October 10, 2009

Dawgs have no answers for Volunteers

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Now what?

After getting thumped by Tennessee 45-19 Saturday at Neyland Stadium, an entire Bulldog Nation is pondering the answer to that very question.

So is head coach Mark Richt, whose Bulldogs now face an uncertain future with a plethora of issues on both side of the ball.

"We just haven't turned it around to the point where everybody does their part in any given game," Richt said. "That's the challenge right now; just keep banging away in every phase of our game."

This one was ugly. The Bulldogs were throttled on both sides of the ball, giving up 472 total yards while the offense managed just 241 and only tallied a 52-yard field goal by Blair Walsh.

Georgia's other points were scored on a 100-yard kickoff return by Brandon Boykin, a 28-yard interception return by Bacarri Rambo and a safety when Zach Renner blocked a punt out of the end zone.

But it was not nearly enough.

The 26-point loss was Georgia's loss since last year's 49-10 beatdown by Florida in Jacksonville, and with Vanderbilt, Florida, Tennessee Tech, Auburn, Kentucky and Georgia Tech still to go, the Bulldogs face an uncertain future.

"I think we can still turn it around but you do that by going back to work and practicing hard one day at a time. It doesn't happen overnight and it doesn't happen over the course of next week's game," Richt said. "It happens over the course of the rest of the season. We've got to stay firm, in our belief in each other and continue to fight. That's really all we can do at this point. Sometimes that's good enough to have a really good turnaround, sometimes it's not. Only time will tell.

Richt was asked about the state of the program.

"I'll say this. We didn't play very well today," he said. "We really haven't played a very good football game, so I am worried about that."

He added that he can't concern him with the criticism that he expects will now grow that his Bulldogs have dropped to 3-3 on the year.

"That's just part of football. That's part of life. When you don't meet expectations that you set for yourself, or what other people may have set for you, there may be people who want to be critical," Richt said. "If you're a leader, a player and if you're brave enough to be in the arena, then there's going to people outside the arena that's going to want to throw things at you and say things about you. But there's honor in being in the arena and a lot of people don't understand that because they've never been in there. But we're going to get right back in it and fight."

Quarterback Joe Cox didn't pull any punches.

The fifth-year senior was 19 of 34 for just 146 yards and was intercepted twice before he was replaced by Logan Gray late in the fourth quarter.

On the ground, Georgia rushed for 89 on 22 attempts, the third straight games in which the Bulldog failed to run for at least 100 yards.

"We just got whipped, pretty much every phase of the game," Cox said. "That was a pretty embarrassing day for us as an offense and as a team."

Georgia's defense didn't fare any better.

Vol quarterback Jonathan Crompton notched his first career 300-yard passing game, finishing 20 of 27 for 310 yards and four touchdowns, three in the second quarter.

Two of the scores went to wide receiver Gerald Jones who caught five passes for 105 yards while running back Montario Hardesty had 20 carries for 101 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown run.

The win evened Tennessee's record at 3-3 and served as the first SEC victory for first-year coach Lane Kiffin.

"This was really powerful. This was a big-time matchup for us," Kiffin said. "Georgia is a state we do a lot of recruiting at so it was very important for us. I don't know all the Tennessee history and traditions of all the matchups nor do I ever pretend to, but Georgia is one of the great teams in this conference. I told the team that to me, this is the biggest matchup. To me, Georgia, because of what we need to do in recruiting, will be the biggest matchup for this staff and for our team, so this was a great win for us."

Crompton came in leading the SEC in interceptions with eight. However, against the Bulldogs, he looked like Joe Montana completing 12 of 15 passes for 205 yards and three touchdowns to grab a 21-12 halftime lead with all points coming in the second quarter.
It probably shouldn't have been that close.

It took a 100-yard kickoff return by Boykin, a 52-yard field goal by Walsh and a safety on a blocked punt by Renner to account for Georgia's 12 points.

That was the extent of the Bulldogs' good news.

Once again, Georgia kickoff coverage proved atrocious.

After Boykin's' return tied the score at 7-7, freshman Nukeese Richards returned the ensuing kick 37 yards for the Vols, who were given 15 extra yards when Richard Samuelwas called for a facemask.

Three plays later, Crompton hit a wide open Gerald Jones who broke three tackles at the 15 before diving in from the 5 to put the Vols back in front 14-7.

Walsh's field goal cut the lead to 14-10 but once against Tennessee rolled right down the field, driving 74 yards in just 2:50. Once again it was Crompton, who found Marsalis Teague wide open for a 5-yard score.

Later in the quarter, Renner blocked punter Chad Cunningham's punt back through the end zone for a safety to account for the 21-12 halftime score.

"They played better and tackled better," Richt said. "It's very obvious that they were the better team today. We've got a long way to go to become a good football team right now. We've got to get back to work, continue to fight and find a way to beat Vanderbilt (Saturday). That's where we are right now."

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