STILLWATER, Ok. - In the span of just a single game, Georgia's season has gone from one of promise to one of serious concern.
Saturday's 24-10 loss to Oklahoma State certainly didn't leave much room for optimism, a game which saw the Bulldogs (0-1) commit three turnovers and get outplayed in virtually every phase of the contest, resulting in their first opening-day defeat since 1996 to Southern Miss.
There was plenty of disappointment to go around.
"The biggest thing I can chalk this one up to is the turnovers," quarterback Joe Cox said. "Who won the game? They did. They had no turnovers. We lost, we had three. That's the biggest stat in football. We just can't do that."
Cox was responsible for two of the miscues, both in the fourth quarter. It was Cox's fumble midway through the fourth that set Oklahoma State up at the Bulldog 32, which quarterback Zac Robinson converted with a 12-yard scoring pass to Dez Bryant, his second touchdown of the game. A second-quarter fumble by Carlton Thomas gave the Cowboys three more points when Dan Bailey drilled a 28-yard field goal.
"When it's three to nothing against a very good football team; against two teams that are pretty evenly matched, that's going to be the difference in the ball game," head coach Mark Richt said. "It just won't get it done."
Unfortunately, turnovers weren't the only reason Georgia failed to come away with the victory.
A stagnant offense didn't help.
After driving 80 yards on their first possession to take a 7-0 lead on a 4-yard pass from Cox to Michael Moore, Georgia managed just 177 yards the rest of the way.
Defensively, the Bulldogs played admirably, but the fact that Georgia was unable to force a single mistake by the Cowboys was all that was on the mind of Geno Atkins.
"We had been doing a good job of that, but today didn't get the job done," Atkins said. "We've got to get better. We've got to make some things happen."
Then, there were the special teams:
Although a career-long 53-yard field goal by Blair Walsh provided a bright spot, the fact OSU's Perrish Cox brought the third-quarter kickoff back 74 yards to set up a 1-yard run by Robinson to put the Cowboys up 17-7 certainly didn't help.
Cox finished the game 14 of 30 for 162 yards, while running back [db]Richard Samuel led the Bulldog rushers with 20 carries for 87 yards.
Robinson's final numbers (11 of 22 for 135 yards) might have not been that impressive, but he accounted for all three of his team's touchdowns with scoring passes of 46 and 12 yards to Bryant to go along with his 1-yard scoring run.
Running back Kendall Hunter finished with 23 carries for 75 yards.
Offensively, we're very sloppy," OSU coach Mike Gundy said. "But if you win the turnover game, which we did, by being plus-three, in most cases you're going to win the game."
The question now, is what next?
Suddenly, next week's SEC home opener against SEC rival South Carolina looks considerable more daunting, particularly with a night road game at Arkansas before returning home against Arizona State.
To make matters worse, it appears that the Bulldogs could be without starting left tackle Trinton Sturdivant, who went down with a knee injury was scheduled to undergo an MRI upon the team's return to Athens.
"Sure, we lost this game but there's still an awful lot to play for," Richt said. "It's just one game. We're getting ready to get into our league play, which is really the only thing we can control anyway."
The way the game it started, one would have thought that the Bulldogs were about to lay one on the Cowboys.
Georgia took the opening kickoff and promptly drove 80 yards in 10 plays, grabbing a 7-0 lead on a 4-yard fade pass from Cox to Moore.
A 24-yard pass from Cox to A.J. Green and a 19-yard run keyed the drive.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs' defense showed early on that they were ready to play.
Georgia forced Oklahoma State to punt on its first four possessions before the combo of Robinson and Bryant connected on a 46-yard bomb for the tying score with 2:24 left in the second quarter.
But the Cowboys weren't done.
A fumble by Thomas after a vicious hit by Antoine Luicen was recovered by Terrance Anderson at the Bulldog 11 before a personal foul on Georgia pushed the ball to the 5.
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, the defense held.
Three straight runs netted just three yards until a holding penalty on fourth-and-goal at the 1 forced the Cowboys to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Bailey with 5 seconds left in the half.
Georgia's kickoff coverage let the team down to start the third.
A 74-yard kickoff return by Cox set up a 1-yard run by Robinson, who capped the scoring with his 12-yard pass to Bryant in the fourth.
"I don't know if we always did everything the way it ought to be done, but I thought the effort was there," Richt said. "I'm sure the guys will hurt for a while, but we've got to get ready and prepare for South Carolina."
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