After a long flight home from Colorado, the Georgia football team arrived back in Athens at about 6 a.m. Sunday and coaches went right back to work.
Patrick Semansky/AP Tennessee defensive end Chris Walker lays on the ground after the Volunteers lost to LSU on the final play Saturday.
They will again try to drive the Bulldogs out of their losing funk on Saturday against Tennessee in a 12:21 p.m. game in Sanford Stadium.
Georgia’s four-game losing streak – its first since 1990 – is tied for the longest in the nation among BCS conference schools after the Bulldogs’ 29-27 loss to the Buffaloes Saturday night.
“I realize we’re in a position that we haven’t been in since I’ve been here,” coach Mark Richt said Sunday evening. “I know that. That’s obvious and that hurts. You know it just takes a victory.”
Both Georgia (1-4, 0-3 SEC) and Tennessee (2-3, 0-2 SEC) are feeling the pain after kick-to-the-gut losses Saturday.
Georgia was in position to kick a game-winning field goal before Caleb King fumbled at the Colorado 27 with less than two minutes remaining and Colorado recovered at the 30.
Tennessee and first-year coach Derek Dooley, the Clarke Central graduate and son of legendary former Georgia coach Vince Dooley, began celebrating a win after an errant LSU snap, but the Volunteers were penalized for having 13 men on the field on the play. The Vols allowed the Tigers to score and grab a 16-14 victory.
“If we had been able to move that ball a little closer possibly, burn a little more clock and got the kick … who knows, we might have busted a run out of there and scored,” Richt said. “If we could have gotten the opportunity to kick that kick and made it with just a few ticks on the clock, it would have been good medicine for us and something to really build on. We’re still waiting for that opportunity to try to build on a victory.”
So is Tennessee.
“It’s tough to come out of a game like that,” Dooley said Sunday. “Certainly everybody’s hurting pretty good, as they should be. I think from a positive standpoint, the team set a pretty good standard for how to compete and what it takes to compete in this league, and what it takes to compete on the road in this league.
“If we keep it in perspective, then we can move on. It’s not the end of the world. The sun came out today, it’s a little cloudy, but it’s up there.”
Georgia and Tennessee have six SEC championship game appearances between them since 2001, but will play Saturday with losing records for the first time since 1906.
“We can’t sit around and cry about it because if we do, we’re really going to be in trouble,” Richt said. “There’s a lot of history of both these teams being ranked when we play and now we’re both sitting there without a win in the SEC. A little bit different circumstances for both teams, but a very important game for both of us.”
A Georgia loss would send the Bulldogs to their first 1-5 start since 1905.
Richt said he’s not concerned with fans turning on the Bulldogs or his players being affected by negativity.
“I think it’s a minority of fans who will really come out and be horribly negative with our guys and this coaching staff,” Richt said. “I think the majority of our fans are true blue and they’re going to support us no matter what because we’re their team and they love the team.
“Walking off that field at Colorado, I thought the fans that showed up there were phenomenal before, during and after the game. … Everybody’s disappointed, but I don’t see many fans getting real nasty.”
Notes: Georgia expects to be without cornerback/punt returner Branden Smith for Saturday’s game against Tennessee after the sophomore sustained his second concussion of the season Saturday night in the 29-27 loss at Colorado. “I don’t think he’ll play this week,” Richt said. Smith is 12th in the nation in punt returns with a 15.2 average. …Outside linebacker T.J. Stripling is scheduled to have season-ending right knee surgery on Tuesday to repair a patellar tendon. “The history on those things are very, very good,” Richt said. “He’ll be able to recover from that.” Stripling had a tackle in five games played. He saw snaps mostly on special teams.