ATHENS — Embattled Georgia coach Mark Richt said Tuesday he has told his players to ignore questions about his job security, calling the criticism “noise.”
Georgia (5-3, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) has lost three of four games, including lopsided conference losses to Alabama and Florida. Last week’s 27-3 loss to the Gators ended the Bulldogs’ SEC championship hopes and increased the heat on Richt to its highest level since a poor start to the 2011 season.
Richt said this season will be defined by how the Bulldogs, who play Kentucky on Saturday, handle the adversity.
“What we’re going to do now is we’re going to focus on our jobs, we’re going to fight like mad, and we’re going to do it together,” he said.
Georgia hasn’t scored a touchdown in two straight games, including a 9-6 win over Missouri. That has made the offense, and first-year offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, the focus of much criticism.
Richt said Sunday he is considering “all possibilities” at quarterback after giving Faton Bauta his first start against Florida.
Bauta, who replaced Greyson Lambert, threw four interceptions in the loss. Brice Ramsey, who took over as the starting punter, is the third candidate at quarterback.
Richt didn’t announce a starter on Tuesday.
“It would be nice to get more stability at that position, but it just hasn’t played out that way,” he said.
Richt said Bauta had too few chances to run the ball on read-option plays because Georgia was beaten “at the point of attack.” That could lead to changes this week on the offensive line, where backups Hunter Long and Dyshon Sims could start or have bigger roles.
This isn’t the first crisis for Richt, in his 15th season as Georgia’s coach. He has won two SEC championships but none since 2005. Following his only losing season, a 6-7 finish in 2010, the pressure on Richt increased when the Bulldogs lost their first two games to Boise State and South Carolina in 2011.
Georgia then won 10 straight games before losing to Louisiana State in the SEC championship game.
Richt said he is taking the same approach as in 2011.
“You just never know how close you are to success,” he said. “… If everybody said the sky was falling and everybody fell apart at the seams, we never could have won 10 in a row like we did that year. You just keep playing, keep believing, keep moving forward in a positive way.”
There have been reports saying Richt should be fired. More criticism has come from social media.
Tight end Jeb Blazevich said Richt addressed the issue with players.
“He just said to block it out and ignore it because it doesn’t really matter at this point,” Blazevich said.
Blazevich said he has seen no sign that Richt has been affected by the criticism.
“No, he’s still his calm, cool, collected self,” Blazevich said. “He’s been doing it way too long and I guess in the hot seat or whatever too many years to be worried about it. He knows where we stand with him. We love coach Richt and we’re all behind him 100 percent. We’re not too worried about it and it doesn’t seem like he is, either.”
The schedule provides an opportunity for a recovery for Georgia and its offense. After Saturday’s visit from Kentucky (4-4, 2-4 SEC), Georgia will play Auburn (4-4, 1-4), Georgia Southern (6-2) and Georgia Tech (3-6).
Kentucky and Auburn have allowed the most points in the SEC.
Richt insisted, “I don’t blame people for getting mad” about the disappointing season because he likes coaching at a school “where people care.” And while there are lot of people angry with him, Richt asked fans to continue supporting the players.