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Georgia's dogs get by the turnover bug

        ATHENS - Coach Mark Richt has changed starting quarterbacks - four times.
        Richt also has changed starters at receiver and tailback this season, and this week Richt announced changes at tight end and on the offensive line.
        If only Richt could so easily change Georgia's turnover problems.
        With five turnovers in each of its last two games, Georgia ranks last in the Southeastern Conference with a minus-six turnover ratio.
        Turnovers are largely to blame for losses in three of the last four games as Georgia (6-3 overall, 3-3 SEC) prepares for Saturday's road game at Kentucky. In those four games, including losses to Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Florida, 15 turnovers have led to 52 points for Georgia's opponents.
        "I think the overriding factor is turnovers, let's face it," Richt said Tuesday. "If we cut it down to one a game or two a game, I think our record would be different today."
        Georgia has lost 10 fumbles and 12 interceptions for an SEC-worst 22 giveaways. It has forced 16 turnovers.
        The five turnovers were crucial in last week's 21-14 loss to Florida.
        Some of the problems can be attributed to Richt's decision to turn the offense over to freshman quarterback Matthew Stafford, who threw two interceptions and lost a fumble against the Gators.
        Georgia tailback Kregg Lumpkin lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. Special teams chipped in with the Bulldogs' third lost fumble when a punt hit the back of Kelin Johnson's leg and was recovered by Florida.
        Receivers also have struggled to hold the ball this season - both with dropped passes and fumbles after making the catch. Mikey Henderson and Mohamed Mossaquoi lost fumbles in a 27-24 win over Mississippi State on Oct. 21.
        Drops also have followed senior tight end Martrez Milner, who will lose his starting position to Tripp Chandler this week. In another lineup move this week, Michael Turner will start ahead of Chester Adams at offensive guard.
        "Ball security is crucial," Richt said.
        "The backs must carry the ball high and tight up against their body. They must have it high and secure at all times. The running backs, for the most part, have done a pretty good job. We've had a couple big ones, no doubt, but overall our running backs have been pretty good in that area."
        Said Richt of the receivers' problems: "The ball is not caught until it is tucked and secured."
        Coaches worry that too much talk about turnovers may only worsen the problem.
        "It's more of a mental thing," said freshman receiver Michael Moore, who made his first career reception against Florida. "They don't really coach not to turn over the ball, they coach to catch the ball and secure it."
   The player in the spotlight is Stafford, who has thrown nine interceptions with three touchdowns in 80 pass attempts.
        As a freshman starter in 2001, David Greene threw nine interceptions in 324 attempts. Quincy Carter threw nine interceptions in 290 attempts as a freshman in 1998. Eric Zeier threw only four interceptions in 286 attempts in 1991.
        Stafford, Carter and Zeier each played without a redshirt season.
        Richt said some of Stafford's mistakes come with "inexperience and the desire to make something big happen."
        Richt said Stafford forced a bad pass against Florida, due to "the desire to make a play when the game was a little bit frustrating as far as plays being made and points being scored."
        Added Richt of one interception: "I'm sure he was just trying to make something out of nothing, and you can't do that."
        Richt says Stafford is learning but avoiding turnovers "is the number one thing right now he's got to get better at."
        "Oh yeah, he's getting it," Richt said. "He's definitely getting it. He's coming along real well."
        Stafford threw no interceptions in his first two starts against Alabama-Birmingham and Colorado while throwing no more than 17 passes. He has thrown more than 30 passes in each of his last two starts, and with the greater emphasis on the passing game has come the spike in interceptions.
        "It was kind of a miracle we were in that game," said Stafford of the loss to Florida. "Our defense was playing so well."
        Added Stafford of the turnovers: "It's tough. It puts our defense in a bad way. We hurt them definitely turning the ball over. It's something we've got to keep working on and getting better at."               

 Note: Freshman offensive lineman John Miller of Cartersville has been dismissed from the team for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Team spokesman Claude Felton said the decision was made last week and disclosed Tuesday. Miller, who has not played this season as he was being redshirted, is still enrolled at the university, according to Felton.

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