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UGA needs at least a win vs. Idaho State to reach bowl

Photo by Stephen Morton

Photo by Stephen Morton

ATHENS -- The Georgia Bulldogs, who have lost hope of winning the SEC East, have a new goal of winning their last four games.

First they have to earn the right to play four more games.

Georgia (4-5) needs at least two more wins to become bowl eligible. That is a reason for the Bulldogs to care about today's visit from FCS opponent Idaho State (1-7) and avoid looking ahead to their final regular-season games against Auburn and Georgia Tech.

Georgia has never played Idaho State or any other Big Sky team.

The Bengals, last in the Big Sky at 0-6, take a seven-game losing streak to Athens.

Georgia's Southeastern Conference hopes ended with last week's 34-31 overtime loss to Florida. The loss also snapped the Bulldogs' three-game winning streak.

Coach Mark Richt talked to his players about focusing on more modest goals.

"Right now we are just thinking about winning the rest of our games," Richt said. "There is honor in that. We have fans that have paid their money for season tickets and people that love the Dogs and want to see them do well. Our guys have pride in what they do and understand they have a job to do. That goes for coaches, too, and everyone involved in our program."

Idaho State has played only one other SEC school, losing 41-29 at Kentucky in 2005.

The Bengals regularly face bigger schools but are only 1-14 against FBS opponents. Idaho State beat Utah State, 27-24, in 2000.

The Bengals usually have a shorter distance to travel for games against FBS teams. They have played such teams as Oklahoma, Boise State, Idaho and Arizona State.

Idaho State coach John Zamberlin said a primary incentive for making the long trip to Georgia is money.

"One thing obvious is the financial gain for the athletic department," Zamberlin said.

Even so, Zamberlin acknowledged it is unusual to play the game in November.

"Honestly you'd like to have it earlier or you'd like to have it maybe the last game when you've already run through your conference schedule," Zamberlin said.

"This is where this fit, so for us we're going down there to compete and keep making strides to improve and let our players experience that environment."

The kickoff is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. in Athens, which is 10:30 a.m. in Idaho.

"Hopefully our guys are early risers and are ready to go," Zamberlin said. "We've got to get our motors going because that's a program with a great tradition. They're battling. They've got to get six wins to get bowl eligible. They're going to be angry Bulldogs after that Florida loss."

Georgia freshman quarterback Aaron Murray, who threw only three interceptions in the first eight games, had three interceptions and lost a fumble against Florida.

"It definitely was an emotional game, an emotional loss," Murray said. "You can't dwell on it for too long. There are still three games left in the year and we're working on four. Our goal is to go 4-0 the rest of the year. You've got to learn from it and we've still got a lot of work to go."

The loss to Florida continued Georgia's trend of losing close games. The Bulldogs have a losing record despite outscoring their opponents 283-187. They've scored more than 40 points in each of their four wins and their largest margin of defeat was by 12 points at Mississippi State.

"Definitely it would have been nice to finish off a game," Murray said. "We've come back in game but we haven't had a comeback victory yet. We either won pretty good or lost pretty close where we had chances to win.

"If you can go back and change four or five plays, maybe 10 plays at the most, it could be a totally different season for us. We haven't been blown out in one game. We feel we've had a chance to win every single game this year. It just hasn't happened that way."