“Fernando always says, ‘The smoke’s going to clear, the smoke’s going to clear,’” tackle Chester Adams said.
The problem for the No. 24 Bulldogs is that hasn’t always been true. In fact, once the smoke sets in, it’s usually too late for Georgia. The Bulldogs are 3-0 this year in games when they score first, and 1-2 when they don’t.
The only game Georgia (4-2, 2-2 SEC) has won after falling behind is the Sept. 29 Ole Miss game, and that day the Bulldogs needed an unforced error by the Rebels to mount their rally. Ole Miss was on the verge of going ahead 14-0 but fumbled a quarterback snap on Georgia’s 1-yard line.
“Something sparked our ability to start getting after it,” Coach Mark Richt said. “Did we create that break? I don’t know. I think that guy just fumbled it.”
Georgia’s most impressive victory of the season came at Alabama on Sept. 22 when it scored on its first possession and played well throughout. Last week, after Tennessee went ahead 7-0 and the Bulldogs offense failed to pick up a first down on it first drive, the wheels came off.
“We got jumped on, and we didn’t know how to react,” Adams said.
Richt doesn’t believe his players lack confidence, he said.
“I just don’t think we’re a real mature team,” he said. “We’re just not at the point where we can mentally overcome things like fatigue, like momentum going against you. We’ve got to do a better job of that. This week, we’re going to really harp on that type of thing.”
Against Tennessee, Georgia’s coaches and players alike were guilty of waiting for a break rather than trying to make one, Richt said.
“They just came out with more emotion than we did,” defensive end Rod Battle said. “They were just more jacked up than we were. Usually there is a play that can swing it back to your side, but we weren’t able to get that.”
Battle said he and his teammates have enough confidence in themselves, but he didn’t say it very confidently.
“I think somewhat we do,” he said. “It’s hard to say, but I think we do. We feel like we can beat anybody, but we just have to be consistent.”
A fast start will be key for Georgia in Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt, Richt said.
The Bulldogs take on the Commodores (3-2, 1-2) at 6 p.m. in Vanderbilt Stadium, and Richt will challenge his players to be the one who provides the early spark his teammates can rally around.
“I’d rather them be pressing really hard to do that,” he said, “rather than waiting for somebody else to do it.”