Just once in their eight meetings since Richt came to Georgia has either team topped 20 points, but the Bulldogs have won six times and that’s the coach has needed to celebrate.
“All I’m worried about is winning the game,” Richt said. “I appreciate the victory and not the style points.”
After a dismal offensive performance to open the season against Oklahoma State last week, style points still might be nice for Georgia this week, but a win is an outright necessity.
The Bulldogs 0-1 start to the season represents the first time since Richt came to Georgia that the team has a losing record, and it’s the first opening-week defeat of Richt’s coaching career, as both an assistant or head coach. More than anything, however, South Carolina represents the start of SEC play and a shot at redemption for the Bulldogs after the struggles of last week.
“I’m not worried about perception,” Richt said. “I’m worried about winning right now.”
Still, after the struggles to move the football against Oklahoma State, Georgia enters its second game needing to find its offensive identity against a defense that could be one of the toughest units the Bulldogs face this season.
South Carolina mustered just seven points in its opener – three fewer than the sluggish Bulldogs – but still managed to come away with a win over North Carolina State thanks to a dominant defensive performance. The Gamecocks racked up six sacks and forced three fumbles while holding the Wolf Pack to just three points.
Georgia’s defense didn’t look quite that impressive against Oklahoma State, but it did hold the Cowboys to more than 200 yards below their season average of a year ago. Those results lead the Bulldogs to believe another low-scoring battle could be in store this week.
“It’s always been that way,” Georgia defensive end Rod Battle said. “It’s early in the season, you have two SEC teams playing their first SEC game of the year. I think both defenses are good and are going to be fired up and ready to play, so I think it’ll probably go down that way again.”
That doesn’t mean Georgia doesn’t have a few goals in mind for its offense, however.
After an 80-yard touchdown drive to open the game a week ago, Georgia went from dynamic to excessively conservative, and Richt said that can’t happen again.
Quarterback Joe Cox completed just 15-of-30 passes in the game, and finding open targets was tough.
Freshmen receivers Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten didn’t see action against Oklahoma State, but are expected to play a bigger role against he Gamecocks. Richard Samuel and A.J. Green were the only consistent targets on offense, and Richt said the unit needs to identify more playmakers.
“We must be diversified, we must spread the ball around, and we must give guys a chance to make plays,” Richt said. “Sometimes a guy’s not a playmaker in people’s minds because he hasn’t had a chance to make a play, so we’ve got to give him those opportunities.”
A blowout victory would be nice, but those offensive goals are ancillary at best, Richt said.
The bottom line is, with the Bulldogs staring at a potentially disastrous 0-2 start to the season, there’s virtually no problem that can’t be solved with a simple victory.
“Losing that last one last week,” Green said, “I just want a victory to get this feeling out of my stomach and get a victory under my belt.”