ATHENS, Ga. -- Following a 31-27 loss to SEC East opponent Vanderbilt on Saturday afternoon in Nashville, the Georgia Bulldogs (4-3, 3-2 SEC) will enjoy a bye week before traveling to Jacksonville, Fla., on Nov. 2 for a matchup with Florida.
Two more players were added to the list of Bulldog injuries following yesterday's game, as safety Josh Harvey-Clemons suffered a foot injury and receiver Chris Conley injured his ankle on the final play of the game.
"I don't think Josh or Chris will need any surgery, so that's the good news," said head coach Mark Richt on Sunday evening. "How long each guy will take, it's just hard to say. We're hopeful that they'll be able to play in the Florida game. I'd say Josh is more likely than Chris at this moment, but it's a long ways away before that, so we're not going to count anybody out yet."
Richt remained confident that the Bulldogs could see the return of two key players in the Florida game - receiver Michael Bennett and tailback Todd Gurley. Bennett suffered a torn meniscus against Tennessee, while Gurley went down with an ankle injury early in the game against LSU.
"We feel pretty good that Michael Bennett can make it back, and we're thinking there's a pretty good shot that Gurley will be ready to play," Richt said. "I'm hoping they can get at least one full week of practice with this open date. To really be ready to play, you need a week of practice."
While the Bulldogs have seemingly dealt with an unusually high number of injuries to key players this season, Richt simply acknowledged that injuries are to be expected in a physical sport like football.
"My overall impression of it is that it's kind of more of the same," Richt said. "Football is a physical game, and there are a lot of things that can happen from the contact or change of direction or whatever it may be. We have had a lot of guys (get injured), there's no doubt. It's a shame for them, but it does provide opportunity for other guys, and it provides us with an opportunity to see how deep we can dig physically and mentally as a team. It's a team sport, and we have to find ways to win and ways to give us our best chance of winning."
When asked to discuss the targeting penalty that ultimately led to an ejection for Georgia defensive end Ray Drew in yesterday's game, Richt offered the following comments:
"Obviously, Ray's call, maybe by the letter of the law and the rule...I guess it fit that description. I don't think that the rule is designed for that type of play, quite frankly. You write up rules and define them, and everyone is trying to figure out how to call it. It got called. It didn't look as if Ray was trying to blast the guy in any way, shape or form. I think he was trying to pull up, and he certainly didn't try to drive the guy or hit him violently, I didn't think. I think he got a little shove towards the quarterback actually."
Richt also noted that targeting and the accompanying penalty would most likely be a hot topic around the league, particularly after Georgia linebacker Ramik Wilson was called for a targeting penalty that was eventually overturned upon review.
"Obviously the one with Ramik was a good clean play and the officials, after reviewing it, felt the same way," Richt said. "You still have that 15-yard penalty, even though in the replay they felt like it was a clean play...It might make sense in the future to consider the possibility of saying that if there's not a foul, let's not mark it off (with a penalty)."
With the team now facing a bye week, Richt announced that the entire coaching staff had today off, as the team looks to regroup and refocus before meeting the Gators in two weeks.
"The (assistant coaches) are probably still grading film on their own, but I'll meet with offense, defense and special teams coaches tomorrow," said Richt. "We'll review the film and talk about personnel and anything that we might need to change as far as scheme, or if we need to open up a competition somewhere along the way."
Much like the Bulldogs, Florida is also dealing with a number of injuries to starters this season, but Richt was quick to compliment the Gators' secondary and the challenges that the unit will create for the Georgia receivers.
"Florida's cover guys are ones that can stick with anybody when it comes to speed, agility and change of direction," said Richt. "For us, it will be a tremendous challenge to find a way to create a little space and some separation from those guys. They're not afraid to try to lock you down man-to-man...We've got to find a way to get open or make the tough catch in tight coverage."
Despite the losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt, Richt remains confident in the play-making abilities and the mental toughness of his team moving forward with the rest of the season.
"I think we'll be fine," Richt said. "We have a really good group of players, and not only with their talent, but just as people. These guys are really good people, and our coaching staff is going to be working hard and believing and knowing there's a lot to play for. Obviously playing Florida is motivation enough...Mathematically, it's not over. I'm going to fight until it's over, and I think the coaches and the players feel the same way."
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