October 15, 2009

Shift in focus for Bulldogs

It's an off-used cliché to say 'Take it one game at time.'

Sportswriters hate it; even fans tend to roll their eyes. But when you're in a situation like the Georgia Bulldogs, who dropped to 3-3 after last week's 45-19 loss to Tennessee, that's basically the only approach one can take.

"We can't be thinking about what's happening with everybody else or worry about what bowl we go to, if we get a bowl," tight end Aron White said. "Our main focus has to be our next opponent and take it one at a time. The only thing on our mind if Vanderbilt; that's our next opponent."

But getting over a tough loss can be easier said than done.

According to White there may well have been some residual effects from the Bulldogs' 20-13 loss to LSU the week before, a contest which featured the now-famous "celebration" penalty on wide receiver A.J. Green.

"Against LSU we did not have a great game, but we played a lot tougher. Tennessee came out, got after us and maybe brought a little more effort than we did," White said. "It's not like guys were out there lollygagging around. I think we went out there with the intention of trying to win but I felt like we got it handed to us. Games like that definitely hurt more when you feel like you got outplayed. Against LSU, we were right there in the mix until the end."

The question now, is how will the Bulldogs respond this time? Despite Vanderbilt's 2-4 mark (0-3 in the SEC), the Bulldogs are certainly in no position to be taking any opponent they play for granted. That includes a Commodore squad which will be hoping to celebrate homecoming with a victory over a struggling Georgia.

Meanwhile, with an SEC East title out of the picture barring some shakeups of massive proportions, Georgia must take solace with trying to win as many games as it can in order to avoid the program's first losing season since 1996.

Running back Carlton Thomas was so upset that he said he called his parents for a comforting word.

"They just told me to stay focused, don't let stuff get to me, just keep going," said Thomas, who said he feared the worse when the Bulldogs took the practice field for the first time Sunday upon returning from Knoxville.

"I thought it was going to be bad, I mean really bad," he said. "But the coaches came out and got us focused, refocused the team, refocused our goals."

According to head coach Mark Richt, that goal is really quite simple.

"The main focus really is beat Vanderbilt. That's it, and that is what it is on a weekly basis anyway, but there is no lacing in of hey let's keep pace for control of the Eastern Division," he said. "That is not in our control anymore, so we are not really focusing on that right now. No one is happy. No one is excited about what happened by any means, but these guys are resilient. They are pretty tough guys, and it's never easy to get it going again after a tough loss like that, especially one where you end up losing control of your destiny in the league.

"Those things are not easy to deal with, but they lifted hard, they ran hard. I think they'll be able to focus on what's important and start moving this thing in the right direction again."

It certainly appears that the players are upset with all that's transpired.

The Bulldogs called a "Players Only" meeting following practice Tuesday afternoon, and although it can certainly be debated what kind of effect it will have, the fact that the players were willing to take that step was enough to impress their head coach.

As they say, time will tell.

"I think if you asked all my teammates if they wanted to play in 'The League' they'd say yes, but at the same time you've got to do what it takes; you've got sacrifice," linebacker Rennie Curran said. "You've got to have those late nights; you've got to put in the extra time. Success is not going to come overnight and it's not going to happen just because you want it to or just because you work hard. You've got to work smarter at the same time; you've got to do ALL those different things to become a successful player."

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