ATHENS, Ga. — The king of the road has dropped his crown, or at least misplaced it.
When Mark Richt took over as Georgia’s football coach in 2001, he enjoyed a lot of success at Sanford Stadium and even more in opposing venues. Richt amassed a scorching 30-4 record in true road games during his first eight seasons, but the past two seasons have yielded a 3-5 mark.
Contributed Photo Mark Richt, left, Mike Bobo and Aaron Murray (11) talk on the sidelines.
Georgia travels to Kentucky this week seeking its first road win of the year, having already lost at South Carolina, Mississippi State and Colorado.
“If you took at the record over nine or 10 seasons, it might be the best in the league,” Richt said Tuesday, “but as of the last year or two, it hasn’t been very impressive, and this year especially. Do I think there is a confidence issue? I don’t think there is.
“Why is this the case? Usually it just comes down to whether or not you make the plays, and we haven’t.”
Richt’s 33-9 road record does not include the annual matchups against Florida in Jacksonville, where Richt is 2-7, or bowl games, where he is 7-2.
Fifth-year seniors such as receiver Kris Durham and linebacker Akeem Dent signed with the Bulldogs in 2006. They joined a program that was 19-2 in road games under Richt, with the losses occurring at LSU during its 2003 national championship season and at Auburn during its undefeated run in ’04.
The Bulldogs continued to produce winning road records every year from 2006 to ’09, but the best they can do this season is 2-3. Georgia’s only road game after Saturday is a Nov. 13 date with Auburn.
“I don’t think it’s a mindset thing,” Durham said. “We just weren’t finishing games. Unfortunately this year we haven’t played as well as we should have, but that’s in the past. All we can control is what’s going to happen this week.”
Said Dent: “The routine has been the same all along. It’s still a business trip. You have to hit on all your main points and get out of there.”
The Bulldogs never led at South Carolina and Mississippi State, when they were stung each time by costly Washaun Ealey fumbles. They led the Buffaloes 24-14 in the third quarter but trailed 29-27 with 1:55 remaining when Caleb King fumbled at Colorado’s 27-yard line.
Wins over Tennessee and Vanderbilt at Sanford the past two weeks by a combined 84-14 have aided Georgia’s confidence, and quarterback Aaron Murray is no longer new to the road. Murray has completed 48 of 76 attempts for 774 yards and seven touchdowns the past three weeks, which coincides with receiver A.J. Green’s return from a four-game suspension, and he’s the No. 1 freshman nationally in efficiency.
“It’s just a credit to the guys surrounding me,” Murray said. “Pretty much all season long I’ve had plenty of time in the pocket to make my reads. Once the receivers get the ball in their hands, they do a tremendous job of having a nose for the end zone and getting extra yards after they catch the ball. They’re making me look good out there, pretty much.”
Good enough, perhaps, to finally win on the road?
“We have not won a game that’s been tight,” Richt said. “We’ve got to learn to make the plays when they matter most.”
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...