Originally created 11/06/02

Dogs look ahead



ATHENS, Ga. - The schedule says Georgia plays Mississippi this week, but Tuesday the Bulldogs were still talking about old opportunities missed.

Of the myriad questions asked at the team's weekly news conference, those regarding the Rebels could have been counted on one hand. The more popular subject was figuring out what went wrong in last week's deflating 20-13 loss to Florida.

"The Florida game is over," said quarterback David Greene, whose team lost to the Gators for the fifth straight year and the 12th time in 13 years. "There's no reason to sit there and mope about that game and come out and get beat by Ole Miss because you're worried about the Florida game. Then that would ruin all of it. It's just like anything else; you've got to get over it."

Greene, a redshirt freshman, might find it easier to look ahead than some of his older teammates. Senior offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb, in tears while he spoke after the game, said waking up Sunday was one of the most difficult things he's done in a while.

Stinchcomb dropped to 0-4 against the Gators, and his team missed out on a shot to win the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division. The No. 7 Bulldogs (8-1, 5-1 SEC) also lost to Florida in 1998, when he was redshirted.

This was supposed to be the year when all that disappointment washed away.

"Sunday was rough, especially realizing what all that was lost," he said. "But on Monday, after we watched the film and recognized our mistakes and made the corrections we need to make, the shift was there. Everybody was willing to shift into preparing for Ole Miss and realizing there's still a great opportunity left for this team."

Shifting back into high gear might seem more difficult than usual. Since 1992, the Bulldogs had a week off every year to assess the damage wrought by the Gators. This year, the coaches had barely stepped off the field at Alltel stadium when they had to begin preparation for the Rebels (5-4, 2-3).

Second-year coach Mark Richt wasn't complaining about getting back to work.

"I'm glad we didn't have an open date in this case," he said. "Then it would linger. An open date after a loss, I've never found a lot of good in that. The best thing for us as a team is to admit to the failure, admit we didn't get the job done, and then bury it and move forward."

For a team whose margin for error is nil, there's no other choice. Georgia can't afford to lose Saturday or the next week at Auburn, because Florida can win the SEC East provided the Bulldogs lose once and the Gators beat Vanderbilt this week and South Carolina the next.

With wins over the Rebels and Tigers, Georgia will be assured of making its first trip to Atlanta's Georgia Dome for the Dec. 7 SEC title game. As crushed as they felt last week, the Bulldogs know they'd feel even worse if they missed out on what was recently considered a virtual certainty.

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

NOTES: Guard Alex Jackson (ankle), who didn't practice Monday or Tuesday, is questionable for Saturday's game. Receiver Fred Gibson (thumb) is probable. Linebacker Chris Clemons (ankle) is questionable. Linebacker Arnold Harrison, a former Josey High star, said he won't play against the Rebels. He has missed the past three games with an injury to his left shoulder. ... Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said Thomas Davis will stay at strong-side linebacker, where he played last week after spending the first eight games at free safety ... ESPN camera crews are filming the Bulldogs behind the scenes this week for their weekly series, The Season. The segment is expected to air Nov. 14. ... Georgia has five straight wins over Mississippi, including last year's 35-15 win in Oxford, Miss. ... The Rebels have lost three straight games after starting 5-1.

Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or larry.williams@augustachronicle.com.