Monday May 30th, 2016 2:43PM

Richt won't blame leaky defense for Dogs' troubles

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA -- A day after a numbing loss, Mark Richt wouldn't blame Georgia's troubled defense for what happened against Auburn.

After the 43-38 loss to the Tigers, Georgia has allowed at least 30 points seven times this season, and more than 40 in three games.

Georgia led 38-37 after Aaron Murray led three fourth-quarter touchdown drives. Then Auburn's Ricardo Louis made a 73-yard touchdown catch with 25 seconds remaining.

The long fourth-down pass from Nick Marshall was deflected by Georgia safety Josh Harvey-Clemons. Safety Tray Matthews also tried to make the grab when simply batting the pass down would have preserved the Bulldogs' win.

Richt was asked on Sunday about his satisfaction with the defensive staff. Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is in his fifth season.

"Well, here's what I say," Richt said. "I say we're a team here at Georgia and we're going to keep coaching and keep trying to make improvements and corrections on everything we do in all phases of the game."

Asked again about the defense, Richt tried to keep the focus on the team.

"The bottom line is at Georgia we're a team and we win together and we lose together and we're always watching film after every game to make sure we make corrections on offense, defense and special teams," he said.

The loss knocked Georgia (6-4, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) out of the Top 25 and SEC's Eastern Division race. Georgia plays Kentucky on Saturday night.

Georgia lost to Auburn despite a memorable effort by Murray, the senior quarterback. Murray completed 33 of 49 passes for 415 yards. He ran for two touchdowns, including the go-ahead 5-yard scoring run with 1:49 remaining, and threw two touchdown passes in the final 9:35.

Auburn's game-winning drive left the Georgia sideline stunned. Some players and coaches fell to the ground after the catch by Louis.

"It's like a nightmare," Murray said. "You try to wake up, and we are celebrating victory. It's tough. This is going to be a tough one to get over."

Richt said he was comfortable with the defensive scheme on the last touchdown by Auburn.

"We never would have dreamed that what happened would happen," Richt said. "I'm very comfortable with the call we made ... when it was called. Even looking back it was the right thing to do. We just didn't execute it properly."

Richt said Georgia's defense played well in the fourth quarter, making stops that allowed the comeback from the 37-17 deficit in the fourth quarter.

"Really the team as a whole played really well in the fourth quarter," he said. "Really minus the one miracle play at the end, our team played really well."

Georgia's loss was good news for South Carolina's hopes of catching Missouri in the East. The end of the Georgia-Auburn game was shown on South Carolina's Williams-Brice Stadium video board even after the start of the Gamecocks' 19-14 win over Florida.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who was seen watching the video board during breaks, tossed a compliment to Murray on Sunday.

"Obviously we're glad it happened," Spurrier said of Georgia's loss. "But I will say Aaron Murray is one of the best passers to ever play in the SEC."

This week's visit from Kentucky, which lost 22-6 to Vanderbilt on Saturday, will be the final home game for Murray and other seniors. Georgia also still can play for state bragging rights when it plays at Georgia Tech on Nov. 30.

But first the Bulldogs must recover from the shocking loss.

"We need to be able to bounce back," Richt said. "Kentucky had a tough loss, too, so both teams will have to shake it off and get back ready to compete."

Richt confirmed tight end Jay Rome, who did not play against Auburn, is expected to miss the last two regular-season games with a foot injury. Richt said he did not know if Rome could return for a bowl game.
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