Georgia's season on the brink heading into 'Cocktail Party'
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) Davin Bellamy isn't ready to give up on Georgia's season.
Sure, there's no more talk of contending for a championship, and the honeymoon is definitely over for rookie coach Kirby Smart. A home loss to Vanderbilt has a way of turning everything sour.
But Bellamy, a junior outside linebacker, said the Bulldogs are eager to make a good impression the rest of the way.
''You've still got that `G' on your helmet,'' he said. ''You've still got your last name on your back. You've still got the family you build with your fellow players. And no one wants to give up on each other like that.''
Make no mistake, it's a season on the brink after the shocking 17-16 loss to Vanderbilt two Saturdays ago.
Georgia (4-3, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) has dropped three of its last four games, already matching the number of losses in each of the final two seasons under former coach Mark Richt. And it could be worse - remember, the Bulldogs barely held off FCS school Nicholls and needed a fourth-down touchdown pass in the final minutes to knock off Missouri.
With a remaining schedule that includes Saturday's game against No. 14 Florida, plus No. 15 Auburn and Georgia Tech down the road, Georgia faces the possibility of its worst showing since a 6-7 mark in 2010.
Then again, a victory over the Gators (5-1, 3-1) could quickly turn things in the right direction.
Smart is hoping the Bulldogs finally put together a complete performance Saturday in Jacksonville.
''I want to play our best game in all facets of the game, being able to be balanced on offense and being able to control the line on scrimmage on defense and play well in the kicking game,'' he said. ''We've got to be able to do all three, and some of them have hit on all cylinders at all different times. We need them to hit all at the same time, especially when you're playing a defense of this caliber.''
There are areas of concern all over the field, from an offense still struggling to establish its identity to a defense that misses far too many tackles to special teams that was largely responsible for the Vandy loss.
Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason is a convenient symbol of the team's uneven play. He threw for only 29 yards in a victory over South Carolina - the worst showing for Georgia's passing game in more than a quarter-century - but followed with a career-high 346 passing yards against the Commodores.
Or one could focus on the running game, which should be a major strength with Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and a couple of promising freshmen backing them up. Indeed, the Bulldogs nearly had three 100-yard rushers against the Gamecocks, only to be held to just 75 yards overall by Vandy, barely averaging 2 yards per carry.
Smart figures the Gators are going to stuff the box and dare Georgia to beat them through the air, relying on the dynamic cornerback duo of Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson to shut down the receivers in one-on-one matchups.
''It'll be interesting to see how they play us in some personnel groupings, be interesting to see how they play us outside,'' said Smart, whose team was off last week. ''Do they have respect for our receivers? I don't know. They don't usually. They just let their guys go play on an island.''
Smart is a defensive coach at heart, but that side of the field has been equally perplexing. Certainly, he doesn't put much stock in the Bulldogs largely shutting down South Carolina and Vanderbilt, two of the league's worst offenses.
''We've tried to simplify and play fast and get guys to play the right way,'' he said. ''The numbers have shown that that's been a help, but we've also probably played guys that were not as good offensively.''
Florida has dominated Georgia the last two seasons, including a 27-3 blowout in 2015 that effectively finished off Richt's long tenure as the Bulldogs coach.
''If we were to win this game,'' receiver Isaiah McKenzie said, ''it just shows that we have a good team and we are capable of playing with anybody in the SEC.''
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry .
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