Georgia trying to stay motivated during lull in schedule

Updated: October 16, 2003, 4:19 PM ET

ATHENS, Ga. -- Vince Dooley was master of the buildup -- the art of making a weak opponent sound like a potential champion.

Maybe he should pass along some tips to Georgia coach Mark Richt.

Riding high after a resounding victory over Tennessee, the fourth-ranked Bulldogs (5-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) have reached a lull in their schedule.

On Saturday, Georgia will meet perennial SEC doormat Vanderbilt (1-6, 0-3). The following week, it's the homecoming game against I-A interloper UAB (3-3).

Can a team with its eye on winning another league title and possibly the national championship stay motivated for these two games? Just listen to Dooley, who coached the Bulldogs for 25 years and is now the athletic director.

"I saw the potential for what a team could do on its best day," Dooley said. "I always tried to get my team ready to play a team that was playing its best. Of course, sometimes they didn't play their best. But I always tried to prepare that way."

This might be a good time to have a screamer of a head coach, but that's not Richt.

With sleepy eyes and a laid-back demeanor, he often seems like anything but a football coach. Fiery speeches and catchy motivational techniques aren't part of the repertoire. His most notable catch-phrase is "Finish The Drill."

Yawn.

"I believe more in preparation than motivation," Richt said. "If it comes down to giving a speech or spending five more minutes working on the game plan, I'd rather work on the game plan."

At Georgia, hard work, repetition and attention to detail are the main objectives in practice. Richt believes those attributes last longer than some "Win one for the Gipper" rant.

"We're always trying to create good habits in practice," Richt said. "Then you'll be more likely to make the right decision when the emotion dies down or if you're tired.

"You can't stay emotionally high for every game of the year. You just can't do it. And you certainly can't do it for 60 minutes a game."

Still, to make sure his players weren't feeling too good about themselves, Richt broke out the dreaded "mat drills" at Monday night's practice. The players had to run through a grueling series of agility exercises that are normally a part of the offseason routine.

"I think that got their attention," Richt said.

The head coach also has surrounded himself with plenty of high-energy assistants, including defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and defensive end coach Jon Fabris. They aren't the least bit shy about getting in a player's face, serving as bad cops to Richt's good cop.

Receiver Fred Gibson isn't concerned about the Bulldogs letting up in the next two games or looking ahead to more important games down the road against Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech.

"We're treating this week just like last week," he said. "This team has its eyes on the prize. We're first in the SEC East. If we want to continue that success, want to continue winning, we can't let up."

While the shoe doesn't always fit, Richt is trying to keep his foot on the pedal, sounding downright Dooleyesque with his description of Vandy's offense.

"Coach VanGorder is not going to get a lot of sleep this week," Richt said. "We're trying to get a grip on how to slow them down right now."

For the record, Vandy ranks next-to-last in the conference and 81st nationally in scoring.

While the Commodores haven't had a winning season since 1982, their quarterback doesn't expect to face a Georgia team that's less than its best.

"They're not going to come in here and take us lightly," Jay Cutler said. "They have too much at risk."

By routing Tennessee 41-14, the Bulldogs put themselves in an enviable position heading into the second half of the season. By winning out, they would return to the SEC championship game in Atlanta for the second year in a row.

On a larger scale, a spate of upsets last weekend propelled the Bulldogs back into the national championship race -- just three weeks after a 17-10 loss at LSU.

"It happened fast," Richt said. "Last year, we were 8-0 and ranked fifth in the country. Now, we're 5-1 and already up to fourth. I can't say we haven't thought about it. We see it. We know where we are. We're excited about it. If we're a responsible team, we'll play even harder."

A championship? Hmm, that sounds like the best motivation of all.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index