Dogs’ defense comes through again to clinch SEC East

Losing Isaiah Crowell made life difficult for Mike Bobo Saturday. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Losing Isaiah Crowell made life difficult for Mike Bobo Saturday. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

You can make a pretty convincing case that Georgia won the 2011 SEC East Championship in large part because of the terrific turnaround in its defense this season.

Certainly, on a day when the Dogs’ offense was again missing its top two running backs, its offensive line regressed and its quarterback at times looked like he was throwing with his eyes closed, the defense was definitely the difference in clinching the division title against Kentucky.

Time after time Saturday against Big Blue Georgia’s sputtering offense put the ball game in the defense’s hands, and that proved to be the difference, as Todd Grantham’s troops held the Wildcats to just 165 yards of offense, almost completely shutting them down in the scoreless third quarter. The Cats didn’t get a second-half first down until late in the fourth quarter.

Georgia may not have gotten many style points, at least offensively, in a game where most of their scoring came on field goals, but at the end of the day it was enough, and the Dogs are on their way to the conference championship game for the fourth time in the Mark Richt era.

Now, admittedly, Mike Bobo was dealt a pretty lousy hand when Isaiah Crowell went out for the game with a banged up ankle. With chief backup Carlton Thomas also unavailable, third-stringer Brandon Harton (with an assist from fourth-stringer Ken Malcome) had to step into the fray, and he discovered quickly that even a mediocre SEC defense like Kentucky’s is a whole lot more challenging than New Mexico State. Both Harton and Malcome coughed up the ball to derail Georgia drives.

Unfortunately, it didn’t help matters that when Crowell went to the locker room in the first half Bobo’s playbook also appeared to have gone missing, resulting in one of the more predictable (and least successful) halves the UGA offensive coordinator has had in a while. The low point came at the end of the first quarter and start of the second when three straight runs by Harton were stuffed thanks to the OL letting themselves be dominated.

But the defense persevered (in spite of at least one ridiculously blown call by the officials), and eventually, Bobo started getting a little more creative in getting Harton to the outside (hello, toss sweep!) and the tiny back finally got his 100-yard game as a Bulldog.

And Aaron Murray, who was wildly off-target at times and had a middling day overall throwing the ball, did make a really nice play when he stepped up into the pocket before finding Marlon Brown open in the back of the end zone to open the fourth quarter with Georgia’s lone touchdown.

Still, it was the shutting down of the Kentucky offense in the second half and the turnovers forced by Dog defenders that won the day for Georgia.

They’re not all going to be pretty in a nine-game winning streak, but when a team that started out 0-2 earns its way to the Dec. 3 game at the Georgia Dome, that doesn’t matter a whole lot.

This has turned into a surprisingly good season for the Dogs. They have three games left in which they have the chance to make it a great season that might be talked about for the ages.

One step at a time, though. The SEC can wait a week. First, Georgia needs to focus on the Jackets.

Feel free to share your views on Georgia’s win over Kentucky for the SEC East title.

Go Dogs!

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

440 comments Add your comment

jack bull

November 19th, 2011
5:50 pm

a win is a win…i’ll take it…..BUT, do we really want 2 more years of A Murray?????

SatillaDawg

November 19th, 2011
5:53 pm

How ‘Bout Them Dawgs!

It was a frustrating nail biter at times, but at least it’s a win…

Hats off to Harton, who was impressive, except for the fumbles. Look out, Crowell….Harton hits the line better than you! Kudos to Jarvis Jones, Baccari Rambo and Marlon Brown.

Walsh looked more confident. Murray was off, but hung in there. Russ is a DGD.

Shout out to UK’s Trevathan, who was a tackling animal.

Congrats DAWGS! SEC East Division Champs!

On to Atlanta!

Finchdawg

November 19th, 2011
5:54 pm

Being in the SEC Championship won’t mean a whole lot if we’re not State Champs first. Get zoned in on the Jackets, Dawgs! Good luck!

Andy Bedingfield

November 19th, 2011
5:54 pm

I absolutely want 2 more years of Aaron Murray. He’s a great quarterback. I believe in him. And Hutson Mason is probably as good as he is anyway.

Chris

November 19th, 2011
5:55 pm

Do we really want any more years of Bobo?

jack bull

November 19th, 2011
5:57 pm

Bill, you and I both know that Bobo still has to TRY to establish the run, and that’s what he was trying to do.. Now, that 3rd and10 call clearly shows me he has very little confidence in Murray…

We’re going to have score more than 20 points to beat Tech..They’ll puts points on the board, even against our D. Let’s hope we score some points. We’re only as good as our QB, which is UP and DOWN..

