The most vexing of Georgia's four turnovers in the second half of Saturday's loss to Kentucky -– Washaun Ealey's fumble with the Dogs one yard away from tying the score with 2 ½ minutes to play -– apparently stemmed from two rookie mistakes.
After reviewing film of the play, coach Mark Richt said Ealey didn't start in quite the right alignment and then didn't run the correct track to the ball.
"He was a little too tight on his alignment, and the track he took was a little too much downhill," Richt said Sunday. "And because of that, as Joe [Cox] ... got ready to pitch the ball, [Ealey] was much closer to him than he should have been.
"If you're closer, the pitch tends to be a little hotter than you want, meaning it's got more zip. If you're further away, the pitch is fine."
As for why Ealey went awry on the play, Richt said: "I don't know. I'm sure it has something to do with a guy being a true freshman."
Richt's assessment of the play agreed with Ealey's.
Ealey said he was overeager to get the ball and get into the end zone. "I didn't realize that I was that close [to Cox], that I was coming downhill fast," he said.
Richt defended the play call, saying the toss sweep is a core play "we have repped over and over and over" and "not any riskier [on the goal line] than anywhere else on the field."
Ealey's fumble was the third of Georgia 's four turnovers, all costly.
The first –- freshman Branden Smith's fumble of the second-half kickoff –- set up a Kentucky touchdown that cut Georgia's lead to 20-13 and changed momentum. "To turn a two-score deficit into a one-score deficit within a matter of seconds," Richt said, "it definitely gets the other team's juices flowing."
The two other turnovers were interceptions of Cox passes, one setting up what proved to be Kentucky's winning touchdown and the other sealing the Wildcats' 34-27 victory.
Green, Rambo update
Richt seemed encouraged Sunday that wide receiver A.J. Green and safety Bacarri Rambo, both of whom missed the Kentucky game, might be able to play against Georgia Tech on Saturday.
"They're getting there," Richt said. "I'd say we're pretty hopeful on both of them. I wouldn't say either of them is a slam dunk right now."
Green sprained a joint in his left shoulder, and Rambo suffered a concussion, both in the Nov. 14 victory over Auburn.
State of the Dogs
Richt was asked Sunday what he would say to Georgia fans concerned about the state of the program after the latest loss dropped the Dogs to 9-7 over their past 16 games.
"Well, I would just tell them they need to . . . keep supporting us, keep believing in us, and we're going to keep working hard on our end to make them proud," Richt answered.
He added: "I think all programs go through some cycles. We've been on a pretty good upswing for quite some time, and this year has certainly been a downturn when it comes to record. ... But will we get it back on track and get back to the winning ways we're used to? I think so. I don't think there is any doubt about it."
The bowl picture
Saturday's loss hurt Georgia's bowl options, shelving Tampa's Outback Bowl as a realistic possibility.
Of the SEC's 10 bowl-eligible teams, seven have better overall records than Georgia's 6-5. The Dogs could be looking at a postseason game near the bottom of the SEC pecking order, such as the Independence Bowl in Shreveport or the Papajohn's.com Bowl in Birmingham.
"I'm not sure where, but I can promise you we will be thankful anywhere we get to go," Richt said.
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