This is the week Georgia’s defense needs to step up

Georgia defensive players tried to psyche themselves up during pregame warmups last year in Jacksonville.  (Bob Andres/AJC)

Georgia defenders tried to psyche themselves up during warm-ups last year but still got rocked.

ATHENS — This isn’t about losses. This is about humiliation.

Losses come by a field goal or a touchdown. Humiliation comes when an opponent regularly rolls up point totals in the 30s and 40s and is so comfortably ahead so early that the opposing quarterback is waving a towel and leading cheers in the third quarter.

The problem with the Georgia-Florida “rivalry” is that scores like 45-13, 52-17 and 49-10 don’t scream rivalry — they just scream, like the creepy Edvard Munch painting of the same name. That pale-looking creature with his hands on his face and his mouth hanging open resembles the average Bulldogs fan traveling home from Jacksonville.

The Bulldogs have a chance to change that this week. They go into the Florida game with the better quarterback, the better running attack and certainly the better recent results. But Saturday may be less about Aaron Murray, Washaun Ealey and the contrasting directions of the Dogs (three-game winning streak) and Gators (three-game losing streak) than it is about this: defense.

This Dogs fan just came from the last Georgia-Florida game.

This guy just came from the last Georgia-Florida game.

Florida has won the last two meetings by scores of 49-10 and 41-17. They have won 17 of the last 20 meetings, scoring 30 or more points 12 times, 40 or more six times and 50-plus twice. In only three of the last 20 meetings has the Georgia defense held Florida under 20.

During and since the Dogs’ four-game slide, coach Mark Richt has stressed the need for his team to be more aggressive and physical. He brought in defensive coordinator Todd Grantham in part to help that cause. Too often under Willie Martinez, Georgia was too easy to play against.

If the Bulldogs truly want to end the humiliation, it starts on defense.

They’ll never have a better chance. Urban Meyer doesn’t have Tim Tebow any more, and his offense has tumbled to 89th in the nation. The Gators are looking up to Kansas, Louisiana-Lafayette and Eastern Michigan.

Mark Richt hopes Todd Grantham has the right plan this year.

Mark Richt hopes Todd Grantham has the right plan this year.

Mississippi State held Florida to seven points. That’s 34 less than Georgia held it to last year.

Cornerback Sanders Commings said of that 41-17 loss, “It was sickening, really.”

His lingering memory from the last meeting wasn’t a Florida touchdown but Tebow leading the Gators fans in cheers.

“He was running up and down the sideline, pumping the fans up after they got a big lead on us,” he said. “It was like the third quarter and they were already celebrating.”

Most of Grantham’s background is in the NFL but he was aware enough about Georgia-Florida history to bring it up to players when he arrived in Athens.

“He brought up Florida even before we had played our first game,” Commings said. “He brought up Florida at our first meeting back in the summer.”

What did he say?

“It was, ‘If you want to kick Florida’s [rear], you better start working now.’”

The Dogs were run on by South Carolina (189 rushing yards) and passed on by Arkansas (380 yards). They allowed 11 touchdowns in the losses to Arkansas, Mississippi State and Colorado.

The defense has improved since. What we can’t know is to what degree Tennessee’s and Vanderbilt’s ineptitude impacted the lopsided wins of 41-14 and 43-0. Some concern returned last week when Kentucky converted nine of 15 third-down situations and rolled up four touchdowns and 353 passing yards.

When asked about Florida’s struggles, Richt wouldn’t bite. Allowing 90 points in two meetings would make any coach gun shy. He even called Florida a “great football team,” words not being spoken these days in Gainesville.

“Florida has won the East I don’t know how many years in a row,” he said.

Actually only two, Mark. It just seems longer.

Richt again: “They’re still a team that controls their own destiny. There’s no doubt we need to step it up [defensively]. The bottom line is we need to continue to improve.  The last three weeks our goal has been to play better, to play more physical and practice more physical.”

This is the week to show it.

Previous two Georgia-Florida posts

Dogs’ key to beating Gators: QB, defense or something else?

Early Georgia-Florida primer (and why Meyer is catching heat)

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

227 comments Add your comment

The Wild Dawg

October 26th, 2010
4:28 pm

Time to put up or shut up, Dawgs!

