BOULDER, Colo. - Will the return of A.J. Green enable the struggling Georgia Bulldogs to leave one of the nation's most picturesque states on a Rocky Mountain high?
Senior Kris Durham certainly hopes so.
After dropping three straight, Georgia's 2010 campaign has turned into a unsavory trip down mediocrity lane, raising the collective hackles of a disgruntled Bulldog Nation while leaving a perplexed Mark wondering what to do next.
"This is one of those things where you have to let your emotions go and focus on the task at hand if you can," Durham said. "You can't sit back and let it be a snowball effect for the rest of the season. You have to stay together and play hard."
Still, this is a program in dire need of a win Saturday night (7 p.m., FSN) against a Colorado team (2-1) that has had two weeks to prepare for what many in these parts are calling the biggest non-conference game in the past 10 years.
Buffalo head coach Dan Hawkins won't deny that.
"I respect Mark Richt as much as any great coach and I respect the heck out of their program," Hawkins said. "I don't put a lot of stock into the fact that they have dropped a conference game here and there. I know getting Green back is going to help their cause."
The Bulldogs' certainly hope so.
Despite some rather solid work by redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray, an inconsistent run game coupled with spotty offensive line play has kept Georgia's offense stuck in neutral since scoring 55 points in the opener against an out-manned Louisiana-Lafayette squad.
Richt believes Green's presence could help change that, adding the receiver's teammates don't blame his absence for the current three-game slide.
"We never did that. We couldn't do that. There is no point in doing that," Richt said. "But Durham has played very well. He has played that position very well. Kris really has been open deep maybe four or five times, and if we hit him on the run he is going to score. He got behind the perimeter a lot in these last few games. Of course A.J. has been able to do that too throughout his career. Murray is still getting that feel of how to hit a guy deep on the run."
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo acknowledges his players could use some confidence, and hopefully Green can provide the elixer Murray and company need.
"We just need something good to happen to get that confidence going for these guys because their confidence is down a little bit, Bobo said. "We need some big runs or big gains and these kids are eager to prove that they can do that. They've been eager to prove that every week but it just hasn't happened."
Richt admits the recent slide has taken a toll.
"We need to keep a positive outlook for sure. We need to keep coaching and correcting and teaching and all those kinds of things. We definitely need a positive outlook. The main thing that I think we need to do is we need to continue to work hard. We need to continue to stay unified and stay together," Richt said. "We need to continue to have a positive outlook because the bottom line is things will get worse or things will get better. It's probably going to be based on what we do, what we do as coaches, what I do as the head coach, what we do as position coaches and how our players respond to that.
"Those are the things that we are really focusing on. The things we don't want to do is lose our integrity or lose our poise. We need to teach these young men how to handle adversity. We need to teach anyone who is watching, maybe who has been through tough times, how to handle adversity. That's my goal - that we will be a model of how to handle it and we'll turn this thing around and get it going. Those are the things I am focusing on."
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