Georgia Bulldogs falling further behind in SEC East race

Georgia Bulldogs falling further behind in SEC East race

October 21st, 2013 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Junior receiver Chris Conley, who leads Georgia with 30 catches for 418 yards and four touchdowns, could miss the Nov. 2 game against Florida after suffering an ankle injury Saturday at Vanderbilt. (UGA Photo by Ted Mayer)

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

The Georgia Bulldogs rocketed into October with a thrilling victory over LSU and a No. 6 national ranking.

Today, they reside in the land of the unranked.

Georgia tumbled from the nation's elite as a result of Saturday's 31-27 loss at Vanderbilt, which followed a 41-26 home loss to Missouri the Saturday before. The wounded Bulldogs are 4-3 and will be off this weekend before facing 4-3 and equally wounded Florida in Jacksonville.

"I think we'll be fine, really, because I think we have a really good group of players in not only talent but as people," Georgia coach Mark Richt said late Sunday afternoon. "Our coaching staff is going to be working hard and believing and knowing there is a lot to play for."

The Bulldogs are unranked for the first time since October 2011 and are hoping for good news on the health front between now and their kickoff against the Gators.

Sophomore safety Josh Harvey-Clemons (foot) and junior receiver Chris Conley (ankle) suffered injuries against the Commodores, but Richt said Sunday that neither would require surgery. Richt is hopeful the two could return for the Florida game but said Harvey-Clemons is more likely at this point.

The potential loss of Conley could be countered by the potential return of junior receiver Michael Bennett, who tore his meniscus earlier this month in the overtime escape of Tennessee. Richt would like for Bennett and sophomore tailback Todd Gurley, who hasn't played since spraining his ankle against LSU, to be practicing by this time next week.

"To really be ready to play, you need a week of practice," Richt said.

The landscape in the SEC East race changed Saturday with Georgia's loss in Nashville, Florida's 36-17 loss at Missouri and South Carolina's 23-21 stumble at Tennessee. The Bulldogs, Gators and Gamecocks had not lost on the same day since Oct. 9, 2004, when Georgia fell to Tennessee, Florida to LSU and South Carolina to Ole Miss.

Georgia, Florida and South Carolina all have two league losses, while Missouri is 3-0 in league play and enjoying a surprising cushion.

"Nobody saw this team coming," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday. "They weren't picked to do much by hardly anyone, but they have an excellent team -- offense, defense, special teams, the whole bit. They haven't been winning by any fluky means."

South Carolina travels to Missouri this Saturday, and a win by the Tigers would all but eliminate the Gamecocks as well next week's Florida-Georgia loser.

"We've got to circle the wagons," Florida coach Will Muschamp told reporters Saturday. "Right now the arrows are flying, so we've got to pull together and find out who's going to move forward with us and understand that we're going to get this thing turned back the right way. It's a down time and a time that we're all hurting, but we're going to be fine."

Said Richt: "Missouri has five more conference games, so mathematically it's not over. To me, I'm going to fight until it's over, and I think the coaches and the players feel the same way."

Odds and ends

The Bulldogs will not practice today, but Richt said he would meet with his assistants to discuss personnel and anything that might need changing as far as scheme or opening up a competition. ... Richt on snappers Nathan Theus and Trent Frix: "We know we have guys who have the capability. They just need to settle down and do what they do." ... Richt said the Bulldogs used a "punt safe" team with cornerback Damian Swann as the return man late in the third quarter because the Commodores had faked a punt with similar field position in their matchup two years ago in Nashville.

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.