UGA players push past lack of sleep, lingering nightmares ahead of 'Cocktail Party'

UGA players waste no time preparing for Florida Gators

ATHENS, Ga. -- A bye week sounds kind of relaxing, doesn't it?

Well this week's bye for the Georgia Bulldogs wasn't. Yes, they had some down time over the weekend, but even that wasn't so great with the lingering disappointment from the homecoming loss to Vanderbilt two weeks ago.

"I just chilled and got some sleep. It's hard to get sleep nowadays," Davin Bellamy said about the break.

"Relaxing and resting my mind because this game asks for a lot," Quincy Mauger said.

For Isaiah McKenzie, all the break did was give him time to re-live one play over and over in his head.

"All I could think about that whole week is what could I have done to get that one yard," McKenzie said.

McKenzie got a toss from Jacob Eason on a 4th-and-one with about a minute left in the game against Vandy to try and extend the Bulldogs drive and rally down 17-16. McKenzie was stopped shy of the first down, and the Bulldogs lost the game. Their record dropped to 4-3, 2-3 in the SEC.

Not the way you want to go into the bye week ahead of the school's biggest rivalry game.

The team took time to rest, nurse some injuries and get their head on straight after the upset. But that didn't necessarily warrant down time. There was a lot of film watching, a lot of reflection and going back to what the coaches were harping on during fall camp: fundamentals.

"You're tired, you're sore, you've been playing a ton of ball. You just kind of get away from those fundamental things that are so important in these games," offensive lineman Greg Pyke said.

For the line, that meant working on steps, man blocks and cuts. Not the most fascinating of work, but for Pyke, he'll do whatever it takes to get a win against Florida in his senior season, especially after the 27-3 beat down by the Gators last year.

"If you're not playing for yourself or your family, play for the seniors. Let them go out with a win against Florida," Pyke told the freshman during the week.

Pyke has completely erased any memory of last year's game from his head. When asked, he genuinely tried to recall some memories. He remembered something hazy about Faton Bauta starting, but that was all. What he's done instead of sulking in last year's memories is teach the freshman just how important the 'World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party' is, or the 'River City Showdown', or whatever the heck you call it. 

"It's not just another game, but it is. You're playing another very good SEC school. But it is a little different. It's the biggest cocktail party out there, and you're playing in an NFL stadium," Pyke said. "[The freshman] will notice it once we come over that bridge and see all the fans out there tailgating, they'll kind of understand how special it is."

It's a game that's always special for seniors like Pyke and Mauger. Mauger said he thought several times during the bye week how he was preparing for his final Georgia-Florida game (or Florida-Georgia game, seriously people, pick a name).

Mauger also is not concerned with the record, saying this team isn't one to focus in on the SEC East standings. All they are thinking about is the game in front of them. And why would they worry? Their destiny in the conference is out of their hands, and the stars would have to align for Georgia to work its way back to the top of the rankings.

Regardless, the first step to moving up the SEC ladder would be to beat the Gators, who have the No. 2 ranked defense in the FBS and sit atop the SEC East with a 5-1 overall record, 3-1 in the conference.

"If we were to win this game, it just shows we have a good team. And we're capable of playing with anyone," McKenzie said. "Sometimes, you come up short. You come up one yard short, [give up] a Hail Mary or anything of that nature that really hurts your team."

But McKenzie said this team's confidence is not shaken.

"We have our ups and downs, but we're going to learn from them. That's what we're going to do this week. We're going to learn from our ups and downs from week one to now and worry about what we did good and what we did bad."


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment