Gators fluster Bulldog faithful

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ATHENS, Ga. - Kelin Johnson doesn't need to look at a schedule to know who Georgia is playing this week.

Richt  Special
Special
Richt

Florida must be next, judging from all those desperate Bulldogs fans yapping in Johnson's ear, urging him and his teammates to find some way - any way - to beat their hated south-of-the-border rival.

"It's a real problem," the senior safety moaned. "We have a lot of fans who are just so focused on Florida. You have to be focused on every game on the schedule, especially if you care about Georgia football and the Georgia nation."

The single-mindedness of the red-and-black faithful might be annoying, but it's easy to understand. Every year about this time, the Bulldogs must cope with their albatross, which just happens to take the form of a Gator.

Coinciding with Steve Spurrier's arrival in 1990, Florida took one of college football's greatest rivalries by the tail. Seventeen years later and two coaches removed from Spurrier, the Gators still haven't let go.

The Bulldogs have managed all of two wins within that time frame, turning the "Cocktail Party" into one long Gator hoe-down.

Even on its way to winning two Southeastern Conference championships over the past five years, Georgia's season was marred both times by losses to Florida.

Not surprisingly, the Bulldogs' frustration has grown to epic proportions, especially among the fans who remember Georgia dominating this series under former coach Vince Dooley.

Even though the teams are tied for first in the SEC with identical records (5-2, 3-2), the Gators opened as a nine-point favorite.

During his long tenure as an assistant at Florida State, Mark Richt had plenty of success against the Gators. Not so as a head coach; he's lost five out of six since taking over at Georgia, even though he arguably had stronger teams at least half the time.

"The last five games, shoot, every one of them has been a touchdown or less," Richt said.

"You've got to win your share of close ones, and we just haven't done that."

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