Georgia's run defense given crushing reality check
The 38-20 loss to the Gators on Saturday left the No. 17 Bulldogs wondering if they'll be able to stop any team's running attack. That's a major concern with games remaining against the power run games of Auburn and Georgia Tech.
Florida rushed for 418 yards, the second-most ever allowed by Georgia. It was a shocking reality check for a Georgia defense which had ranked second in the Southeastern Conference against the run.
Coach Mark Richt said Sunday he knows Kentucky will try to follow Florida's run-first strategy.
''I think everybody that plays us from here on in is going to be saying `Let's run the rock,''' Richt said. ''They'll watch that film and say `Hey, we can do that, too.'''
Richt said the defense must return to ''playing good fundamental football.'' The 418 yards rushing were the most against Georgia since 1978, when Auburn ran for 430.
The loss knocked Georgia (6-2, 4-2 SEC) out of the SEC East lead. The Bulldogs must hope another conference team beats Missouri (7-2, 4-1) while they win Saturday at Kentucky and also beat No. 3 Auburn.
It may not be easy for Georgia players to regroup following the devastating loss.
Asked about his team's morale, Richt said ''It's hard to say. All I know is we've got to get ready. Nobody in this league feels sorry for another team, I can tell you that.''
Richt said there was no lack of effort from his players. Georgia started strong and led 7-0 after the first quarter.
Nick Chubb continued to play well as the fill-in starting tailback for suspended star Todd Gurley. Chubb had 14 carries for 101 yards with one touchdown in the opening quarter but had only seven carries for 55 yards the remainder of the game.
Chubb also had a costly fumble, the first of his career, in the third quarter.
As Florida took the lead and began to pull away, Georgia put more of the load on quarterback Hutson Mason, who set career highs for passes and completions. Mason completed 25 of 41 passes for 314 yards and one touchdown.
Georgia has played better this year when it can take the lead and keep running the ball. Instead, Florida stole the winning game plan.
Richt said Florida's success helped lead to Chubb's decreased role.
''That was part of it, playing from behind,'' Richt said. ''The other part of it is he's just one man. He couldn't carry it 60 times. I think a lot of it had to do when the score differential began to broaden. We tried to do some other things.''
Now comes Kentucky, which is only 5-4 overall but 5-1 at home. Richt said his message to his team will be simple.
''Beat Kentucky. Let's get back on track, let's get a victory,'' he said. ''I tell you what, playing Kentucky at Kentucky is a very difficult task. Ask anyone who has been there this year. It's going to take everything we've got. That's going to be the focus.''