November 22, 2009

Richt asks fans to keep believing

Georgia coach Mark Richt had a message for fans considering jumping off the Bulldog bandwagon based on the team's lack of success thus far.

"I just tell them they need to stay supportive, keep believing in us because we're going to keep working hard and make them proud," Richt said during Sunday's teleconference with reporters. "That's the main thing."

It definitely hasn't been a fun year if you're a Bulldog fan.

Saturday's 34-27 loss to Kentucky typified the kind of season it's been for Georgia (6-5), which enters the regular-season finale at Georgia Tech (Sat., 8 p.m.) as 9.5 underdogs against the Yellow Jackets, who will play Clemson for the ACC title in two weeks.

Georgia, meanwhile, will be trying to avoid its first six-loss season since former coach Jim Donnan's first year in 1996.

"I think that all programs go through cycles and we've been on a good upswing for some time, although this year has been down in regards to our record," Richt said. "It is what it is. Will we get back on track and get back to winning like everyone is used to? I think so. I don't think there's any doubt about that."

But the Bulldog Nation's patience has long since run thin.

Fans are demanding answers now, and with the prospect of losing to Georgia Tech for a second straight year, most wanted to know yesterday what Richt plans on doing to correct the situation.

The answer to that question won't be known until later, but even Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson can empathize with Richt, or any coach going through tough times.

"It's a tough profession, and it's really turned into a 'what have you done for me lately' type business," Johnson said Sunday. "But that's the nature of it. I think guys understand that when they get into it."

Richt would just be satisfied if his Bulldogs would stop turning the football over.

Four second-half turnovers led directly to Kentucky's seven-point victory, not the least of which was Washaun Ealey's fumbled pitch at the 2-yard line with two minutes left while Georgia was driving for a potential game-tying score.

"When Joe (Cox) reversed pivot and pitched the ball, (Ealey) was much closer to him than he should have been," Richt said. "Joe did the normal deal. We just had a young back take a bad alignment and take a bad track."

Richt, however, defended the notion that perhaps he should have called another player or trusted a true freshman in that particular situation.

"That's a play that we rep over and over, every camp, every inside drill. We run the sweep. That's what we do," Richt said. "It wasn't any riskier there than anywhere else on the field."

Nevertheless, Richt said the turnovers continue to frustrate him and the rest of the staff.

"It looked like we had turned the corner last week (against Auburn), we cut down the penalties, we won the turnover ratio and we won the game," Richt said. "This week, the penalties didn't get us as much as the turnovers. If we don't turn the ball over I believe we win the game, but that's not what happened."

NOTE: Richt couldn't say for sure whether wide receiver A.J. Green (shoulder) or safety Bacarri Rambo (concussion) would be ready for Saturday, but he's got his finger crossed. "I think they are getting there," Richt said. "I'd say we are pretty hopefully on both of them. I'm not saying that they are a slam dunk right now. Hopefully, but Tuesday we will have a real good idea." … Richt said with school out this week at Georgia, he will be able to work his players longer than the NCAA mandated 20-hours when classes are actually in session. … Richt said he still has no idea what bowl might invite his Bulldogs. "I really don't know," Richt said. "I just know we will be very grateful for wherever we get to play."

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