“Okay, we got our butts kicked – let’s get back to work!” Kirby Smart did not utter those words during his postgame presser, but they certainly convey the message of the evening from the head coach and the players that were made available to the media after the game.
No excuses – no ‘shoulda, woulda or coulda’ – just “humility is always a week away in the SEC.” Boy, was Georgia ever humbled by Auburn Saturday night? The good news is that the team knows what happened and how to fix it. They are not hanging their heads, wondering what to do next. They know what happened and how to fix it. Although Kirby would not address the question, I feel sure that he, along with his team, would love to face the Tigers again in the SEC Championship game.
I talked for a while with Mecole Hardman during the interviews in the cramped interview room in the bowels of Jordan-Hare Stadium. As reporters scurried from player to player trying to get that headline quote for Sunday’s article, Mecole and I found ourselves standing together alone observing the scene. I wanted to give the young man a slap on the shoulder pads and a few words of encouragement as he waited for the next questioners to appear and mention his muffed punt that set up an Auburn score. After passing along a sentence or two of encouragement to Hardman, a player that I have watched since he was a heralded recruit at Elbert County High, I noticed his resolve, his internalization of Kirby’s message to the team. Yes, he feels rotten about the punt, but Mecole and his teammates have bought-in and know that memories must be short. Good and the bad recollections have to be left behind immediately. When losses occur (lost yards, muffed punts, missed tackles, missed assignments, dropped passes, rivalry butt-kickings), memories must be short because the next opponent is the same goal in mind – kicking your butt. Past losses will contribute to future defeats if not put out of mind immediately.
As we absorb the Dawgs loss to Auburn, it is an excellent time to revisit our August state of mind. Raise your paw if you predicted the Bulldogs would have one loss, have clinched the SEC East and would have spent some time as the number one team in the country by this point in the season. If your paw is still raised, I suspect, you are not entirely honest with yourself. I sure didn’t see this season coming. As we look at this team, we should see the birth of a winning program rather than a one-off shot at an SEC Championship or the College Football Playoff. These men are the pathfinders. They are the link to the great Georgia teams of the past and future success being built through recruiting and team culture. It is year two of many to come, get ready to enjoy the ride.
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