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Kentucky 24, Georgia 20

I could go into detail, but why bother? Even though you didn't see the game on television and even if you haven't looked at a box score, you know the story.

The Bulldogs held a halftime lead but were outscored in the second half, just as they were in the Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State games, confirming that Willie Martinez simply cannot make halftime adjustments anywhere other than in Jacksonville.

Georgia led in first downs (23-22) and total yards (386-353) despite running 15 fewer offensive plays, yet the Red and Black lost a fumble and had three passes picked off. My faith in the Bulldogs' placekicking proved laughably misplaced, as Andy Bailey missed two field goals and an extra point. In the closing minutes of the game, with the Bulldogs clinging to a lead that was narrower than it should have been, the opposing offense had no trouble driving the length of field for the decisive score.

Mark Richt has lost on the opponent's field just three times in nearly six years at Georgia. The first loss was in Baton Rouge in 2003, when the Red and Black fell to eventual national champion L.S.U. The second loss was on the Plains in 2004, when the Bulldogs fell to an undefeated S.E.C. champion Auburn squad that was shut out of the national title game. The third loss was in Lexington against a 4-4 team whose coach narrowly avoided being fired a year ago.

2006 isn't 1990 bad. It isn't Johnny Griffith era bad. It isn't late Wally Butts era bad. It is, however, bad in the way the 1993 through 1996 seasons were bad . . . bad enough that every win seems like an undeserved gift and every opponent, no matter how mediocre, is a challenge.

I wish I could believe 2006 was going to be a repeat of 1973, but I don't. I believe 2006 is going to be a repeat of 1969.

In 1968, as in 2005, Georgia won an S.E.C. championship and enjoyed a stellar year, despite falling in the Sugar Bowl to an underestimated opponent. The 1969 season began as the 2006 campaign did, with much promise and some early success . . . but then the wheels came off, as a 5-1 start dissolved into an 0-3-1 finish down the stretch.

Because the bowl bids went out early in those days, the 'Dawgs received an invitation to play in the 1969 Sun Bowl. Erk Russell protested, telling Vince Dooley that the team was too battered, physically and emotionally, to make a good showing in El Paso. Nevertheless, the decision was made to accept the bid and the resulting 45-6 loss to Nebraska remains to this day the worst postseason defeat in Georgia football history.

Regardless of what happens in the last two games---and I am not sanguine about the Bulldogs' prospects in those outings---I do not believe this Georgia squad should receive or accept a bowl bid. These Bulldogs are battered, hampered by injuries and emotionally drained.

I am not going to criticize these young men, who are working hard in what began as a rebuilding year and promptly turned into a larger reclamation project than any of us expected. However, the time has come to recognize that the handwriting is on the wall.

When I wake up in the morning and something goes wrong---say, I cut myself shaving---I try to treat it as just one thing that went wrong; it happens, but you deal with it and you move on from it. If something else goes wrong---for instance, I spill something on my suit while I'm eating breakfast---I try to keep that in perspective and treat it as an unfortunate coincidence.

If, however, things continue to go awry over the course of the morning and, by the time I get to the office and check my e-mail and my messages, four more mishaps have occurred . . . well, there eventually comes a point at which enough consecutive bad occurrences have to convince you that it's simply not your day, at which point you lean into the storm and just push on ahead, secure in the knowledge that it's just going to be a bad day, but, at midnight, you get a shiny brand new one and it'll be better tomorrow.

We are officially at the point at which Bulldog Nation simply must resign itself to a lousy season in 2006 and get through it. I'm prepared to write off an occasional bad autumn, for two reasons.

First of all, it is not at all uncommon for the season following an S.E.C. championship campaign to be mediocre or worse, because first-place finishers tend to be senior-laden squads and it is difficult to fill the void left by their departure.

Accordingly, the conference title-winning Georgia teams of 1942, 1948, 1959, 1968, and 1976 were followed in the ensuing seasons by Bulldog squads posting records of 6-4 in 1943, 4-6-1 in 1949, 6-4 in 1960, 5-5-1 in 1969, and 5-6 in 1977. Likewise, last year's personnel losses were substantial, which is why the runs of four straight 10-win seasons from 1980 to 1983 and from 2002 to 2005 were very much the exception rather than the rule.

Secondly, the feeling I had throughout the Ray Goff era was that the 'Dawgs were going to go 10-2 every few years and be struggling towards bowl-eligibility the rest of the time. The sense that came to settle over me during the Jim Donnan era was that the Red and Black were going to be in the 8-4 or 9-3 range forever . . . rarely worse than that, but never better than that, as though he were the R.C. Slocum of the S.E.C. With Mark Richt, though, I am prepared to pay the price of an occasional six-win season sandwiched in between lengthy stretches of success.

Reasonable Georgia fans may differ as to the nature of the problem and the placement of the blame. Quite frankly, I have no interest in addressing those questions at the moment. Right now, I just want to put this season in the books and put it behind us. If a bowl bid is offered, we should not prolong this season by accepting it.

As soon as the new year gets here, I'll be ready to get back to finishing the drill. Right now, though, I just want to finish the season so I can return to the hope (which, according to the latest poll results, is only partially shared by others) that Georgia will do in 2007 what Michigan has done in 2006: bounce back from an awful season to have a great one.

Say a prayer for Mario Raley.

Go 'Dawgs!