Still@theKool-aidBAR

November 19th, 2011
6:00 pm

I don’t care who you are but this is funny from Chip Towers Blog

Crowell
November 19th, 2011
4:37 pm

Bong tokes in my room at 8pm. For Thomas’ baby and I forgot the SEC LEAST title. I almost forgot we played a game today. Well, I didn’t play but there was a Game and UGA won. Bong Tokes for everybody.

Michael

November 19th, 2011
6:00 pm

How could someone possibly ask if we want Aaron Murray or not?

28 touchdown passes, and counting. Great leader. Gritty runner. Tough. Talented. Sure, he’s still making a lot of youthful mistakes…but you’ve got to be kidding me, jack bull.

People say the most ignorant stuff sometimes. We’re heading to Atlanta in two weeks. I’ll take that every year

Harry Dawg

November 19th, 2011
6:01 pm

If Bobo is going to stay, which seems likely, he really better step up his coaching and game planning.

PDawg

November 19th, 2011
6:02 pm

Murray was terrible and we need to find a replacement

A QB who was as constantly bad as he was all day needs to be replaced

If Mason isn’t good enough, let LeMay or Nick Marshall step in there

By the 3rd quarter, I was ready to see Orson Charles run the wildcat (Murray would not throw it to him and he was wide open on almost every play)

seemed like Murray was locked on to #12 all day long and he couldn’t even get it to him

BoBo has got to go! He was awful today also. #11 and Bobo definitely had money on today’s game – they could not have been that bad, only if it was on purpose

What was the over and under on today’s game?

jack bull

November 19th, 2011
6:02 pm

A few things I just don’t see us do any more, throw to the fullback out of the back field, or throw to the tight-end down the middle of the field…I know why we don’t, and it’s kinda sad actually…

wins-by-a-link

November 19th, 2011
6:03 pm

Defense saved the day, Offensive line should have been required to buy tickets since they stood around and watched most of the game, Murray looked like he did the first two games and Bobo called a very poor game, If they play like this in Atlanta they will lose their next two games. Running back situation has become critical, Lets hope Crowell will return for Tech.

CHDawg

November 19th, 2011
6:04 pm

Perfectly accurate, Bill. Even though I wish it wasn’t. D played fantastic. However, with Clemson being blown out by NC State, and Ok St. losing to I St., we need to remember we will have flat games occasionally. GT’s D is probably tougher than KY’s, so we have to do better on offense. If they won’t play Malcome, then so be it. But, don’t run a 160# back up the middle without holes. Maybe screens, reverses, passes, some other way to get our little playmakers in space. Adjustments on O have never been our strength recently. But big congrats to all the Dawgs and staff. Go Dawgs.

Cohutta Dawgman

November 19th, 2011
6:05 pm

Are we going to have any running backs for Yeck? GO DAWGS!!!!! SEC East Chanps!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Still@theKool-aidBAR

November 19th, 2011
6:05 pm

But MURRAY is preseason All SEC. He is a Heisman candidate next year for sure. I mean he has beat How Many teams with Winning records in 2 years now? Pressure kills Alice Murray instead making her a Diamond.

beanster

November 19th, 2011
6:06 pm

Murray haters : Please point out one instance of bad play on his part today. I just don’t see what you see, apparently. The INT really wasn’t his fault. Any others?

jack bull

November 19th, 2011
6:06 pm

Michael, I beg to differ. If you think A Murray is the man, I’m just not sure what games your watching, my friend…He has the ‘deer in the headlight look’ at all times… I never saw D Greene, DJ Shockley, M Stafford having to look over to the sideline to get his plays.

And we’ve totally abandoned the screen pass and down the seam to the tight-end, which were staples of our offense, because of Murray..It’s really simple to see that..

roughrider

November 19th, 2011
6:07 pm

CTG needs a raise for saving CMR’s job todeay.

Vampire Bill

November 19th, 2011
6:11 pm

Ugly win but I’ll take it. Love the D, Murray just can’t throw the long ball. Feel bad for Boo but thankful for Harton. Walsh is back. Next is the hated bugs.

jack bull

November 19th, 2011
6:13 pm

Murray was way off today, beanster. don’t be naive. and he single handidly lost us the SC game. it’s not that i hate the kid, just not as impressed as many around here.

beanster

November 19th, 2011
6:13 pm

jack bull — he threw to Orson a few times today. He missed him a few times too when he was open but it’s not like he hasn’t looked his direction. A White got a catch today too. Also, why run the screen when you have no fear of the opposing team’s ability to bring pressure? If UK had a blitz that was something to worry about I could see why a screen would make sense but I never saw an opportunity today for that play.

