Should Todd Grantham really ‘feel fine’ about the way Georgia’s defense is playing?

Tennessee receiver Zach Rogers crosses the goal line with Alec Ogletree in tow and Shawn Williams arriving too late to help. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Tennessee receiver Zach Rogers crosses the goal line with Alec Ogletree in tow and Shawn Williams arriving too late to help. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Five games into the season, Georgia’s offense is much better than most of us expected, but Todd Grantham’s defense has yet to live up to its lofty preseason reputation.

Part of that, of course, was having two to four starters suspended during the first four games.

And while the defense was back to full strength against Tennessee, the last two returnees, Alec Ogletree and Bacarri Rambo, were still a bit rusty — Rambo especially when it came to pass coverage.

And, yes, the turnovers committed by the offense and Georgia’s generally poor special teams play put the defense at a disadvantage Saturday, frequently giving the Vols a short field to work with.

So up to a point I understand why Grantham said after the game, “I feel fine about the way we played on defense.”

But I’m hoping he doesn’t really feel fine about it, because even taking those extenuating circumstances into account, Georgia’s D hasn’t looked like the veteran group they are.

The front seven too often has failed to dominate and was, for the most part, stymied by Tennessee’s veteran OL. With Jarvis Jones double-teamed and taken out of the equation much of the game, the inability of the defensive line to put much pressure on Vols QB Tyler Bray made for a long night in the secondary.

Speaking of which, pass coverage has been dicey all season, with too many busted coverages, and it was at its worst against UT. I lost count of how many times Bray was throwing to a wide-open receiver Saturday, though thankfully in a few instances he missed them.

And while the Dawgs had been tough against the run in previous games, they let Tennessee establish a rushing attack that not only opened up its offense, but provided scoring punch. Tackling also was poor throughout the Tennessee game.

The defensive nadir of the season so far came on Cordarrelle Patterson’s rambling 46-yard touchdown run in the third quarter when most of the Georgia defense had a shot at him but looked like they were moving in slow motion.

Unless the Dawgs want to keep having to depend on the offense to win shootouts like Saturday’s, in which the two teams combined for 95 points, 13 touchdowns, 46 first downs and 1,038 yards, the defense is going to have to start playing on a much higher level than we’ve seen so far.

"Gurshall" is Georgia's most dynamic running tandem in a long time. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

"Gurshall" is Georgia's most dynamic running tandem in a long time. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Speaking of the offense, Aaron Murray may have had a couple of lapses Saturday reminiscent of last season, but generally he’s been playing at the top of his game and making good use of a deep and talented receiver corps.

Add to that the young offensive line progressing fairly rapidly, and, most important of all, the addition of an explosive running game with the “Gurshall” tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, and you’ve got record point production. The combination of Gurley’s shifty moves and penchant for breaking tackles and Marshall turning on the afterburners when he reaches the secondary makes for a really potent ground attack.

And then there’s Mike Bobo, who drew praise the previous couple of weeks for his more varied play calling. When Georgia’s offense was clicking against Tennessee, Bobo was at his best, deftly mixing the running and passing games.

But Bobo unfortunately reverted to Mr. Predictable in the fourth quarter when Georgia tried in vain to eat up clock with its ground game and only wound up with one first down the entire quarter. Everyone in the stadium — including, of course, the Tennessee defense — knew who was going to be getting the ball. So the Vols loaded the box and Gurley ended up mostly going nowhere.

That’s when Bobo is at his most frustrating.

The Sanford Stadium crowd did its part Saturday. (Brant Sanderlin /AJC)

The Sanford Stadium crowd did its part Saturday. (Brant Sanderlin /AJC)

A few other quick hits: I’m not sure why it took Mark Richt so long to figure out that Malcolm Mitchell was uncomfortable and indecisive as a punt or kick returner, but thankfully he finally appears to have come to that conclusion. … Murray is not an option quarterback, so let’s hope we don’t see any more plays like the pitch to Mitchell early in the game that wound up losing 10 yards. … The tight ends finally showed up in a big way as receivers, with Arthur Lynch making up for the previous week’s drop by snagging three passes for 75 yards and Jay Rome having a very nice one-handed catch where he went up high for a 21-yarder. … In addition to apparently deciding that offensive holding isn’t something they were going to call, no matter what, the inconsistent officiating crew also missed a facemask call and a horse-collar tackle. … The mostly red-clad crowd showed up early, got loud frequently and stayed until the very end. It was an absolutely electric atmosphere Between the Hedges for the first time in quite a while. … Finally, UT coach Derek Dooley sounded a bit like the Athens boy he was with his postgame assessment of the Dawgs: “We went toe-to-toe with a top 10 team that will be competing for a national championship.”

