No answers after tough defeat
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - There were no real answers regarding what happened to Georgia in the Bulldogs' 10-6 loss to UCF in Friday's AutoZone Liberty Bowl - just a head coach stating the obvious for what's been an ugly 2010 campaign.
"No one probably would have predicted that. It is what is though, as they say," Mark Richt said during his post-game press conference. "We have to make some changes. We have to make sure this doesn't happen in the future. Now when I say change, I don't necessarily mean personnel or anything like that. I don't want to light a fire. But we need to improve, and we're going to improve. We're going to get Georgia back where it belongs."
With a new year getting ready to dawn, the program's not in a very good place.
Friday's defeat meant the Bulldogs finish the season a mere 6-7, the program's first losing campaign since 1996.
This one could not have been much uglier from a Georgia perspective.
Georgia held a mere 6-3 lead on field goals of 20 and 41 yards by Blair Walsh heading into the final quarter until the Knights (11-3) scored the game's only touchdown on Latavius Murray's 10-yard run with 8:53 to play.
The Bulldogs would get three more chances to try to do something about the score, but were unable to convert, eventually losing when a desperation pass to A.J. Green from 38 yards out on the game's final play was knocked down harmlessly to the turf.
"I was happy to see that ball hit the end zone and finally the fat lady sang at the end of the game," UCF coach George O'Leary said. "It's a great win for our program."
It was arguably one of Georgia's worse during Richt's 10-year tenure.
"It's embarrassing to be part of a losing season, it absolutely is," Walsh said. "My three years haven't been what I wanted them to be, success and the team-wise. And we'll change that. The culture of our program is changing, and I think the players are changing as well. We've got a new regime of
seniors in and we'll go form there.
The game also featured what was a controversial decision by Richt when it happened, one that perhaps cost Georgia the win.
After a pair of first downs, the Bulldogs eventually forced a punt which Blake Clingan was able place at the Bulldog 2.
Following a UCF punt on its first possession, Georgia set out on a 95-yard drive, getting to the Knights' 3-yard before facing a fourth-and-1 call.
But instead of going for the first down, Richt elected to have Walsh boot a 20-yard field goal which he did to give the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead.
Richt was asked if he regretted not going for the touchdown instead of settling for the early field goal.
"If I had known what the final score was going to be, yes. I thought it was the right thing to do at the time. We started at what, the 2-yard line?" Richt said. "I think a couple of players were upset about it, but I was like, if you want to go for it, just make it on a 3rd-and-1. I felt it was important to put points on the board at that time. I don't think it was a bad decision."
Quarterback Aaron Murray has certainly enjoyed better days.
The redshirt freshman - who donned a throwing glove for much of the game -completed 21 of 38 passes for 198 yards with two interceptions and was sacked three times.
"He just misfired," Richt said. "A lot of it had to do with the outstanding defense that was being played," Richt said. "They did a good job of containing him in the pocket and squeezing him to make him uncomfortable."
Meanwhile, counterpart Jeff Godfrey was actually worse, completing just 16-of-29 passes for 117 yards with two interceptions but helped propel the Knights during their game-winning drive with a series of key runs and pass completions.
The game appeared to get off to an inauspicious start for Georgia as Ronnie Weaver returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for an apparent touchdown, only to be called back to a holding penalty forcing the Knights to start inside their 20-yard line.
Unfortunately for Murray, his day was about to get worse.
Two second-quarter interceptions on back-to-back possessions gave UCF two prime scoring opportunities, the second by Josh Linam resulting in a 22-yard field goal by Nick Cattoi to tie the score to cap an eight-play, 27-yard drive.
The Bulldogs were actually fortunate there wasn't any more damage.
On Georgia's prior possession, strong safety Reggie Weams intercepted Murray and returned the football 22 yards to the Bulldog 40. The Knights quickly drove to the Georgia 7, but on a second-and-goal play, cornerback Brandon Boykin intercepted Godfrey in the end zone before returning the football to the 16.
But eventually, Georgia's luck ran out against the Conference-USA champs.
"Our attitude needs to change. We're not entitled to win any games. Even though it was UCF, it was Conference-USA, I think we felt like we were entitled to win this game," Walsh said. "We can't feel that way. They're a great team, they absolutely are. But we need to play better and win. At the end of the day you're playing football, you're not playing conference, and which conference is better."