Although the Georgia Bulldogs' dreams of an undefeated season were erased last weekend, there are many goals that remain attainable — including a big one.
“We had that conversation in the locker room,” UGA coach Kirby Smart said. “This is not the first time we’ve had to deal with this. Each year we’ve had to deal with it at different times from different opponents. And they acknowledge that. They understand.”
Two years ago, the Bulldogs lost to Auburn and a year ago they lost to LSU during the regular season. Both times Georgia wound up in the SEC Championship game.
But the Bulldogs can’t afford another stumble if they wish to get another crack at Alabama in the SEC Championship game and possibly reach the College Football Championship. That starts this week when they host Kentucky for Homecoming on Saturday at 6 p.m.
“What’s important is our team gets ready for Kentucky and gets ready to play rather than talking about the rest of the year, because we have to worry about Kentucky,” Smart said.
That might be a tough sell. Georgia has won nine straight games against Kentucky. The last time the Wildcats won came in 2009 when Kentucky erased a 20-6 halftime deficit and won 34-27. That broke Kentucky’s 32-year winless streak in Athens.
“The most important thing for us is Kentucky,” Smart said. “That’s us getting better. A lot of it has to do with us inherently looking at ourselves and saying, ‘OK, what can I improve upon?’ But a lot of the things we can improve upon are based on what Kentucky does, offensively, defensively and special teams, and that’s where our focus will be.”
Senior tight end Charlie Woerner said, “I’m trying to help the team have a positive mindset. You can really come out of a loss a better team, regroup to come out of a pit a whole lot stronger than before. My role is to keep guys positive because every goal that we had before the season started is still there. It’s not like the ship is wrecked. We’re still standing. We just hit a wave, but still going strong.”
The biggest bugaboo last week was turnovers. Georgia threw three interceptions and lost a fumble in last week’s 20-17 double-overtime loss to South Carolina. In 2017, the Bulldogs suffered four turnovers in their loss to LSU. Georgia did not record a takeaway against the Gamecocks.
“I mean, you turn the ball over four times and you get zero, which maybe just as big a concern as turning it over four times is getting zero,” Smart said. “You’ve got to find a way to get tips and overthrows when the ball is in the air. You’ve got to find a way to knock a ball off somebody, to get a strip-sack fumble. And we learn from those lessons each and every time we have them and I feel very confident in the leadership of this team that they’ll respond the right way.”
The lone Kentucky player from Gwinnett County is long snapper Blake Best from Peachtree Ridge. Best has started every game his redshirt-freshman season. He’s been perfect on all his snaps for field goals and extra points throughout his career.