Now it’s up to the players, Richt said, and he pointed that out to them Sunday night.
“I’m like, ‘Here we are men, we’re in good position again. We’ve been here before. We were here after Oklahoma State. We were here after Alabama. By the grace of God, we’re here again,’” he said. “Are you going to let it fall by the wayside or wait for me to do something nutty? Can we sustain this thing or are we that immature team from (earlier in the year)?”
Georgia’s inability to maintain a consistent energy level has frustrated Richt, who had seen his team on an emotional high only twice prior to the Florida game (against Oklahoma State and Alabama).
“You would love to have guys that have that spirit that just can’t contain it,” Richt said. “(Former Georgia defensive end David) Pollack was that type of the guy, and I think that rubbed of on the entire defense. You want leaders who will lead the charge.”
Georgia’s players insist they have those kind of players, but linebacker Marcus Washington admits there have been lapses this season.
“When we play certain teams with certain skill levels, guys kind of slack off,” he said. “In this league, you can’t do that.”
That leaves Richt in the unfortunate spot of having to externally motivate his team. It worked against Florida, but now he’s wondering if his players are going to take the ball and run with it or go back to their old habits.
“That first quarter (against Florida) was the most intense first quarter I’ve ever been involved with in my entire life,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “Hopefully, we can get people going again like that.”
Stafford, though, thinks the outcome of the game had more to do with execution than emotion.
“Ultimately, it boiled down to us making plays when we needed to,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to (fire up the team) last week. It was just something that that game was so fun to play in,” he said. “From here on out, whatever happens, happens. I’m not trying to get people fired up, I’m just having fun.”
The No. 10 Bulldogs (6-2) face Sun Belt Conference leader Troy (6-2) at 1 p.m. Saturday in Sanford Stadium. Can Georgia duplicate the emotional high it reached against the Gators?
“I’m not sure you can,” Richt said. “How many times in the last seven years or the last 20 years have we seen Georgia play with that much passion. That might be the No. 1 game we’ve had since I’ve been here as far as playing with energy and passion.”
Speaking of passion, Richt insisted his motivational tactic against Florida was not a response to the segment of the Georgia fan base that thinks he is too stoic. That same demeanor was being praised, he pointed out, when he led the Bulldogs to the 2002 SEC championship.
“They were saying, ‘That’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. How could this guy stay so calm? He’s the reason they’re winning. They won the SEC because coach Richt stays so calm,’” Richt said. “And then if you lose a game or two, they are saying we’re losing because this guy isn’t emotional.”
That being said, Richt has become more attuned to the emotional level of his team now that he’s not calling plays, he admitted. Or, as he put it, “I’ve got more time to go off the chain once in a while.”
“Now I’m looking in guy’s eyes and seeing things I didn’t see before,” he said. “I’ll be honest, the first few games I wasn’t sure what to do. I was like, ‘What do I do now?’ So I’m learning.”
Now he hopes his players do.