Georgia vs. Florida
When: 3:30 p.m., Saturday
Where: Jacksonville, Fla.
TV, radio: CBS; 103.7-FM, 106.1-FM
Web site: www.georgiadogs.com
ATHENS — The picture hangs all over Georgia’s training facility. The Bulldogs get to see it when they’re changing into their uniforms, when they’re lifting weights, when they’re heading off to meetings.
Urban Meyer, his hands raised in a T. Timeout, Florida.
“It definitely motivates you,” said Georgia quarterback Joe Cox, looking ahead to Saturday’s game against the top-ranked Gators. “No one likes to be embarrassed like that.”
The Bulldogs are still a bit miffed at the Florida coach for calling two timeouts in the final minute of last year’s 49-10 blowout, a ploy that Meyer described — apparently with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek — as merely a way to get a few extra carries for a little-used running back.
“When I heard about it, I thought it was funny,” Florida defensive tackle Terron Sanders said. “At the same time, I don’t know if he did it to get more reps in or what. We’re going to go ahead and continue to say that. We did it to get some more game time for the younger players.”
You really believe that?
“No,” Sanders replied.
Of course, the Gators were merely getting back at the Bulldogs for their raucous end-zone celebration in 2007. Urged on by coach Mark Richt, the entire team stormed the field to celebrate its opening touchdown, which drew yellow flags all over the place and left Florida seething — especially when Georgia romped to one of its rare wins in this bitter rivalry.
At the time, Richt said he was merely looking for a way to fire up a lethargic team.
He readily admitted threatening his players with extra running if they didn’t draw an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after their first score, but said he never expected everyone to run on the field.
Still, the incident prompted Richt to issue a public apology to Florida and the Southeastern Conference.
Meyer brushed off the whole brouhaha in public, but he was clearly waiting for a chance to get back at the Bulldogs. With Georgia just itching to get off the field in its second-worst loss ever to the Gators, the Florida coach called one timeout, then another, doing his best to prolong the misery.
“Of course, that’s going to be a very big motivating factor for us,” Georgia safety Bryan Evans said Tuesday. “Every time we see his hands in the timeout position, it reminds us of what happened last year.”
The Bulldogs can’t get away from that image, either. Since reporting for offseason workouts, they’ve been bombarded with that picture of Meyer calling timeout.
“They’re everywhere,” Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran said. “It was a frustrating feeling as a competitor. You go in there, work hard and don’t get the results you want, then to top it off you have that happen to you. It’s kind of a slap in the face.”
At his weekly news conference, Richt declined to talk about what happened a year ago.
“I don’t know if guys individually are more worried about that,” Richt said. “I’m more concerned with this game, this plan, this team. I’m focusing on our preparation for this game. As far as motivation, I don’t think this game needs anything extra from the past to get people excited to play. I just don’t think it needs that.”
He didn’t sound very convincing. Then again, maybe things are even now.
Georgia shouldn’t have celebrated so much in 2007. Florida shouldn’t have called those timeouts last year.
“It’s not like we’ve been planning some elaborate scheme to get back at them or do something better,” Cox said. “They had a right to do what they did after what we did the year before. Now, it’s just another football game.”