ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia coach Mark Richt was asked Sunday about the new picture at the top of his team’s division, the SEC East.
“I would think South Carolina’s definitely in the driver’s seat right now. One loss,” Richt said. “And Vanderbilt’s sitting there with one loss too.”
Very few people would have lumped the Commodores in with a top 10-team. But Richt evidently wanted to remind everyone that his Georgia team still has a way to go before it can say it has turned the corner.
The mood was better around the team offices Sunday, a day after the Bulldogs ended a four-game losing streak, their longest in two decades.
In the week leading up to the game, Richt had been asked by the media about whether he was fighting for his job, and for weeks the state of the Georgia program had been a hot topic around the state and region. But the manner of victory — a 41-14 trouncing of Tennessee — added to the sense of rebound.
“It was good medicine for me personally and for our staff and our players,” Richt said. And I’m sure our fans and our families, everybody. Not only was it a win, but it was a win that was just a very well-played game. Not that there weren’t mistakes, not that there weren’t things that needed to be improved on.
“But it was played with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.”
Georgia (2-4, 1-3 SEC) figures to be a heavy favorite over Vanderbilt (2-3, 1-1). But a second straight Bulldogs win may not be quite a given.
Vanderbilt is coming off a 52-6 win over Eastern Michigan and owns an SEC road win over Mississippi. Its three losses have come to teams (LSU, Northwestern and Connecticut) that are a combined 13-4.)
But Richt at least had to feel better being in the position of a coach worrying about a letdown, rather than trying to instill confidence in a reeling team.
“I think the big thing is everybody, they got a taste of what it feels like to play a real solid game, offense defense and kicking game,” Richt said. “Once you feel it, and you understand what you feel from it ”
Richt didn’t complete the thought, but the meaning was evident.
The Bulldogs will have to wait to see if the players who missed Tennessee will be ready for Vanderbilt.
Richt said outside linebacker Cornelius Washington (concussion) and tailback Carlton Thomas (hamstring) were day-to-day. He sounded less optimistic about Branden Smith (concussion).
Marlon Brown (shoulder) almost dressed for the Tennessee game, so he has a good chance of playing.
Notes: Richt said freshman Kenarious Gates, who played right guard in his first game as a college player, did well enough to earn another start.
“Gates did a nice job. He did not faint, he did not have a bunch of busted assignments,” Richt said. “Being next to Clint (Boling) and Ben (Jones) helped him, I’m sure.”
Richt said the revamped line — with Trinton Sturdivant at left tackle, and Boling switching from left to right tackle, would likely remain that way for the Vanderbilt game. The game time for the Oct. 23 game at Kentucky should be announced today.
Georgia linebacker Justin Houston leads the SEC with six sacks. Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton has accounted for more touchdowns (11 passing, nine rushing) than anybody in the SEC. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray (10 passing, four rushing) is second in that category.