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Georgia eager to forget painful loss

POSTED: October 4, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The last thing C.J. Byrd wants to do is to think about Saturday's loss for two weeks. The senior safety hasn't been a part of many games that painful, he said.

A look at the injury report and a review of the game film, however, is enough to change his mind about hurrying back to the field. Byrd is anxious to get back to winning ballgames, but after Georgia's 41-30 loss to Alabama, he knows there's an awful lot of work to be done before that happens.

"I'd rather be back on the field as soon as possible to get this taste out of my mouth, but I think the bye week came at a good time," Byrd said. "A lot of guys got injured out there, and this gives them a chance to get back healthy and come back prepared, more prepared than we were (against Alabama)."

The ghosts of Saturday's bludgeoning at the hands of the Crimson Tide will continue to haunt the Bulldogs for an extra seven days, as the team gets its first off week of the season, but the vacation couldn't have come at a better time.

On the field, Alabama underscored a long list of problems the Bulldogs will need to fix before they host Tennessee on Oct. 11 at Sanford Stadium. Off the field, as many as five key players could miss action because of injuries suffered against Alabama.

"It's good to get rested again, get healthy, get stronger and come back fighting," said running back Knowshon Moreno, one of the many walking wounded hoping to find his way back on the playing field in time to take on the Volunteers.

Moreno, who leads the Bulldogs with 10 rushing touchdowns this season, suffered an elbow injury in the fourth quarter of the game against Alabama, and head coach Mark Richt said the star tailback's status for the Bulldogs' next game was in limbo.

All-SEC linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, wide receiver Kris Durham and tight ends Tripp Chandler and Bruce Figgins also are among Georgia's injured. Figgins is likely to miss the remainder of the season, and Durham and Chandler are unlikely to play against Tennessee.

Even the players who aren't questionable for Georgia's next game are running on fumes, Richt said.

"You've gone from early August to right now, a two-month stretch, we've been going at it pretty good, the coaching staff included," Richt said. "The coaches need to get a little rest, and the players do, too."

More than just rest, however, Georgia needs to find quick fixes to a long list of problems that plagued the Bulldogs in the first half of their game against Alabama.

While some of the problems — the ineffective pass rush, poor run blocking by the offensive line -- might take time, there's one issue Byrd said needs to be dealt with immediately.

"Penalties," he said. "I don't know how you're going to practice that, but we need to fix that. Quick."

Georgia is averaging more than 10.5 penalties and 87 yards of infractions per game this season. Against Alabama, the deluge of flags finally caught up with them, with whistles following some of Georgia's biggest plays of the game.

On the Crimson Tide's first drive, Georgia recovered a fumble deep in its own territory, seemingly swinging Alabama's early momentum back in the Bulldogs' favor. The big play was overturned, however, when linebacker Akeem Dent was whistled for roughing the passer.

On Alabama's second drive, which resulted in a field goal, Georgia racked up 25 yards in penalties, and late in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs' final gasp at a late rally ended when a fourth-down catch by A.J. Green was overturned by a holding call.

"We can't have penalties, we can't have turnovers," Moreno said. "If you have that, you're going to come out with a loss."

So the focus this week will be on maintaining the Bulldogs' aggressiveness while cutting down on the number of flags. That won't be an easy task, Richt said.

"I've got to send a stronger message than we've sent to this point, and that's probably my No. 1 priority," Richt said.

What eases the sting of Saturday's loss, however, is the Bulldogs' frenetic second-half comeback. The run came up well short of victory, but it did provide a bit more motivation for the Bulldogs to keep their heads up during the off week.

After all, linebacker Rennie Curran said, Saturday's loss ended when the clock hit zero. When the Bulldogs take the field against Tennessee in two weeks, they get a clean slate.

"We've still got a lot of football to play," Curran said. "You can only look at the positive now. Leave those mistakes in the past and try to improve, get ready for the rest of the season."



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