ATHENS, Ga. -- Their season on the verge of unraveling, the Georgia Bulldogs have quickly gone from confident to desperate.
Just three weeks ago, there was hope of contending for the school's first Southeastern Conference title since 1982. Then, after a loss to Florida, there was still talk of playing in a New Year's Day bowl.
Now, coming off a humbling loss to Auburn, the No. 21 Bulldogs (6-3, 4-3 SEC) are no longer assured of even getting a bowl invitation, considering they must finish up with road games against No. 16 Mississippi and No. 14 Georgia Tech.
"We know we've got to win our last two if we're looking to go to a bowl," offensive tackle Jonas Jennings said Tuesday. "But it's not just about going to a bowl. We want to win from a pride standpoint. We can't go out losing like this."
There's a sense of disbelief at how things fell apart against Auburn. Favored by 10 points, the Bulldogs were behind 31-0 at halftime and 38-0 early in the third quarter before losing 38-21.
"I'm at a loss for words," defensive end Bruce Adrine said. "I mean, we were down 31-0 at halftime. I really don't know what to say. It was very embarrassing. There's no excuse for playing like that."
Coach Jim Donnan also seemed a bit dismayed that his program was capable of such a game after the strides it has made over the last three years.
"It was such a shock the way we were beaten by a team that has not been, by any stretch of the imagination, a dominating team," he said. "That was overwhelming. One thing we always want to do is play up to our potential. We have not done that."
At least one player expressed disappointment that thousands of Georgia fans left Sanford Stadium early in the second half -- many of them stopping along the hedges to shout disparaging comments at the players and coaches.
"It seems when other teams lose, their fans don't do them like that," defensive tackle Marcus Stroud said. "If they did, South Carolina and Vandy would never have any fans at their games."
He added, "It shows who your real fans are when things are going bad. Those fans will sit in the stadium and share your pain. We saw who was really behind us and who wasn't."
Donnan said he will spend this week reassessing his team's strengths and weaknesses. He also will look at possible personnel changes, but hinted that a major overhaul was unlikely before Saturday's game at Ole Miss.
"It was a devastating loss to a lot of our goals," he said. "And just the way we lost was humiliating. We need to understand that we've got to play with more intensity and play smarter."
The Bulldogs have trouble pinpointing the root of their problems. Several players blamed a lack of concentration. Donnan pointed to a failure of execution. Center Miles Luckie said it's a little of both.
From a statistical standpoint, Georgia's woes are easy to understand: not enough big plays from the offense, too many surrendered by the defense. The Bulldogs had only two plays covering at least 30 yards against Florida and Auburn; they gave up eight such plays in those two games.
Donnan said the offense must quit relying so much on quarterback Quincy Carter and get more rushing yards out of Jasper Sanks and Patrick Pass.
"We've not really established a rhythm on offense since the third quarter of the Florida game," Donnan said. "We're not very efficient on offense right now."
To make matters worse, three members of the offensive line are hampered by nagging injuries, making them questionable for Saturday's game. Jennings and guard Kevin Breedlove have sprained ankles, while tackle Jon Stinchbomb has a sore shoulder.
"They could play the whole game, they could miss the whole game, they could try to play and get hurt," Donnan said. "On top of all the problems we have, we've got a major problem there. We've got to coach around that and see what happens."
But Donnan also conceded these are the normal bumps and bruises that occur for every team by this point in the season.
"We're not going to sit around here licking our wounds and putting our heads down," Donnan said. "We've got a lot to fight for. We're going to fight."
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