Georgia vs. Coastal Carolina
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Sanford Stadium, Athens
TV, radio: Pay-per-view; 103.7-FM, 106.1-FM
ATHENS — History suggests Mark Richt is facing long odds to reach his goal of a successful season for Georgia.
Georgia is 0-2 for only the 11th time in the program’s history. The only year Georgia lost its first two games and finished with a winning record was in 1979, when the Bulldogs lost their first three contests before finishing 6-5 to establish momentum that carried over to a national championship the following year.
Georgia, coming off its first losing season under Richt, opened with losses to Boise State and South Carolina. It’s the first time the Bulldogs have opened against two Top 25 teams.
The Bulldogs play Coastal Carolina on Saturday.
Richt said the one Southeastern Conference loss to South Carolina did not change how he would define a successful season.
“Win the Eastern Division and win the SEC,” Richt said. “That’s how I would.
“Are you kidding me? When’s the last time the Eastern Division had an undefeated team? I don’t even know. It’s been a long time. That’s our goal and that hasn’t changed one bit.”
Coastal Carolina coach David Bennett predicted a dramatic turnaround for Georgia.
“They are massive, they are very talented and I predict they’ll finish top 10 in the nation when the season is done,” Bennett said. “They are mighty good.”
Richt said last week’s 45-42 loss to South Carolina could have been a Georgia win.
“Did we improve tremendously in a lot of areas?” Richt asked. “There’s no doubt about that. I left the field sick about losing but encouraged about the team, encouraged about so many things that are important to winning.”
Georgia was hurt by four turnovers against South Carolina, which returned a fumble and interception for touchdowns, set up another touchdown with a fumble return and also ran a fake punt for a touchdown.
One positive sign for Georgia was the play of freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell, who had 118 yards rushing with a touchdown on 18 carries and also caught one of Aaron Murray’s career-high four touchdown passes. Crowell also had a key fumble.
Bennett said Crowell, who will make his first start Saturday, “might be the best freshman tailback in the nation.”
The 0-2 start has sparked renewed speculation about Richt’s future. Murray said the players don’t feel a sense of despair.
“Not at all,” Murray said. “Obviously, we’re disappointed. We wanted to win those first two games, but it’s over with. We have some great leadership on this team. We’re going to say hey, it’s time to get going.”
Murray, a sophomore, is 6-9 as a starter but upbeat after the loss to South Carolina.
“We had a tremendous game,” he said. “I think everyone saw the improvements. We felt that we played an unbelievable game on offense and defense and special teams. We feel great. We feel we have a great team right now. We feel like we’re heading in the right direction.”
Georgia lost starting inside linebackers Christian Robinson and Alec Ogletree to injuries the last two weeks. The injuries leave Georgia with freshmen Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson, walk-on Jeremy Sulek and junior Michael Gilliard as the top four players at the two spots.
Coastal Carolina (2-0) launched its program in 2004. It is the defending FCS Big South champion but is 0-4 against FBS teams.
Richt said the Chanticleers “understand winning.”
“I promise you they are going to show up looking to knock us off,” Richt said. “I don’t think there is any doubt about that. I don’t think there’s a team that is coming in saying we are just going to collect a check and leave.”
Georgia played a role in Coastal Carolina’s program in 1987 when football was just a club sport at the school, then called USC-Coastal Carolina College. The program needed equipment and Georgia donated helmets, shoulder pads and other items. The club team called itself the Bulldogs instead of Chanticleers.
Coastal Carolina opened this season with a 30-23 win over Furman before beating Catawba 20-3.