Already on its longest losing streak in 20 years, Georgia's football team needs a victory this week to avoid extending the slump to epic proportions.
A loss Saturday against Tennessee would stretch the Bulldogs' losing streak to five games, which would be Georgia's longest within one season in more than a half-century.
The last time it happened was 1953, when the Dogs lost their final five games.
That was 11 years before Tennessee coach Derek Dooley's father became the Georgia coach. And it was seven years before current Georgia coach Mark Richt was born.
"We can't sit around and cry about it," Richt said Sunday of the position in which the Bulldogs (1-4, 0-3 SEC) find themselves, "because if we do we're really going to be in trouble."
Over the course of the past four weeks, the accumulation of Georgia defeats has evolved from unsettling (South Carolina) to alarming (Arkansas) to shocking (Mississippi State) to mind-boggling (Colorado).
Each of the games has been close in the fourth quarter, and each loss can be explained to a degree by citing some combination of fumbles, red-zone failures and defensive breakdowns. But the cumulative effect has the Bulldogs at a loss.
"It's tough," wide receiver A.J. Green said. "I've never been 1-4 in my life."
"We're Georgia. We never expect ourselves to get four losses. Or lose to the teams we have lost to," defensive end Demarcus Dobbs said. "We just have to push ahead, and we cannot give up on each other. All we have is each other."
Richt, whose Georgia teams had never lost more than two consecutive games before this season, recognizes his program is in uncharted territory. "And that hurts," he said.
Georgia must win five of its seven remaining regular-season games merely to claim a .500 record and qualify for a bowl. Otherwise, the Bulldogs' streak of 13 consecutive bowl appearances will end.
The latest loss, 29-27 at Colorado, was an opportunity squandered. Georgia was within range of a possible game-winning field goal when Colorado recovered a fumble by tailback Caleb King with just under two minutes to play.
"If we could have gotten an opportunity to kick that kick and made it with just a few ticks on the clock," Richt said Sunday, "I think that would have been good medicine for us and something to really build on."
Instead, the Georgia-Tennessee game matches two teams coming off bitter losses. The Vols (2-3, 0-2 SEC) lost at LSU on the final play of the game. Both Georgia and Tennessee are winless in the SEC this season.
While Georgia's losses have drawn some sharp criticism –- and much speculation about the coach's job security -– Richt said he believes most fans remain supportive. He cited the large contingent of Bulldogs fans who traveled to Colorado.
"I think there's a certain percentage of fans –- I think it's a minority of fans -– who will … be horribly negative with our guys and with this coaching staff and all that," Richt said. "But I think the majority of our fans are true blue, and they're going to support us no matter what because we're their team and they love the team.
"Walking off that field at Colorado, I thought our fans who showed up there were phenomenal before, during and after the game," Richt said. "Everybody's disappointed, but I don't see many fans getting real nasty. What happens is, you get some of the smaller percentage of the group that … happen to be sometimes the most vocal and it can be perceived as ‘everybody's giving up on the boys.' But I don't see that with the Bulldog Nation."
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