The No. 8 Bulldogs (8-2, 5-2 SEC) play No. 22 Kentucky at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Sanford Stadium, and the pregame pep talk will be brief -- 24-20. That’s the score by which the Wildcats beat Georgia last year in Lexington.
Kentucky fans stormed the field after the game, tearing down a goal post while celebrating with their players the snapping of the Bulldogs’ nine-game winning streak in the series.
“If I could get a good picture of that (celebration), that’d be nice,” Richt said Sunday, one day after his team demolished Auburn 45-20 while wearing black jerseys for the first time in modern history.
The black jerseys, which Richt worked diligently to keep a secret from everyone other than his team’s seniors, followed the coach’s now famous edict to his players to excessively celebrate their first touchdown against Florida. Richt’s decision to allow his players the sartorial swap was more about fun than fashion, he said.
“It became, ‘These guys they don’t get paid. They work their tail off. We grind them on the field. We grind them in the offseason. We grind them academically. We grind them all the time,’” he said. “That’s a simple thing we could do where they would have a good time.”
While watching his players’ excitement as they put on the black jerseys, Richt turned to former Georgia player David Pollack and said, “These jerseys aren’t going to help us win.”
“He says, ‘You know what? It’s half the battle,’” Richt said. “And he’s right. Half the battle is energy, and the other half is execution. It at least got the blood flowing.”
The logistics of the jersey swap weren’t simple and fell to equipment manager John Meshad, who had been planning the change since Richt first started talking about it last season.
“Last year, we had it in the works, but we lost four of five and Coach Richt pulled the plug on it,” Meshad said. “We still had them ordered for this year, and it was just a matter of which game are we going to use them at.”
Meshad had the jerseys for a month but only laid them out for the team to see when the locker room lights were turned out for a prayer 15 minutes before the game started. Richt then gave the players 10 minutes to change their tops.
“It was really difficult to get the red ones off and the black ones on in the time frame coach Richt gave us, but we did it,” Meshad said. “I feel like I just had a baby. I kept it in for nine months, and I finally got to let it out. I’m just glad it worked.”
Senior center Fernando Velasco almost couldn’t help himself Friday night before the game, he said. He badly wanted to tell roommate Kade Weston but kept it to himself.
“I didn’t tell my girlfriend. I didn’t tell my mama. I didn’t tell my auntie. I didn’t tell nobody,” Velasco said.
Now Richt must turn his team’s attention to the Wildcats (7-3, 3-3), who climbed as high as No. 8 in the nation this season before losing to South Carolina, Florida and Mississippi State. Kentucky has lost three of its last five games but one of those wins was over No. 1 LSU.
The Bulldogs must beat the Wildcats and hope Tennessee loses either to Vanderbilt this weekend or Kentucky on Nov. 24. If that happens, Georgia will win the SEC Eastern Division and play in the conference championship game.
“The thing of it is,” Richt said, “is we don’t want to miss this opportunity and then if something happens later be thinking what could have been."