October 25, 2011

Bigger than Tech?

The numbers have been driven home to members of the Georgia Bulldogs like a three-inch nail through a two-by-four piece of wood - 3-18 in the last 21 years versus the Florida Gators.

For players like linebacker Chase Vasser, it's a statistic that rings hollow and won't have a single bearing come Saturday's contest at Everbank Field in Jacksonville (3:30 p.m., CBS).

"You can't worry about what happened last year or the year before. You have to worry about this week. We want to beat Florida," Vasser said. "We know we have a good opportunity to put them out (of the SEC East race) and we want to do that. They got us last year and we want to pay them back."

But Vasser can also understand the ardent Bulldog supporter's pain.

What once was a series completely dominated by Georgia, has seen the Gators close within 47-40-2 all-time after last year's 34-31 overtime win, including 2-8 during Mark Richt's 10 previous season at the Bulldog helm.

"That's the game everybody points to," Vasser said.

Even bigger than Georgia Tech? Some certainly think so.

"I guess you could say Florida and Georgia Tech are 1A and 1B. I guess which one is a bigger deal depends on who you are," offensive guard Chris Burnette said. "For me, Florida is the biggest rivalry. It's been so one-sided these past 12 years, so hopefully we can go out there and prove ourselves and do well this year."

Defensive back Sanders Commings would like nothing more.

"Yeah, I'd say so," Commings said. "Those guys hate us and we hate them."

But as the record reads, more often than not it's been the Gators who have gotten the last laugh, and that's something that continues to stick in the craw of quarterback and Tampa native Aaron Murray, who said the team is tired of hearing how other Bulldog teams before have failed.

"We're not even talking about that. In college, guys are graduating, there's always a bunch of freshmen playing and it's not like we were the ones that lost all those 18 games," he said. "Since I've been here I've been part of two losses, but it's not like 18, 21 or whatever. I've still got three shots and a chance to be over .500 against them before I'm done."

Richt has tried several different means of motivation to help get his team over the Florida hump.

"We've tried different things. I know one year or two years, and one year in particular that I can remember we had a team meeting every day in the off week bringing in somebody that played for Georgia or coached for Georgia that had success and let them talk to the group. I can't remember when we did that. I think we might have done that a couple years and one year we won and one year lost," Richt said. "But I think we are much better off focusing on the things that really truly matter, and that's what is your job, what is your assignments, what are you going to do if this happens, what are you going to do if that happens. When we get there, I don't think we are going to have any problems with emotions. I don't think we are going to have any problem with guys being excited to play that game. We practice crowd noise, practice schemes, try to get better fundamentally and get after it."

That was the case during Tuesday's practice at the team's Woodruff Practice Facility.

The Bulldogs not only pumped in crowd noise, but Florida's fight song to help get the team acclimated for what it will face come Saturday.

History is already being made before the two teams even kick off Saturday afternoon.

For the first time in history of the series, both the Gators (4-3, 2-3) and Bulldogs (5-2, 4-1) enjoyed a bye week before going to Jacksonville.

"I know personally, I'm doing a little extra studying, making sure I know what's going on and that's what is great about having the bye week. You get the game plan done earlier," Murray said. "Usually, you're not done to about Wednesday or Thursday, but this time we pretty much had everything done by Monday so that's let us go back and look over the film more, go over the game plan more. I think we're mentally prepared. We've got to clean things up the next few days but we'll be fine."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]