Originally created 11/06/02

Georgia still controls its own destiny despite first loss



ATHENS, Ga. -- As if losing for the first time wasn't bad enough, Georgia had to go through it again in the film room.

"It was very disappointing to watch," defensive end David Pollack said Tuesday. "We know we shot ourselves in the foot. Florida didn't win that game. We lost it."

Now comes the really tough part for the No. 7 Bulldogs: Putting that game behind them.

Georgia can't lose sight of the fact that it's still positioned better than any other school to claim the Southeastern Conference championship. Considering the Bulldogs haven't won a league title since 1982, that's been their main goal all along.

If the Bulldogs (8-1, 5-1 SEC) win their next two games, they'll advance to the title game in Atlanta on Dec. 7. A victory there would likely send them to the Sugar Bowl, which would be the school's first major postseason game since the '83 season.

"I think we've done a pretty good job shaking off the loss," coach Mark Richt said. "It's not a whole lot of fun, but it didn't take long for us to realize we're still in pretty good shape overall if we can get back on track."

Richt addressed the issue during a regular team meeting before Monday's practice.

"It was a little quiet at first," cornerback Decory Bryant said. "But we talked about being focused on our goals. Don't lose focus. Don't let losing to Florida bring the team down. If we stay on top of our goals, we can still accomplish what we came to accomplish."

No one is more anxious than receiver Terrence Edwards to forget Saturday's 20-13 loss to Florida.

With 2 1/2 minutes left in the game, Edwards beat his defender but dropped a potential touchdown pass. Afterward, he rushed to a Jacksonville, Fla., hospital with his mother, who collapsed in the stands.

When Edwards got back to Athens early Sunday morning, he found a derogatory message on his telephone answering machine.

"I guess some people have never made a mistake," he said sarcastically. "They've never done anything wrong. They've led perfect lives."

On a cold, rainy afternoon, Edwards set out to prove that he wasn't going to let the dropped pass or the negative reaction get him down. He practiced with the same determination that's helped him become Georgia's career leader in nearly all the major receiving categories.

"I caught everything that was thrown my way - high balls, low balls," Edwards said. "I'm perfectly fine. I know there's bigger things than football."

His mother, Jeanette Edwards, was still hospitalized in Jacksonville on Tuesday as doctors ran tests hoping to find the reason for her collapse.

Meanwhile, Georgia turned its focus to Saturday's game against Mississippi (5-4, 2-3). The Rebels have fallen on hard times since an upset victory over Florida, losing three straight SEC games.

The Bulldogs opened as a 14 1/2 -point favorite. If they get by Ole Miss, they'll go into their final SEC game at Auburn looking to clinch the Eastern Division championship.

"We've got to look at the big picture," quarterback David Greene said. "We're still 8-1 and ahead in the East. We're still in control of our own destiny. It's in our hands. If we play well the next two weeks, we're in the SEC championship game."

Richt said he'll stick with the two-quarterback system in which Greene takes a majority of the snaps but freshman D.J. Shockley also gets significant playing time.

Two weeks ago, Green and Shockley combined for a school-record six touchdown passes. Last week, Shockley threw an interception that was returned for a Florida touchdown.

"I do think Shockley adds a dimension to this team that it's worth getting him into the game," Richt said.

Also, receiver Fred Gibson, the team's best deep threat, probably will return after missing two games with a thumb injury. Despite wearing a cast on his left hand, he could also get some work on the kickoff return team.

"It's just a matter of getting used to the catching the ball with a cast," Richt said. "I think he's adapting. A lot of the post-surgery soreness is gone."

Now, if the Bulldogs can only get past their post-Florida pain.