ATHENS, Ga. – Georgia's longest losing streak in 20 years has coach Mark Richt searching for answers.
The Bulldogs are scuffling to get their first Southeastern Conference victory — and so is Tennessee.
The Volunteers are in their first season under coach Derek Dooley, son of longtime Georgia coach Vince Dooley. Their football program is still trying to stabilize from the abrupt departure of coach Lane Kiffin nine months ago.
Georgia's program, in its 10th season under Richt, has hit the crossroads of mediocrity with a .500 record over its last 18 games. Even worse, the Bulldogs have dropped seven of nine in the Southeastern Conference.
Time to change the routine.
For the first time in his 10 seasons at Georgia, Richt had the players in full pads on a Monday following a game. The Bulldogs blocked and tackled. First-team offense against first-team defense, just like in the spring.
"I've never done that," Richt said Tuesday. "Monday is usually a day in shorts, and we do a little running and lifting and meeting. We install a little bit just from a mental standpoint, almost a glorified walkthrough."
But not this week. Georgia (1-4, 0-3) is too soft in pass protection, too prone to fumble and too likely to give up big chunks of yardage in their new 3-4 defensive scheme.
"I'd say across the board we just haven't been good enough," Richt said. "There have been some bright spots, there have been some good things that have happened, but we just haven't done it good enough as a team."
Richt also is taking more an active role emotionally. When the Bulldogs are introduced to the Sanford Stadium crowd on Saturday, he will be the first to run onto the field.
Over the years, Richt has made similar moves. He dressed the team in black a few times, and the coach takes the team to the school's natatorium every summer practice for his customary reverse off the high-dive.
Occasionally, he's gathered players to the sideline during games to get their collective attention, as he did in last month's home loss to Arkansas.
Richt hopes that by running on the field first he can spark something in his unsteady team.
"I've always let the boys go first. For the most part, I feel like it's their day, it's their game," he said. "It's been 10 years and I haven't done it. I have to get out front and lead the pack, so I think it will be good."
With Georgia and Tennessee both struggling, the return to Athens of Dooley, son of the Bulldogs coaching legend Vince Dooley, is somewhat overshadowed. Derek Dooley took the Vols job in January.
Tennessee (2-3, 0-2 SEC) has many problems, some of the most glaring coming on substitution mistakes in the last two games.
The Vols had 13 players on the field in the final minute last Saturday at LSU. Because of the penalty, LSU's botched snap at the buzzer gave the Tigers another play, and Tennessee lost 16-14.
"The important thing to know is it's not OK, and I told our team that it's not OK to lose," Dooley said. "When you lose, you have to look in the mirror and say what can we do better to prevent it? There was certainly a lot of that. We can't whine. We can't complain."
Tennessee defensive end Chris Walker sees many similarities between the underachieving Vols and Bulldogs.
"We're both trying to figure out ways to win games, and I think that we have the talent," Walker said. "But it's just coming down to executing in the end and communicating and winning games, so I think that's something that we have to get over."
Georgia linebacker Akeem Dent believes Richt's decision to have a "live" practice Monday was beneficial. He knows the Bulldogs need to try everything they can to snap the school's longest skid since 1990.
"Guys were upbeat and up-tempo and just ready to compete," Dent said. "It kind of sparked a little more fire and a little more energy throughout the guys in the locker room. Even after practice, we were still in there talking about practice because guys were out there having fun and guys were out there flying around. I think it was something that we needed."