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October 26, 2011
2-8 Richt looking to turn the Gator tide
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Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt has been involved in 10 Florida-Georgia games and holds a 2-8 record against the rival Florida Gators in those contests. So don't mind him if he thinks that his team winning a bit more often would go a long way to making the rivalry even more relevant on an annual basis.
"It always heats up when a team like us - Georgia - who has had not a lot of success wins once in a while. It helps," he said. "You get your victory here and there and all of a sudden people gain a bit more respect for you, and I think that livens it up."
Though Richt dismissed some of the other occurrences that have livened the game up over the years - the Bulldogs dancing on the field, Urban Meyer rubbing in a blowout with fourth quarter timeouts, Brandon Spikes going after a Georgia player's eye in a pile - he said there are opportunities late in the week to use those events as extra motivation.
"We're so busy watching film, getting our plan together, all the details over and over and over; we don't think about that stuff," he said before making an exception. "Maybe on Thursday and Friday when the hay is in the barn so to speak with all your planning, you can start thinking about those things. Right now all we're trying to do is get lined up properly, play hard, play disciplined, do our jobs."
Unlike his opponent, Gators head coach Will Muschamp is set to lead a team from the sidelines in this rivalry for the first time. Richt said Muschamp's lack of experience coaching this particular game was not nearly as important as the fact that his Florida team is not yet completely built in his image.
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"It's not so much going through the experience of this game for the first time as much as just being a first-year head coach and the first year in your system," he explained. "It's hard for any system to just be up and running flawlessly as you learn.
"Coach Muscahmp's coached an unbelievably large amount of big games and already been in a bunch of them as a head coach. I don't think it's going to be that big of a deal for him."
That being said, Richt admitted that crossing the St. John's Bridge on the way to his first Florida-Georgia game made quite an impression on him back during his first year at UGA in 2001.
"You see the stadium, you see the water, you see the RVs and the tents and the cars. When you get closer you see the people, you see their faces, you see their emotion. It's very easy to tell who's happy to see you and whose not. It's what college football is all about," he said of the atmosphere.
"When you get inside of the stadium and it's full, it's very definite who's cheering for who. There's not very many spots on either side that aren't either red-and-black or blue-and-orange. It's very definite who's [rooting] for who. It's a straight line, buddy. There's not any zigzagging in that part where they sit side-by-side."
Richt believes the most notable thing about the game is the consistent noise level. Considering the fans are split down the middle, there is always one side trying to get in the opposing defense's head.
"It is special. It's electric and it stays electric. There is no downtime," he said. "If we're at Georgia, our fans are as loud as they can be when the other team has the ball, but they calm down when we have the ball so we can operate. So it's loud and then it's calm.
"In this game it's always loud because there's enough fan base on both sides to create that noise and create that electricity where something can happen. It's always buzzing, and it seems like the excitement never stops."
Coming into the game off a bye following a five-game winning streak, the Bulldogs hope their momentum doesn't stop either. Though facing the Gators is important no matter what position each team is in, the fact that each are still fighting for the SEC East division adds a little extra flavor to the contest.
"I'm excited about playing Florida no matter what, but when we get there I sure would love to have it mean a lot to us in regard to the Eastern division race," Richt admitted. "It does mean everything to us. That's what you want. You want a game that's big because it's a rival game and it's a special game because of the venue and how everything is distributed ticket-wise and the motions of the game. You also want it to be a big deal because you're still in the Eastern race."