5150 P.O.A.D

October 26th, 2010
4:36 pm

Meltdown time in JAX.

GaGator

October 26th, 2010
4:36 pm

Don’t bet against a winning streak.

Even though the Las Vegas oddsmakers say Georgia is a 3-point favorite against Florida this weekend, there are more than a few things working in the Gators’ favor.

The most obvious one is how they’ve dominated this rivalry. Florida has won 17 of the last 20 meetings.

But Florida coach Urban Meyer has a few things working in his favor, too.

The Gators are coming off a bye, and Meyer is 31-3 (.912) in his career when having more than a week to prepare for a game, and that includes a 16-1 record at Florida.

Also, he’s 16-1 against Florida’s traditional rivals (Florida State, Georgia, Miami and Tennessee) with eight consecutive wins. His only loss came to Georgia in 2007 when the Bulldogs won 42-30.

Old School

October 26th, 2010
4:39 pm

The week off will help the Gators and surely Urban will add a few wrinkles this Saturday. Should be one of the better (or at least more competitive) games in recent years but maybe a lower scoring game than some think. Dawgs 20 – Gators 16

5150 P.O.A.D

October 26th, 2010
4:44 pm

Is Bobo getting any sleep this week? Between all the children at home and all the Gator players images running through his mind I doubt he is gettin much sleep.

SECWasteManagement

October 26th, 2010
4:45 pm

Dawgs put down a sh*t stomp of 35-10 with Florida getting that “one big play” out the backfield that Meyer wants and a before the half field goal. Florida’s motto on Saturday…”Bend over and grab the ankles!”

SECWasteManagement

October 26th, 2010
4:46 pm

*field goal before the half*.

Jeff

October 26th, 2010
4:46 pm

hey Jeff….Understand this is of late but seems like the shoes has been on the other foot before…actually more times than 3-17…..understand this needs to change NOW but really think its time for the ajc so called sportswriters to quit blasting and talking like UF has always owned this series…funny….as many as UF has won “lately” and UGA still owns the series by double digets….tell me who has “OWNED” who?

dawgfan

October 26th, 2010
4:47 pm

Too many missed tackles against Kentucky for my liking. Fortunately Florida sucks something awful. Some think they are just going to turn on some switch because they are Florida. Not happening. We’re 8 weeks in to the season. If they haven’t found an offense by now its probably because it is freaking there.

Athens Mike

October 26th, 2010
4:47 pm

Lets hope they do show it.

I was on the sideline in ‘07 and it felt like the dogs had it from the beginning. 08 and 09 felt very different. If they come out strong and stay strong they can finally overcome some mental hurdles.

5150 P.O.A.D

October 26th, 2010
4:57 pm

SECWasteManagement
How do you know Nicki Meyer? She is a sweet young lady. She plays Volleyball at Tech. How do you know she is of questionable character

dean

October 26th, 2010
4:59 pm

If our very good rook QB can get through the 1st quarter without anything disastrous happening I think we have the game sewed up.

If #2 plays for FL he cannot be allowed to run wild.

Dawgs

October 26th, 2010
4:59 pm

We own Florida!

Honolulu Dawg

October 26th, 2010
5:01 pm

I’m tired of all the hype of this game every year. Let’s just do the d@mn thing and beat the Gators.

SOUTHGADAWG88

October 26th, 2010
5:03 pm

Their defense has held us in check in the majority of games.We turned the ball over and struggled to score in most games.That’s the biggest factor in the Gators edged over Richt.

The kids playing now don’t care about what happened 5 years ago…if we win sat the series will be at 2-2 over last 4.There is no mental block with the current bunch.The seniors and RS JR have already won in Jax.

SouthGaDawg

October 26th, 2010
5:03 pm

@GoGator

Nice cut and paste from Chris Lowe’s article on ESPN. If you couldn’t come up with your own original idea, you should have at least attributed your “post” to its source.

Regardless, Florida is going to get a beat-down this weekend by UGA. UGA is absolutely humming on offense, and two weeks of practice by UF isn’t going to make a bit of defense. The sheer fact of the matter is that Florida doesn’t have enough playmakers, and neither Brantley or Burton can properly run their offense.

