ATHENS, Ga. -- Mark Richt would be the first to say he was irritated by all seven of Georgia's losses last year. But one that particularly bugs him is a 24-12 defeat at Mississippi State.
Richt said at his Tuesday news conference that his frustration from that game will carry over to Saturday, when Mississippi State visits Sanford Stadium.
"For me it does, personally," Richt said. "I don't know if the players are looking at it that way, but I do."
Georgia outgained Mississippi State last season in Starkville, and picked up more first downs. But it was a day in which everything that could go wrong seemingly did go wrong, and Georgia fell to 1-3 in the process.
The Bulldogs had Kris Durham's 31-yard catch and run to Mississippi State's 9-yard line called back on a penalty. They had a Vance Cuff interception and return to the Mississippi State 30 waved off by an offsides penalty on Justin Houston. And they perfectly executed a pass to tailback Washaun Ealey down the middle of the field, only to have Ealey blasted by Nickoe Whitley at the Mississippi State goal line and fumble away the ball.
"It was a frustrating day," Richt said. "I'm not looking forward to another one like that."
Georgia's players don't expect another game like that Saturday, particularly those on defense who better understand their roles in Georgia's 3-4.
"At that point last season, we just wanted to get a win," said linebacker Christian Robinson, who is attempting to return from a foot injury this week. "It was like, 'When is it going to happen?' I think it's just big plays and people around the board not doing what they're supposed to do -- me, anybody you ask.
"This year we don't have that feel because we know we can stop people if everybody does their job. It's not, 'OK they got us this time, they're probably going to get us next time.' It's like, 'OK, you got us this time, but you're not going to get us again.' "
Asked about Ken Malcome's absence from the portion of Tuesday's practice that was open to the media, running backs coach Bryan McClendon said the redshirt freshman had been sent home with an illness.
McClendon said it was the latest in a string of minor injuries that have prevented Malcome from contributing more than his one carry for 0 yards this season while players such as Isaiah Crowell, Richard Samuel, Carlton Thomas and even former walk-on Brandon Harton received more playing time.
"The bottom line is the guys that have been able to come out there and perform out there at practice, those are the guys that have been able to play," McClendon said. "That's how it's been here ever since Coach Richt has been here. Obviously, you love talented guys, but you want guys who can come out there and show you every day, day in and day out, that they're dependable."
McClendon said he was surprised Tuesday to hear rumors that Malcome was considering a transfer, suggesting that was not the indication the coach received in their conversations.
"Every time I talked to him, he's been happy here and definitely this is the place he wanted to come and this is the place where he wants to be," McClendon said. "Obviously he needs to come out there and just get to practice, and he'll be good to go."
More special teams work
Mississippi State is averaging 15.3 yards per punt return -- which has already been a sore spot for Georgia.
"As we all know, we've had our issues with the punt return, so we have a challenge there," Richt said.
The Bulldogs surrendered one punt return for an 81-yard touchdown and had another return touchdown called back on a penalty last week against Ole Miss, so Richt vowed that his team will focus more on that aspect of the game this week in practice.
"We're taking some extra time, meeting and field time, yesterday and today. And maybe even Thursday we'll do a little bit of that, too," he said. "We just have to make sure we have the right people on it and we are doing things the way we need to be doing them."
Freshman Nick Marshall, who was the last man who missed Ole Miss' Nickolas Brassell as he returned the punt for a score last week, confirmed that the Bulldogs' did more special teams work in Tuesday's practice.
"We did a little more stuff," said Marshall, who is on each of the Bulldogs' special teams units. "It's just the same concepts, and we're trying to get better at what we're doing."
Sanders out for year
Richt said freshman defensive back Chris Sanders, who played in the Bulldogs' first three games, will have season-ending shoulder surgery in the near future. Richt said Sanders will be eligible for a medical redshirt.
Richt also said the coaching staff remains hopeful that receiver Marlon Brown (ankle) and offensive lineman Chris Burnette (knee) will return from injuries that kept them out of the Ole Miss game, but that cornerback Damian Swann (groin) is doubtful for Saturday.
David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at email@example.com.