.
But it’s never an easy place to be, needing help. That may come from LSU and Florida, where South Carolina next plays back-to-back road games. But the way the Gamecocks played Saturday, it’s no sure thing. There could be a
lot of sitting and waiting for South Carolina to trip up, and it may not happen at all. The offseason would be a long time to have to mull over this one.
Motivation is now the primary factor for the Bulldogs, who will have to prove to themselves they can overcome this kind of hit to their aspirations.
Players have touted their plans to get to Miami, the site of the BCS championship game, but unless they want to be paying for a ticket, there is a little room to lose focus with only one ranked team remaining on the schedule, No. 11 Florida (which is a big one having upset No. 4 LSU on Saturday).
The Bulldogs take this week off before traveling to play Kentucky, a team that has opened the season 1-5. But can coach Mark Richt find the kind of spark the Bulldogs will need to back up their original hopes for the season? If you look at recent history, it’s not so clear how Georgia will respond to these situations.
Through his first five seasons at Georgia, Richt was 7-2 in regular-season games after a loss to a ranked opponent. It’s not been as pretty since. The Bulldogs are 6-6 in regular-season games after losses to ranked opponents in last six seasons.
Richt said he believed his team could salvage the season, or at least to the extend that South Carolina and Florida, from a shared perch atop the SEC East, will allow it with mistakes of their own.
“I think the bottom line is that everybody is the kind of person who will come back to work and try to get better,” Richt said. “I don’t think there’s going to be one soul in there getting ready to point a finger at anybody but his own performance. So I’ve got a lot of faith that we’ll get back to work and make improvements and start winning again.”
The big dreams are there. Now the Bulldogs just have to prove they have a few big wins in them to back it up.
The only redeeming bit of this situation for the Bulldogs is that they played their way back from this a similar hole last year after falling to South Carolina in their SEC opener. Georgia reeled off 10 consecutive wins and South Carolina stumbled, and the Bulldogs found themselves in Atlanta with a shot at the conference title.
If nothing else, that memory could inspire a little confidence that the same thing could happen again.
“It does,” cornerback Sanders Commings said. “I think that if we do our jobs and win the rest of these game, I definitely think we’ll get the help we need from other teams.”