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ATHENS, Ga. – Their national championship hopes largely dashed, the Georgia Bulldogs insist they aren't giving up on the season.
And they're ready to forget an embarrassing loss to Florida.
"That's life," quarterback Hutson Mason said Tuesday. "Sometimes in life, you get beat. When you hit some adversity, what are you going to do? Lay down? Or get up like a man and keep chugging along? I promise you we're not going to quit."
The No. 17 Bulldogs (6-2, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) are still right in the thick of things in the SEC East, though now they need Missouri to lose one of its three remaining league games. Georgia holds a tiebreaker edge over the Tigers, who have only one loss in conference play.
Next up: the Bulldogs travel to Kentucky (5-4, 2-4) on Saturday.
"We got beat. We've moving on," Mason said. "We've still got a lot to play for. We can still win the SEC championship if things go according to plan. That would still be considered a great season for us."
Georgia controlled its own fate in the SEC East race until this past weekend, when struggling Florida romped to a 38-20 victory in the annual Cocktail Party game at Jacksonville.
Still smarting from that defeat, the Bulldogs returned to practice eager to show that game was an aberration — especially on the defensive side. They surrendered a staggering 424 yards rushing to the Gators, who broke in a new starting quarterback by running largely the same four or five plays the entire game.
Georgia, for some reason, could never slow them down.
"Yeah, we're embarrassed," defensive tackle Toby Johnson said. "We have reason to be embarrassed. At the same time, I feel like we're ready to get back out there and go to work. That wasn't us, what we displayed last week."
After the performance against Florida, coach Mark Richt said he's not spending too much time talking about season goals.
He wants his players to be focused on Kentucky and nothing else.
"We know mathematically that it's still a possibility," Richt said. "But if we don't win, it doesn't matter. I guess that the best way to say it. Let's just try to win this week. We'll worry about the rest later."
There weren't many positives to rally around from the last game, though Georgia is hoping that Mason can build on a season-high 319 yards passing. Granted, much of that came after the game was out of reach, but it did provide a glimmer of hope that the Bulldogs won't have to rely solely on their running game the rest of the way.
"He did a great job of stepping up and not being afraid to throw that ball knowing he might get hit," offensive guard Greg Pyke said.
Of course, the Bulldogs will continue to rely heavily on their running game, which ranks third in the SEC at more than 250 yards per game. Freshman Nick Chubb will get one more start in place of suspended star Todd Gurley, after rushing for 501 yards the last three games.
"That's kind of our identity right now," Pyke said.
Gurley is serving a four-game suspension after acknowledging he took more than $3,000 over a two-year period for autographs and memorabilia. He continues to practice with the Bulldogs and is eligible to return for the Nov. 15 game against No. 3 Auburn.
"He can't wait to play," Richt said.
Mason said there are no hard feelings toward Gurley for breaking NCAA rules. While the case has certainly been a distraction to the Bulldogs, there's certainly nothing he could have done to keep the Gators from running up and down the field.
"I don't think anybody has been feeling like, 'Man, Todd let us down,'" Mason said. "That's the biggest struggle for college athletes right now, when you've got someone coming up and offering your thousands of dollars. If you don't come from anything or don't have anything, don't have the money to go do the things you want to do, that's hard for a college athlete. It's hard to say no to that. If you put yourself in Todd's shoes, no one really knows if they would say yes or no to that.
"Todd is our guy. We love him."
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