After topping Missouri 9-6 Saturday night inside Sanford Stadium, the Georgia Bulldogs were ready to enjoy a nice, lengthy exhale.
Georgia has reached the only open date of its season, with the Bulldogs (5-2, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) getting some down time this week before next week's annual journey to Jacksonville to face the Florida Gators (6-1, 4-1). The Gators and Bulldogs are currently first and second in the SEC East standings, but the showdown talk can wait.
"We'll have time to think about them, but we just needed to get this victory to feel good again," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said. "It's no fun losing two in a row, and getting this victory was big. We're still in the race, and that's a good thing."
The Bulldogs can experience the same satisfaction now as Tennessee did last week. The Volunteers lost close games to Oklahoma, Florida and Arkansas before their 38-31 comeback win over Georgia in Knoxville on Oct. 10, which preceded their lone open date before this week's trip to Alabama.
Georgia was ranked No. 8 nationally after its 4-0 start but then lost consecutive games to Alabama and the Vols. A third straight loss could have led to two weeks of absolute misery, but Saturday night's win eased that scenario.
"You really can't ever catch your breath in this business," quarterback Greyson Lambert said, "but we're excited that we can go into this bye week with a win under our belt and kind of refocus on us this week."
Said left tackle John Theus: "We knew we had a long stretch of SEC games before this, and we're through it now. To get this win going into our open date was definitely big."
Georgia climbed back into the USA Today coaches poll Sunday, checking in at No. 25.
Should Tennessee lose in Tuscaloosa this weekend, the Bulldogs would win the East by sweeping Florida, Kentucky and Auburn. A loss to the Gators would eliminate Georgia, the decided preseason favorite to win the division, and lead to further disgruntlement among some of the Bulldogs faithful.
A loss in Jacksonville also would saddle Georgia with three or more defeats for the seventh time in eight years.
"We all have frustrations," Richt said. "I just go back to the things I can control, and I focus on that. I don't focus on things I can't control, and what I can control is how we prepare for the next one. So that's what I think about and what I focus on."
Georgia players are quite aware the consecutive losses didn't set well with anybody in the program, which is why the mood now is preferable than had Missouri won.
"Personally, I don't ever act like I'm oblivious to things that go on," receiver Malcolm Mitchell said. "I don't listen to everything people say, nor am I on social media searching for what people are saying. I do my best to be the best teammate I can possibly be, and I go to whatever measures I need to make sure that happens on my part."
Odds and ends
Richt said late Sunday afternoon that senior defensive lineman Chris Mayes didn't play Saturday night due to a knee injury and that freshman defensive lineman Trenton Thompson tweaked his ankle against the Tigers but may not miss any practices. The Bulldogs are scheduled to practice today, Wednesday and Thursday. Missouri senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers had 17 tackles at Georgia and leads the nation with 91 (13.0 per game).
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