After an 0-2 start and numerous calls for his scalp, Mark Richt had begun to turn things around at Georgia. His Bulldogs had rolled off three straight wins — two of them conference wins — and had found themselves right back in the heat of the East Division race heading to Tennessee on Saturday.
And then the team’s best pass-rusher went and got arrested for a DUI early Sunday morning.
“It’s a setback,” Richt said of linebacker Cornelius Washington’s arrest. “But I don’t know if it’ll deter us from playing hard and playing well.”
Indeed, it might not keep UGA from playing hard and playing well. But facing the SEC’s top-rated gunslinger Tyler Bray, the Dawgs’ chances would be vastly improved if their sack leader could play this weekend. At Georgia, a DUI arrest results in an automatic suspension of a minimum of 20% of the season (which is a very good, cut-and-dried rule, by the way). Twenty percent equals two games and Vanderbilt follows Tennessee on UGA’s schedule.
Washington had two sacks against Mississippi State on Saturday and 1.5 against Ole Miss the previous week.
“He’s sick,” Richt said of Washington. “He feels awful. He knows that he let the team down, let his coaches down, let his family down, and the Bulldog nation in general. He understands that there’s going to be a price to be paid. He’s going to take his punishment like a man and come back and finish strong for us.”
Unfortunately, Richt and his staff could pay a greater price should Georgia lose it’s East Division showdown on Saturday. Georgia’s coach likely needs to win eight games to keep his job for another year, but some of those wins need to come against his squad’s East Division foes.
The loss of Washington will likely have some impact on the field Saturday… and that could lead to a bigger, longer-lasting impact on the UGA program moving forward.