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Wednesday, January 1
Updated: January 2, 3:16 AM ET
Dawgs learning quickly under Richt

By David Duffey

What a difference two years makes.

Mark Richt
Georgia's Mark Richt got doused after defeating his mentor.

The last time Mark Richt and Bobby Bowden shared sidelines in the same stadium, Richt was Bowden's offensive coordinator for a Florida State team playing Oklahoma for the national title in the 2001 Orange Bowl.

The Seminoles lost 13-2 that day and Richt headed to Athens to take over the Georgia program. Things haven't been the same since -- at FSU or Georgia.

Richt, who spent 14 years learning under Bowden at Florida State, might have learned too well for his former mentor's liking, even if he doesn't think so.

"Coach Bowden is still the teacher, that's for sure," Richt said after his Bulldogs beat the Seminoles 26-13 in the Nokia Sugar Bowl on New Year's Night.

Perhaps the most important lesson Richt learned under Bowden is how to win, and it's something he's tried to pass along to the Bulldogs.

This just in: It's working.

"Laissez les bons temps rouler," serves as a motto for New Orleans. Well, the good times are rolling for Georgia under Richt.

Georgia reached the Sugar Bowl for the first time since 1982 and won 13 games for the first time in school history. Richt's players are unanimous in who deserves a lot of credit.

"You've got to give credit to this man, Mr. Richt, for preparing us and his coaching staff," receiver Terrence Edwards said. "That's what this whole season is about, learning how to win."

And that's what the Bulldogs have done. It may not always be pretty, but it's the wins that matter.

"I think the players learned how to win," Richt said. "You learn how to win when you're underdogs, you learn how to win when you should win. Then you start to get to where you feel like you can win every single time. I hope we are beginning to have that kind of belief."

It's Richt's actions that have relayed this message.

Richt inserted quarterback D.J. Shockley for starter David Greene in the second quarter with Georgia trailing 7-3. Shockley scrambled for a nice gain, but fumbled at the end of the play. FSU recovered, and it looked like the 'Noles were ready to roll.

Would the Dawgs fail in a heavily favored role? Not today. Georgia DB Bruce Thorton picked off a Fabian Walker pass and returned it 71 yards for a touchdown and a 10-7 lead.

After the defense held FSU again, Richt continued with his lessons. He stayed with Shockley, who fired a 37-yard touchdown strike to Terrence Edwards on first down.

Now up 10, the Bulldogs regained control. Shockley regained his confidence, and more lessons were learned.

After that, Georgia's defense and powerful running back Musa Smith took control.

"When a defense like ours is playing as good as they are and the kicking game is so solid, it can get kind of boring but winning is fun," Richt said. "This was just one season. This was just one glorious season for us."

What Richt knows from his time at FSU is that "one glorious season" can build into something more. Much more. Bowden's Seminoles have been to 21 consecutive bowl games, and they had 14 consecutive 10-win seasons and won 11 consecutive bowl games from 1985-97.

Other than Bowden's first two years in Tallahassee, the Seminoles have lost more games in the past two years (nine) than during any other two-year stretch since Bowden arrived. If this game was any indication, Georgia just might be primed to take the 'Noles place among the nation's elite.

Georgia's talented defensive end David Pollack thinks this is just the beginning for the Dawgs.

"We really started something special," Pollack said. "It's not gonna be another 20 years (before Georgia gets back to the Sugar Bowl). We passed the bar and knocked the lid off the program."

There is one final bar -- the national championship. That just could be the next step in Richt's lessons on winning.

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