Old65DAWG

November 19th, 2011
6:16 pm

If Bobo goes, make sure he takes Crowell and Thomas with him.

TXDAWG3

November 19th, 2011
6:16 pm

It’s really enlightening to read all of the collective wisdom of those whose resumes are being sought out to replace the offensive coaching staff at UGA. Just how much do you really believe they are willing to pay you?

Hairy one

November 19th, 2011
6:16 pm

Ok fans, so where is the problem on O? Bobo, Murray, RB, line, all of the above.

Hairy one

November 19th, 2011
6:18 pm

anybody here how bad Tyson is hurt?

Hairy one

November 19th, 2011
6:18 pm

Thomas violated team rules, but wasn’t suspended according to sources.

jack bull

November 19th, 2011
6:20 pm

i guess we just look at it differently. i saw Murray being pressured quite a bit today…and yes, he hit Charles a few times, on crossing routes, not the 25 yarder down the seam that we use to do.. He throws a nice ‘out pattern’, I’ll give him that. but i still think his height hinders him on some throws..that’s all…and when we sputter, like we did today, i’m all for giving Mason a series or two to see what happens..

Good win today!

Hairy one

November 19th, 2011
6:21 pm

We are down to one back who was offered a scholly out of HS, and he is the backup to the 105 pound walk-on. Surely some talented RB from HS is going to see the opportunity.

Phillip

November 19th, 2011
6:21 pm

I’d take our defense to war any day. The defense is ready to win a title. The offense needs to click in the title game if we want to win it. Our defense however can stop LSU or anything they have to offer. Trust me on that one.

Hairy one

November 19th, 2011
6:23 pm

You gotta love Harton, but he makes Demps and Rainey look like big SEC power backs

Still@theKool-aidBAR

November 19th, 2011
6:23 pm

Hairy…………the opportunity to major in Magazines and play some football at the White Girls College of Georgia.

Chip

November 19th, 2011
6:23 pm

Murray is our QB…He is maturing and doing a great job. The few mistakes he made today could be attributed to missed routes in the face of a rush. That is what I watched. The defense was solid which is what you need when the the offense has a bad day. I have to admit I am a Bobo hater and think he has to trust more in the tools he has at his disposal than he has in the past. It is a big “W’…that is all that counts. On to Tech and then after that…lets enjoy some Sugar and get the win.

Phillip

November 19th, 2011
6:24 pm

Personally, I am very impressed with Murray. He’s the best QB in the SEC…hands down. He doesn’t even have a star receiver to work with…yet. I think we need a big RB to sign with us in this recruiting class. Maybe a JUCO or something. About 6′1, and about 220. We need a big’un because Crowell gets hurt too often, Thomas isn’t big enough, Harton is a pip squeak…etc. We need a big body in there.

If Samuel can come back for the SECCG that would be perfect. He’s 6′2, about 240 and can work that LSU defense. I just don’t think Crowell will be able to handle that LSU defense on his own. We need a big back to truck it through. I hate that Samuel got hurt on the last play of the FL game.

Hairy one

November 19th, 2011
6:25 pm

Maybe our OC should watch Petrino operate…just the play calling though.

Phillip

November 19th, 2011
6:27 pm

People need to lay off the fact we beat Kentucky 19-10…ever occur to you that Kentucky came to play? They were fighting for something too, a bowl game. They have a team too. They did come to play but we shut them down in the 2nd half. Us going to the title game didn’t rest on whether we beat them by 50 or not. We’re going beating them 19-10 as we would have beating them 55-0. Either way, we won, and we’re going to the title game….people need to get off Murray. I didn’t hear all this last week when he ripped Auburn to shreds…Geesh you people are so two faced.

Hairy one

November 19th, 2011
6:27 pm

Phillip, I agree completely. Look at LSU and Bama–big strong backs. The SEC has changed. To run between the tackles on superb Ds, you almost have to have a build like T. Richardson.

roc5542

November 19th, 2011
6:29 pm

great win’ they all can not be pretty. I really hope we bring our best for the next two games. Defense wins Championships and that was proven today. As for our Offense, we need multiple game plans especially if our top rusher can not return. Curious to know exactly what’s wrong with his ankle, just hope he gets a speedy recovery because we will need him. And I just read that Carlton Thomas was suspeneded for this game, if that’s true. He doesn’t believe in second chances and his ass needs to stay home. Hopefully am wrong.
go Dawgs.

