This week was different.
He repeatedly ribbed University of Georgia alum Champ Bailey and all the Broncos’ perennial Pro Bowl cornerback could do was smile back and shake his head.
Georgia (1-3) has dropped three straight Southeast Conference games for the first time since 1993 and is counting on the return of star receiver A.J. Green from a four-game suspension to shake the Bulldogs out of their doldrums tonight at Folsom Field.
Colorado (2-1) is 18-34 under Hawkins, who has yet to post a winning season in Boulder since bolting Boise State in 2006.
“Buffs are going to win this week,” said Graham, who hasn’t attended a game at Folsom Field since leaving at halftime of last year’s season-opening loss to archrival Colorado State. “I’m basing that on attitude, altitude, effort.”
One reason the Buffs will have the emotional edge, Graham predicted, is that the 1990 Colorado team that won the national championship is holding its 20th reunion in conjunction with tonight’s game.
“Bieniemy’s going to say something to fire them up,” Graham said of Eric Bieniemy, the firebrand tailback whose sideline rant at Texas is widely credited with sparking the Buffs’ 10-game winning streak that culminated in the program’s only national title.
Bieniemy, now the running backs coach for the Vikings, gets to attend the game because Minnesota has a bye this weekend.
Although coach Mark Richt is 91-30 at Georgia, he’s feeling the heat from frustrated fans over the Bulldogs’ slow start and off-the-field woes.
After a 24-12 loss at Mississippi State last weekend, freshman linebacker Demetre Baker was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and kicked off the team.
He’s the 10th Georgia player to get arrested this year and the fourth dismissed from the Bulldogs.
Contributing to the Bulldogs’ slow start was the monthlong suspension of Green, Georgia’s top receiver, who was penalized for selling his Independence Bowl jersey for $1,000 to former North Carolina and Marshall player Chris Hawkins. The NCAA ruled Hawkins was deemed to be an agent when it suspended Green.
Green said he has never met or talked with Chris Hawkins. He said he sold the jersey on Facebook because he needed the money for spring break. Green’s suspension stemmed from an investigation of athletes’ alleged improper contact with agents at several SEC and Atlantic Coast Conference schools.
“It was just a painful process,” Green said this week. “I’m not the type of guy who ever got in trouble here or stuff like that. Sometimes I couldn’t sleep just thinking about stuff like that.”
The Bulldogs struggled on offense without Green, a 2009 first-team All-SEC pick. They scored a combined 18 points in road losses at South Carolina and Mississippi State.
“Yeah, I feel that I caused a lot of people pain, because I felt like if I was out there some of the time we really had a chance,” Green said.
Green, a 6-foot-4 junior, had 109 catches for 1,772 yards and 14 touchdowns in his first two seasons. But Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said the Bulldogs can’t count on Green’s return to provide an automatic end to the team’s struggles.
“He’s definitely going to help us. It’s nice having him back. But as a whole we’ve got to step up our game,” Murray said.
Dan Hawkins said the Buffs expect Green’s return to provide a big boost for the Bulldogs.
“I think it will help them a lot, not just physically, but emotionally as well,” he said.
But the Buffs swear they won’t make the mistake of focusing on him to their detriment because Kris Durham, Tavarres King and Logan Gray, among others, all can capitalize on soft coverage.
“We can’t overlook the guys they have been playing the last four weeks and showing they can make plays,” cornerback Jalil Brown cautioned. “We have to concentrate on them as well.”