December 13, 2012

Forgetting the past difficult

Forgetting the past isn't always easy.

Quarterback Aaron Murray can empathize with that.

Although every day that passes means the Bulldogs are 24 hours more removed from their heartbreaking loss to Alabama in the SEC title game, shoving away those memories has been impossible for him to do.

"Oh, my Gosh, I can't sleep at night. I replay the entire game, pretty much every night before I go to bed. It's stressful," Murray said. "It's a game that will probably haunt me the rest of my life, but it was an exciting game, no doubt about that."

But amazing as it might seem, even in defeat, Georgia appears to have gained a measure of respect from the rest of the college football world that perhaps it didn't have before.

Head coach Mark Richt has noticed a change.

"Everything has been extremely positive. I think the Georgia people, the recruits, our own players - no one likes to lose, but I think everybody felt like we were there in the game that meant everything," Richt said. "Not many people were in a game like that. There were three teams left and we were one of them. We played a great football team and played a great game. I'd say the same thing I said after the game. I was extremely disappointed in the outcome of the game, but not disappointed one bit in our players and coaches and how we battled."

Murray said he's felt similar vibes.

"Everyone I see, from fans to students, everyone said it was the most exciting game they've ever seen. They know we played our hearts out. I haven't heard much negativity at all about the game, just a lot of excitement about where the team is headed right now and we're moving in the right direction," Murray said. "I think we've earned a lot of respect this season. Obviously, we've got to finish strong in the bowl game. But I definitely think that Georgia is back."

So does wide receiver Tavarres King.

A senior, although King laments the fact he's about to play his last game in a Bulldog uniform, he takes a lot of pride in helping Georgia re-assert its place on the national stage.

"The way that Georgia used to be and the way Georgia used to be thought of is back," King said. "When people play Georgia now they know they have to buckle down."

But despite some positive feedback, there's another question that begs to be asked.

Because the Bulldogs came so close to playing Notre Dame for the BCS crown, will Georgia be excited about playing Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl?
Richt thinks so.

"There are still things that are worth playing for. Number one we get to play another football game. I think our guys enjoy playing football, so I think that in itself is going to be enough motivation," Richt said. "I think landing where we landed as far as the Capital One Bowl, being in Orlando in a warm weather climate, knowing we were going to play on Jan. 1 against an outstanding football team - I think all those things have been positive."

King said lamenting the past won't do anybody any good.

"There's just only one way you can deal with that and that's to move forward," King said. "You can't worry about what could have happen, you just have to go. Alabama played a great game; we just ran out of time."

Richt added that breaking the program's two-year bowl losing streak should also serve as a strong motivator.

"I will be challenging our leadership to finish better than we did a year ago and to solidify the job that they've done, because I think they've done an outstanding job to this point. I think they need to put an exclamation point on it or at least finish strong in a manner worthy of the way they led the entire offseason from January until now. That will be a big part of it," Richt said. "I'll be talking a lot to the younger guys - the guys who know they are going to be coming back - to honor those guys the way they play. Bowl games tend to shape people's opinion of your team and your program. There is a lot of that we'll be talking about as well."

This and that: Nose John Jenkins missed a second straight day of practice Thursday due to what the post-practice injury report described as a concussion. Other Bulldogs on the report included safety Marc Deas (left knee sprain) and defensive end Abry Jones (left ankle injury). Neither player practiced with the team. … Junior outside linebacker Jarvis Jones was named to The Sporting News All-American team with tailback Todd Gurley and right tackle John Theus named to the All-Freshman squad.