Originally created 10/30/04

Richt says Dogs must 'play loose'



ATHENS, Ga. - Getting fired up for the Georgia-Florida game is never an issue for the players involved in one of college football's biggest rivalries.

When the Southeastern Conference programs collide today in Jacksonville, the game could hinge on which team's players best harness their emotions

Losers of 13 of the past 14 meetings, including six in a row, Georgia players are hoping to put an end to the Gators' Cocktail Party dominance.

Florida players have anger to vent after their coach Ron Zook was fired on Monday. Many sounded as eager to tackle athletic director Jeremy Foley earlier in the week as they did Bulldogs quarterback David Greene.

"It's going to be emotionally charged," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "I don't know if the referees will need to get a hold of it early. ... I think it's a given that both teams are going to be pretty juiced up, and now it's a matter of can you still play the game and handle all of your assignments without getting too excited about it."

The 10th-ranked Bulldogs (6-1, 4-1 SEC) have played in the SEC Championship game each of the past two seasons, but the grip the Gators (4-3, 2-3) have over them has only tightened.

Zook is 2-0 against Georgia and could become the first Florida coach to finish unbeaten against the Bulldogs, but his record in other games is 18-13. He will finish out the season's remaining four games as head coach of the Gators.

"Obviously, we've had a lot of distractions this week," Zook said less than a week after a shocking 38-31 loss to Mississippi State.

"These guys are going to respond. They want to play. As I told them, they didn't fail nor did the coaches."

If South Carolina can upset No. 11 Tennessee in Columbia on Saturday, a Georgia win over Florida would give the Bulldogs sole possession of first place in the SEC East.

"I just want the guys to play loose, play hard," Richt said, "and try to enjoy it."

On television

Noon - N.C. State at Clemson (ESPN2)12:30 p.m. - No. 11 Tennessee at South Carolina (Jefferson Pilot)3:30 - Florida at No. 10 Georgia (CBS-Ch. 12)