It used to be hard for Georgia players to get losing to Florida out of their heads.
If they weren‚Äôt thinking about the Gators‚Äô dominance over two decades in the series, they were certainly being asked about it whenever the rivals‚Äô annual showdown in Jacksonville, Fla., arrived.
Now there‚Äôs only a half dozen current Bulldogs players who have seen game action in a loss to the Gators: Aaron Murray, Rantavious Wooten, Arthur Lynch, Kenarious Gates, Blake Sailors and Chase Vasser.
That‚Äôs because the Bulldogs have won two straight in the series after losing 18 of the previous 21.
‚ÄúYear after year, ‚ÄòWhen are you going to beat Florida?‚Äô That gets pretty old,‚Äù coach Mark Richt said. ‚ÄúThat isn‚Äôt the big topic of conversation this year.‚Äù
Instead Florida coach Will Muschamp and the Gators have to deal with turning the tide in the series heading into Saturday‚Äôs game in Jacksonville between unranked teams still with an outside chance to win the SEC East.
Georgia can win three in a row Saturday against the Gators for the first time since 1987-89.
‚ÄúIt would definitely be big just because this rivalry is so important and it means so much to so many people,‚Äù Georgia defensive
lineman Garrison Smith said. ‚ÄúTo be able to be a part of those winning teams would definitely be big. I would like to leave that with my legacy, being a senior.‚Äù
The Bulldogs had their way against the Gators in the 1970s and 1980s, winning 15 of 19 games before Steve Spurrier took over in Gainesville, Fla., in 1990 and dominated the series by getting victories in 11 of 12 games, including by scores of 38-7, 45-13, 52-14 and 52-17.
‚ÄúWe had better teams most of the years and the psyche of losing to them, we were able to get rid of after maybe two or three in a row,‚Äù said Spurrier, now coach at South Carolina. ‚ÄúBut yeah, now there‚Äôs a little psyche on the Gators, I guess. Coach [Will] Muschamp hasn‚Äôt won that game, I guess.
Muschamp was reminded this week that he‚Äôs 0-6 in the rivalry game as a player and head coach.
The Bulldogs lost all four games when he was a safety from 1991-94 and the Gators have lost 17-9 and 24-20 the past two seasons.
Asked if it was harder to be winless as a player or coach in the series, Muschamp said: ‚Äú0-2 as a head coach. None of it is fun, but certainly being here at the University of Florida understanding the importance of this game to us and our people, we need to get a win.‚Äù
His players are certainly getting that message.
Defensive end Dante Fowler said the score of last year‚Äôs game, when the Gators had six turnovers, is posted in the weight room as a reminder.
‚ÄúWe talk about it a lot,‚Äù Fowler said. ‚ÄúWe just look at it and it makes us want to do better. I know my teammates can‚Äôt wait until Saturday to play.‚Äù
The year before Lynch got to Georgia, a No. 5 Florida team drilled No. 8 Georgia 49-10 in 2008.
The tight end said offensive coordinator Mike Bobo told the players before the Bulldogs played top-ranked Florida in 2009: ‚ÄòWhy not us? Why not us?‚Äô
Georgia lost that game 41-17 and fell in overtime 34-31 in 2010.
‚ÄúThese past two years, really three years, it‚Äôs been kind of their reign is done,‚Äù Lynch said. ‚ÄúNow it‚Äôs up for grabs. Credit to them in 2010, they came out and beat us with (QB John) Brantley in overtime. We were kind of like, `You know what guys? It‚Äôs no longer Florida-Georgia. It‚Äôs just us versus them. How can we play our best game and win?‚Äô Fortunately for us, it‚Äôs been kind of ugly wins, but it‚Äôs been wins nonetheless these last two years.‚Äù
Murray, a fifth-year senior, can become the first Bulldogs quarterback to win three straight against Florida since Buck Belue in 1979-81. Johnny Rauch went 4-0 from 1945-48.
‚ÄúYou can‚Äôt be worried about whether you‚Äôve lost this many in a row or won this many in a row, because every year is different,‚Äù Murray said.
Georgia reserve safety Marc Deas was a Gators fan growing up in Orlando.
He was a fan of Emmitt Smith and Percy Harvin and what he knew of the Georgia series since he was born in 1992 was the Gators‚Äô stranglehold.
‚ÄúBack in the Chris Leak era, that‚Äôs when I definitely had a love for the Gators,‚Äù Deas said. ‚ÄúAt that time, shoot, I didn‚Äôt know any better. I loved it, of course. Definitely now I‚Äôm a Dog so it‚Äôs time to get locked and loaded and ready for these Gators.‚Äù
Deas said he thinks Florida now will be coming out plenty motivated to change recent history.
Sophomore kicker Marshall Morgan, who hails from Fort Lauderdale, hopes the latest trend in the series doesn‚Äôt change: ‚ÄúI have some bragging rights over my friends that are UF fans.‚Äù