Finally, Georgia is hungary for a big win over Florida. They smell blood in the water, and after the stunts UF has pulled the past two years, Urban Crier and his reptiles better hold on. You know what they say…payback is he l l…

Bull

October 26th, 2010
5:04 pm

Jeff Schultz should know a few things about public humiliation. He’s about the journalistic equivalent of a Jersey Shore cast member

5150 P.O.A.D

October 26th, 2010
5:04 pm

Dawgs
You sure haven’t been collecting many taxes from Florida in the last 20 years.

Dawggie

October 26th, 2010
5:04 pm

This is ALSO the week that Georgia Tech “fans” vicariously live through the Florida Gators most years.

Tech “fans” would give ANYTHING to have a run against us like Florida is having….. but until they drop that “Heisman Candidate” QB with his incredible throwing arm, and that “Genious” fish-fry lovin’ coach….. Tech “fans” wil have to get used to being the Thursday Night JV team of the State of Georgia.

THWGT

tdawg8

October 26th, 2010
5:06 pm

Until I see Georgia with more poinys on that scoreboard than Florida, I’m not saying a word. Had the better team in 02. Lost. Better team in 03, and 04. Lost. So forgive me if I’m not the most optomistic Dawg out there.

rincon dawg

October 26th, 2010
5:06 pm

Im not gonna talk smack and neither should any uga fan until we prove we can beat them. CMR is 2-7 against the team down south. He needs this win more than any he has ever needed. Im sure he will be praying alot this week. Good luck coach and go dawgs.

5150 P.O.A.D

October 26th, 2010
5:06 pm

Uga VIII may smell blood in the water but Big Bad Bruce can’t swim. That fat dawg will sink like a rock.

tdawg8

October 26th, 2010
5:09 pm

Very well said, rincon dawg.

5150 P.O.A.D

October 26th, 2010
5:09 pm

Dawggie
You better ease upon the Thursday night JV game crap. The SEC has a huge contract with ESPN and you can bet UGA will be playing on Thursday Nights too. Wait UGA has been playing a lot of pee wee league games this year. you know those noon kickoff on ESPN3.com.

Paddy

October 26th, 2010
5:10 pm

5150P>O>A>D> I agree that Fla will melt down this weekend. That melt down though is almost complete before we get there. I am with you 5150…Go Dawgs!!!

Moonlight Mile

October 26th, 2010
5:10 pm

Totally agree. Defense is the key. UGA offense will score some points on Saturday.

kevin

October 26th, 2010
5:15 pm

Tdawg8,

I am with you–until I see it, I am not talking trash. UGA has had 4 losses under Richt when UGA had the better team.

rincon dawg

October 26th, 2010
5:18 pm

All I know is when John Cooper coached Ohio State he was 2-10 against Michigan but had a great overall record but it cost him his job. Coach knows he better step it up this year.

Dawggie

October 26th, 2010
5:18 pm

A couple examples of Tech “fans” being hypocritical:

IF UGA beats UF this weekend, Tech “fans” will still be on our blogs next week saying things to the effect of “Florida still owns you” or “That’s only 4 wins in the last 21 years against Florida, you thugs still suck!”…… But when Tech beat UGA for the first time in 8 years back in 2008, they apparently “OWNED” us……

Also, when we make fun of Tech for playing Thursday nights (LOL), they claim it’s GREAT National exposure, and they wouldn’t have it any other way. But you watch, if UGA is chosen to play a Thursday night game (and after our record this year, yes, it’s possible), they will point and laugh at us as if it were a disgrace and a punishment.

Hate runs thick between UGA and Tech….. Jealousy only runs thick at Tech.

Urban Meyer

October 26th, 2010
5:24 pm

I will have my team ready and we will do what we always do to UGA——Stomp the dog mess out of them. Mark Richt is my little bitch. He knows it and so does the entire country. Our season may not be the best so far but there is no doubt in my mind that we will totally dominate UGA as usual. Take a look at the record and you know I am right.

wxwax

October 26th, 2010
5:30 pm

I still don’t trust the defense. But the Dogs have a keeper in Aaron Murray.

And man oh man would I love to see four losses pinned on Urban Meyer, the man who says he doesn’t call a bad play (I still can’t his arrogance in saying that, this week.)