Hairy one

November 19th, 2011
6:29 pm

Phillip, second message. Call like it is: D did great. O did pretty poorly today. With a D that is ranked lower than Tech’s D in total D, you have to be concerned. Was it play calling?

Bill

November 19th, 2011
6:30 pm

What a bunch of idiots!!!!! A walk-on (For stupid people, that is a player no university offered a scholarship) gained a hundred yards and UGA has won 9 (N-I-N-E) straight games. Football is a TEAM game; all parts of the team work together to achieve the ultimate goal: A WIN. Now would be a good time for you morons to congratulate the TEAM! The UGA TEAM (players and coaches) remind me of US Marines; they adapt and overcome. I salute them.

Still@theKool-aidBAR

November 19th, 2011
6:30 pm

But CROWELL is the next Herschel Walker!

Phillip

November 19th, 2011
6:30 pm

Like I said, our defense is ready. You cannot run on them…and you may pass on them for a while but CTG will make adjustments and shut you down in the 2nd half. LSU does not have an elite passing attack. They rely on the running game which we rank top 5 in the country against. I think we can take them. It’ll be tough as heck, and it’ll take our best effort of the season, but we CAN do it.

I think our defense is ready. Beyond ready. It’s the O-line that I’m worried about vs. LSU. We cannot get whipped vs. those guys or we will not win. Our O-line will need to play big boy football like they did vs. Auburn if we want to have a chance. Hopefully Samuel can return and give us that big physical back that we lack. I think we can take them.

B RED E

November 19th, 2011
6:30 pm

Good to see Blair Walsh kicking those 39 yarders right down the pipe. I hope he has got it back. Sure looked like it today. It was defense and special teams that won this one for us. that is okay by me. I will take this win and SEC East. Now Dawgs GATA on GT

Still@theKool-aidBAR

November 19th, 2011
6:31 pm

Herschel Walker or Bo Derek? I bet he looks good running down the beach with beads in his Dreads.

Hairy one

November 19th, 2011
6:31 pm

Didn’t play for team rules violation, but not suspended is what I heard.

jack bull crazy

November 19th, 2011
6:31 pm

jack bull,

I would like to assume that you are just trying to get a rise out of people (like me), but I’m worried you might be seriously believing in the comments you are making.

Do you know why Murray looks to the sideline for the plays? Care to venture a guess? Maybe because we run a NO HUDDLE OFFENSE for the first time this year. He looks to the sideline for plays at the line of scrimmage instead of at the huddle (which the other QB’s you mention did), but they all looked to the sideline for plays! Did you think Greene, Shockley, and Stafford called their own plays or something? And you don’t remember seeing us throw a TOUCHDOWN to the fullback out of the backfield last weekend against Auburn? Do you have amnesia? The only thing I can agree with is that Murray is one of the worst screen passers I have ever seen, but I’ll take all of the positive attributes he has in a QB any day. He didn’t have a great day (with his top 3 RB’s out) but he lead us to a win and that’s all we really want anyway.

Chip

November 19th, 2011
6:31 pm

@Phillip…I agree. The key against LSU will be if Samuel is healthy or not. He is a beast of a running back and makes Crowell look even better than he is when Samuel is blocking. Sad that he was injured on a play that meant nothing in the long run of things.

1st place DAWG

November 19th, 2011
6:32 pm

We win pretty and we win ugly but the common denominator is we win. Just take the freakin win and move on. Each game is different and plays out different. GO DAWGS!

Phillip

November 19th, 2011
6:33 pm

Hairy one…our defense is ranked #4 in the country in total defense. Behind only LSU, Alabama, and Michigan State. Tech’s D is awful. Duke hung 31 on em. Don’t know where you got that from.

THE REAL PHIL

November 19th, 2011
6:34 pm

Quoting jack bull “I never saw D Greene, DJ Shockley, M Stafford having to look over to the sideline to get his plays.” Really???? You say that like it has something, ANYTHING to do with the QB? You wouldn’t know a football from a flying saucer. Just go away.

Phillip

November 19th, 2011
6:35 pm

Hey, to all you GT haters on here…North Carolina State is beating the stuffing out of Clemson 37-6. Tarnishes your win doesn’t it? hahahahaha…just giving you a taste of your own medicine.