Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
ATHENS, Ga. –- As Georgia’s Mark Richt was dissecting his club’s thrill-a-minute 41-37 win over South Carolina late Saturday night, a cell phone rang during the middle of his press conference.
“Whoever’s phone that is, that’s a $500 fine,” barked Richt, wearing a sheepish smile.
It rang again, and he reached down in his pocket only to admit that it was actually his cell phone ringing. He even answered it and politely told the person on the other end that he was in the middle of a press conference.
There’s nothing like bringing a little levity to the situation after what had clearly been a trying week for the Bulldogs -- and a trying game.
Nobody inside the Georgia locker room wanted to think about what the rest of this month would have been like (or the rest of the season, for that matter) had the Bulldogs not survived Saturday night in Sanford Stadium and avoided an 0-2 start.
“There were a lot of teams that would have crumbled after what happened last week to us,” Georgia senior quarterback Joe Cox said. “We’ve got a group of guys that just weren’t going to let it happen. We’d worked too hard not to play well and not to make the plays we needed.
“We know people are going to mess up in games, but we’ve got to play harder than we did last week. We’ve got to play more together and we need to help each other out. The offense needs to help the defense out, and the defense needs to help the offense out. Today was a pretty good example of that.”
Junior linebacker Rennie Curran didn’t hold back in the defensive huddle in those last few plays.
The Gamecocks were inside the Bulldogs’ 10-yard line and threatening to end Georgia’s season really before it ever had a chance to get started.
“That’s exactly what we were thinking. I just said, ‘This is our season, right here,’ ” Curran recounted. “In the SEC, so many of the games are like this. You’ve got to fight to the end.”
It wasn’t pretty. The Bulldogs gave up 427 yards of total offense and turned it over three times, one of those a Cox interception that South Carolina linebacker Eric Norwood returned 35 yards for a touchdown.
But on the ensuing extra-point attempt, Georgia caved in the right side of the South Carolina line, and DeAngelo Tyson blocked the kick.
“It’s all about your attitude,” Curran said. “We could have hung our heads low after that interception. Nobody had that attitude. Nobody pointed any fingers. We went out there and kept a good attitude and kept it positive. We blocked that extra point, which was the difference in the game.”
Richt was really worried about his team last week. He said they were down, even in the tank at one point, coming off the season-opening loss at Oklahoma State.
“I wasn’t feeling real good, either,” Richt said. “But I let the coaches know I believed in them and myself, and the coaching staff let the players know. We’ve done everything that you could possibly do to get prepared for a season the way a coach would ask a bunch of guys to, and you just want to get it going, get a little momentum. We got it, and I’m thankful and hope we can continue that momentum.”
Richt said it’s as hard as he’s seen his team play in a long time, especially considering that the Bulldogs had to overcome some critical mistakes.
“There was a special energy,” Richt said. “I don’t know why. Maybe there was a special sense of urgency of not going 0-2, knowing we’re at home, knowing it was the SEC.
“There were so many things riding on it, and for whatever reason, I think our boys had as much heart and fire, wire to wire, that I’ve ever seen.”