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sean Womble and Dean Tonning, Jeff Schultz. Jeff Schultz said: This is the week Georgia’s defense needs to step up http://bit.ly/cn1atB [...]

Norm's Panties in a KNOT

October 26th, 2010
5:33 pm

Is that a painting of Richt after last years game standing on a bridge on I-95 getting ready to jump?

5150 P.O.A.D

October 26th, 2010
5:34 pm

I never played football but I consider myself an expert…

Old Dawg

October 26th, 2010
5:34 pm

Just win, baby, win!

SatillaDawg

October 26th, 2010
5:36 pm

Go Dawgs!

Kick Gators!

perk

October 26th, 2010
5:36 pm

this is the one year I have no idea what will happen. You know that Meyer will have them fired up and beaming with confidence against us. We need to hit ‘em in the mouth 1st – just like spikes hit Moreno a couple of years ago.

Bulldog Win For Sure

October 26th, 2010
5:38 pm

5150 P.O.A.D

October 26th, 2010
5:38 pm

Dawggie
You are right we will laugh when UGA plays on a Thursday night because you have been spewing that crap for years. We will also be laughing at the few fans in Sanford. Dawgs will have to leave for the game at 2 pm to get to Athens in the 316 traffic. A Thursday Night game in Athens may be the Soberest Fans ever to attend a UGA game.

Jeff Schultz

October 26th, 2010
5:38 pm

Jeff — Pretty sure people know the context of Florida owning Georgia. Much like people were of context of Georgia owning Georgia Tech (wasn’t the case decades earlier).

Jeff Schultz

October 26th, 2010
5:39 pm

Bull — So you’re telling me you watch Jersey Shore? Guess that’s all we need to know.

Jeff Schultz

October 26th, 2010
5:42 pm

To the guy posting as P.O.A.D. who’s not really P.O.A.D. — You’re close to getting banned. Stop please.

Mike T.

October 26th, 2010
5:43 pm

Yeah, Urban’s had an extra week to get ready,but Richt ,Grantham and Bobo need to keep on their necks, that the team that wants it the most will win it. Georgia needs to go down there fired up, in recent years, it has ben apparent that Florida was much more ready to play than the Dawgs were.

Vain Jangling

October 26th, 2010
5:44 pm

Congratulations! Careful research back to the time of Grantland Rice and Red Smith confirms that you’re the very first sportswriter to reference Edvard Munch in a column! History has indeed been made! What’s next; recommending Bobby Petrino as the lead in Moliere’s The Misanthrope? And you’re right about the Dawg D. Individually, there’s been some good efforts. Overall, however, it’s been really disappointing. Grantham gets a get-out-of-the-doghouse free card this year, but that was KENTUCKY

Whopper Dawg

October 26th, 2010
5:45 pm

Sometimes, results can be miss leading. Fla has lost some very close ball games to some good teams. GA has beaten some bad teams badly and had KY basically give them a ballgame they almost blew.

FLA corrects all the misconceptions on Saturday and breaks my heart once again. FLA by 10 at least.

Vain Jangling

October 26th, 2010
5:45 pm

that is . . . that was KENTUCKY hanging up those big numbers last week.

rincon dawg

October 26th, 2010
5:45 pm

Im just tired of CMR getting outcoached every year. He needs this one bad!!!!!!!!! So do the players and the program and the fans. Go dogs.

Mike T.

October 26th, 2010
5:45 pm

Take a look at the record and you know I am right.

The record 47-39-2 Georgia.

Goooooooo GEORGIA BULLDOGS!

5150 P.O.A.D

October 26th, 2010
5:45 pm

Fake POAD you never played football? Too bad it is such a fun sport. Summer Workouts and Practices sucked but it was still fun to play. Fake poad you really sould hug and cuddle with your mom she will not be around forever. My mon is finally finishing her chemo in the next 3 weeks. We hope she will enjoy Christmas and Thanksgiving. I spend Saturdays with my dad at the Tech games and Sunday with he and mom at church and all afternoon.

SatillaDawg

October 26th, 2010
5:48 pm

Georgia vs Florida since the series began in 1904:

Georgia leads 47-39-2

Georgia leads 40-37-1 in Jacksonville

Go DAWGS! Sic ‘Em! WOOF, WOOF, WOOF!