November 27, 2009

Dawgs look for final shot at redemption

One more game, one more chance, one final opportunity - that pretty much sums up the picture for Georgia, which hopes to ease some of the pain caused by the disappointing campaign with a victory Saturday night over 7th-ranked Georgia Tech.

Of course, the game would be huge even if not for the Bulldogs' long litany of issues.

Last year, the Yellow Jackets (10-1) snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Bulldogs (6-5), something head coach Mark Richt was reminded about on a regular basis during his visits to the various Bulldog Club Meetings.

"I can't say everywhere I went that's all they talked about. I can't say that was the first question out of every Bulldog Club, but it probably was asked somewhere throughout the night," Richt said. "That's why they call it a rivalry."

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson can certainly agree with the rivalry aspect, although he's not sure he will go as far as to say last year's victory defined his team's season.

It certainly wouldn't be the case this year.

"Well, last year we didn't win the (Coastal) division and we didn't have a chance to play for the ACC Championship. I don't know if it defined our season last year. I know it did to some of our fans. I think you're putting [Georgia] on a pretty high pedestal," Johnson said. "Do you think beating Georgia Tech defines Georgia's season? I bet if you ask them, they'd probably tell you no. It's an important game and you don't want to diminish that, but let's not get carried away."

But while Johnson may question the importance of the game as it pertains to the Bulldogs, you'll see none of that kind of talk from the Georgia perspective.

Richt said the game (8:12 p.m., ABC) is as big as it gets.

"It is Georgia-Georgia Tech week. It's a big week for everybody in the state. We are playing a team that has just been outstanding, 10-1, won their division and playing for the ACC title, running up and down the field, just really playing fantastic right now," Richt said. "It's the in-state rival. It's the next ballgame. It's Georgia Tech, so it's a game we're all going to be excited about coaching and playing in, and I'm sure our fans will be excited about watching it too."

Just in case, Richt said he won't be above reminding his players just how big it is and why.

"Anything we can get our hands on to try to help the guys understand. Early in the week you spend a lot more time in preparation. I'm trying to prepare them to win the game by the fundamentals and what we teach in practice and the schemes we are putting in and the ability to teach it and learn it," Richt said earlier this week. "As you get closer to the game, you are going to give them little bits of pieces of something to try to motivate them for that day of practice, but the closer you get to the game, the more emotion you want to add to your preparation, so we're still thinking about things that might could help."

Having wide receiver A.J. Green available would certainly help.

Green sat out last week's game against Kentucky, and is listed as doubtful for Saturday. But even if he's not, Johnson doesn't expect the Bulldogs to change a thing about their approach.

Despite the Bulldogs' troubles, he expects Georgia to give its best shot.

"When you get into a rivalry game, it's like anything. Georgia has more to gain beating us then we do beating them. We're ranked, they're not. It's the complete opposite of last year and it will probably go back-and-forth," Johnson said. "Do not underestimate the talent they have because of their record. (Richt) has built a really strong program in Athens. They've got good football players and a good team. They haven't had the type of year anybody expected or wanted, but that doesn't mean they don't have good football players and a good program. When you win so many games consistently like they've done, it's hard to meet those expectations every year. You build a monster and you have to feed it. They still have a good team."

Unfortunately for Georgia, the Bulldogs keep suffering self-inflicted wounds.

Turnovers have been a season-long problem as opponents have scored 102 points off 26 Bulldog miscues, including 14 interceptions by quarterback Joe Cox, who was picked off twice in last week's loss to Kentucky despite almost doubling the Wildcats in total yardage (487-260).

"You have no choice but to move on. We have another game this weekend so there is no point to harp on something that happened last Saturday," Cox said. "I think we shot ourselves in the foot in a lot of different areas and we pretty much just gave them the game. It is tough after games like that."

Johnson said he isn't counting on Georgia making the same mistakes Saturday.

"When you watch the tape, when they don't beat themselves, they're a very good football team. Put on the Kentucky game. They drag them up and down the field, but they killed themselves with four turnovers in the second half, just like any other team in America would," Johnson said. "There are not many teams that could turn the ball over four times in a half and win the game. But, that doesn't take away from the talented players they have. It's just like anything else; maybe they don't turn it over this week. That's why you play the game because you never know what is going to happen."

Saturday's meeting will be the 102 since 1893 with the Bulldogs leading series 59-37-5.

Both teams will have another game to play. Georgia Tech will play Clemson for the ACC championship next weekend, while Georgia will await word on which bowl will extend an invitation a week from Sunday.

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