- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Tavarres King was not shocked during Georgia's 35-7 loss to South Carolina -- not until the fourth quarter, when the reality began to set in that the Bulldogs were not going to mount a comeback.
The senior receiver has been on Georgia teams that did not handle failure well, but he does not think this will be one of them. King believes the Bulldogs will prove him correct starting this weekend at Kentucky, when they open the second half of the season.
"I think we've got a mature football team," King said. "We know we slipped up and bit the dust one time, but the great thing about great teams is everybody gets punched in the mouth. It's how you respond to that punch that defines you. Hopefully we can regroup and win all six of the games that we have left."
Nobody on the roster has an easy time explaining how the Bulldogs found themselves trailing 35-0 in such a big game before finally putting their first points on the board during their final drive against the Gamecocks. Like most of their fans, they thought they had progressed beyond the letdowns that produced multiple disappointing results in recent seasons.
But when South Carolina jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the game's first 10 minutes, Georgia failed to respond adequately.
"Unfortunately for us, I think we got the best South Carolina had to offer and credit to them for playing really as close to a perfect game as you can play," tight end Arthur Lynch said. "Offense, defense and special teams, they just outdid us, they outplayed us. We got our butts whupped."
As King said, the key to the rest of Georgia's season will be how the Bulldogs respond to the shock they experienced in Columbia. A Bulldogs team that carried BCS championship hopes into that game can't fall into a lull that prevents them from staying in the thick of the SEC East race -- a reasonable goal considering that the Bulldogs' league schedule is extremely manageable the rest of the way.
"Just like I told the team, whether you lose by a point or you lose by 28 points, it's only one loss," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "It's not five losses. It feels like three or four losses, but it's only one.
"So the way the world works, especially in the Southeastern Conference, the team with the best record at the end wins the East, so there's a lot more football to be played and we've got an opportunity to get back on a winning track. So we know that not only does South Carolina, but Florida and Tennessee -- everybody's got a bunch of games to play yet."
The Bulldogs play a crucial Eastern Division game against Florida on Oct. 27, but before they get to that point, they must first take care of Kentucky this weekend in Lexington.
The Georgia-Kentucky series is full of unusually close games in its recent history, including last season when the Bulldogs -- who needed to win to clinch the SEC East -- trailed early before finally winning 19-10 against a Wildcats team that finished 2-6 in league play.
Three of the last six games between the two have been settled by a touchdown or less and all six were decided by less than two touchdowns, with Georgia going 4-2 in that stretch.
"Some people may label teams as cupcakes or not that good, but when you're at Georgia, every game people are going to gun for you," receiver Rantavious Wooten said. "This is not just a regular game. They're going to try to beat you. They're not going to just lay down. What team really just lays down?
"They've got some good players. They recruit good and they come play us hard. We know we have to be prepared for them."
If they aren't, the Wildcats have shown that it can make opponents pay for the oversight. Kentucky led South Carolina 17-7 at halftime before the Gamecocks took over in the second half.
But King believes the Bulldogs won't allow their disappointment from their last game to create a hangover that remains in the second half -- and he slightly modified the team's motto, "Our team, our time, no regrets" to illustrate his point.
"It's midway through. Some teams haven't even played the heart of their schedule," King said. "Everything's still out there for us. Everything we want's still there. We still believe we're a good team. It's still our team. It's still our time. And we have one regret right now, but hey, it's one we can get over if we win the rest of them."