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Optimistic Bulldogs limping into bye week

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray runs for a touchdown against Vanderbilt on Saturday. The Bulldogs have lost two straight games and need a miracle to get back into the SEC East title picture. (Reuters)

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray runs for a touchdown against Vanderbilt on Saturday. The Bulldogs have lost two straight games and need a miracle to get back into the SEC East title picture. (Reuters)

Back-to-back losses against Missouri and Vanderbilt have derailed a once promising Georgia football season.

The Bulldogs will try to regroup during the bye week before their showdown Nov. 2 against rival Florida in Jacksonville.

It will take a number of factors for Georgia (4-3, 3-2 SEC) to get back into the SEC East race, but Georgia coach Mark Richt remains hopeful the Bulldogs could still wind up in Atlanta for the SEC title for the third straight season.

“Our coaching staff is going to be working hard and believing and knowing there’s still a lot to play for,” Richt said. “Playing Florida is enough to get anybody motivated to play. But when you look at the league, everybody’s got two losses but Missouri. So it’s not impossible. Missouri has five more conference games. So mathematically it’s not over.”

Georgia failed to hold a 13-point fourth quarter lead in a disappointing 31-27 loss at Vanderbilt. Turnovers and special team mistakes contributed to the loss. But moving forward, Georgia also needs its young defense to show progress if it hopes to turn the season around.

“It’s a good open week for us,” Georgia senior quarterback Aaron Murray said. “We’ve got to get healthy and got to get guys working a little harder this week, next week and then get ready to finish off strong.”

Georgia is hopeful that running back Todd Gurley (sprained ankle) and wide receiver Michael Bennett (knee surgery) will return after the bye for the Florida game. The potential return of the two key offensive players could help Georgia overcome some of its defensive deficiencies.

“We really wanted to win this game before the bye week,” Georgia freshman cornerback Shaq Wiggins said. “But now we can to go back to the drawing boards, go back to practicing the way we have been practicing and just continue and focus on the next game.”

BAD CALLS: Richt said he thought targeting calls against DE Ray Drew and LB Ramik Wilson against Vanderbilt were incorrect. Drew was ejected from the game following a hit against Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn-Carta Samuels. Wilson’s potential ejection was overturned on replay, but Georgia was still hit with a 15-yard penalty.

“I don’t think the rule was designed for that type of a play, quite frankly,” Richt said. “You write-up rules and try to define them and everybody’s trying to figure out how to call it. So it got called. But it didn’t look like Ray was trying to blast the guy in any way, shape or form. He was trying to pull up and certainly wasn’t trying to drive through the guy or hit him violently in any way, shape or form.”

BYE WEEK MISSION: Georgia will be looking to get some of its offensive playmakers healthy before a big showdown Nov. 2 in Jacksonville against rival Florida. If RB Todd Gurley can return from a sprained ankle, it would provide balance to the offense and take some pressure off Georgia senior QB Aaron Murray. Defensively, Georgia needs to continue to improve a unit that ranks 13th out of 14 SEC team in scoring defense (33.3 points allowed per game).