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196 comments Add your comment

ARdawg

September 30th, 2012
9:28 pm

GO DAWGS!!!!!

AUDAWG

September 30th, 2012
9:29 pm

Defense has the potential, but it’s time they start producing. I thought the days of having to score 50 points to win left with Willie M???

Avery

September 30th, 2012
9:36 pm

Who cares about defense, the UGA offense is averaging more yards per game, and more point sper game, than Cam Newton’s 2010 AUburn offense, just outscore everybody.

Auburn did get key stops in 2010 in the 4th quarter when Nick Fairley went into beastmode, but that was about it for the defense.

As long as the offense is scoring like this, who needs defense?

Avery

September 30th, 2012
9:37 pm

UGA offense is also averagin mroe yards per game rushign than Newton’s 2010 Natl Champs Aub Tigers did.

G

September 30th, 2012
9:42 pm

I thought the defense played better then it showed. Three turnovers and bad special teams play put the defense in some bad spots. I’m more concerned with why Aaron murray can’t hold onto the ball when he gets sacked..

Avery

September 30th, 2012
9:45 pm

Auburn 2010 proved you don’t need a good defense to win the SEC. Yeah, Aub had a good 4th quarter defense, but so does UGA.

And the 2012 UGA offense, is BETTER than the 2010 Auburn team.

Saban’s D had fits trying to stop Auburn in 2010. And they couldn’t. And neither could anyone else.

And no one will stop UGA’s offense in 2012.

Avery

September 30th, 2012
9:49 pm

2010 Auburn defense was 8th in scoring, and 12th in total defense.

2012 UGA defense is 7th in scoring, and 10th in total defense.

2010 Auburn offense scored 41 a game for 500 total yards of offense.

2012 UGA is scorign 48 a game, for 538 total yards of offense.

2012 UGA is BETTER than 2010 Natl Champs Auburn.

SSIgator

September 30th, 2012
9:51 pm

Nice follow-up Bill. It always helps to let some time pass so one can make a realistic evaluation of a game and hopefully critique it objectively. But please, enough about the officiating. There is not some big bad conspiracy against UGA.

Avery

September 30th, 2012
9:52 pm

2010 Natl Champs Auburn held opponents to 3.8 points average in 4th quarter scoring.

2012 UGA has held opponenets to 4.0 points average in 4th quarter scoring.

FaithfulDawg86

September 30th, 2012
9:56 pm

Bill, Exactly when did Murray have these “lapses” you mention? When a tipped pass was interecpted (key word here, tipped) and when he fumbled the ball as a result of an excellent tackle that ripped his arms off the ball (credit TN defender)? Yes, defense could have played better, but I think that was largely a result of the return of Tree and Rambo. Love having them back, but it seemed to throw the timing of the unit off. Glad we got a practice game in before SC. That said, the D needs to play much better against Shaw and Lattimore, or we will lose to SC. I have faith in Grantham to get them ready. You have to admit our offense is playing great, and I don’t understand why Murray is not more front and center in Heisman conversation. His stats are better than any other QB in the SEC and 2nd or 3rd in the country right now. Geno Smith is impressive, but they haven’t played anyone yet, and Murray guides a much more balanced attack…

Macclenny_dawg

September 30th, 2012
9:57 pm

Defense will improve when Grantham sends the blitz. The only thing to stop this offense is Bobo when he turns into conservative mode. Kinda think Grantham has been coservative also afraid he is begining to get some of Richts mindset. No killer instinct. Go Dawgs!!!GTA!!!

C from Marietta

September 30th, 2012
10:05 pm

Correct if I am wrong, but isn’t TN’s offense 2nd in the SEC?
I think TN will give some other teams fits as well.
I did notice the D played big with Herria in the game.
D will come around. TN game has been a torn in special seasons before.
They survived :-)

Avery

September 30th, 2012
10:13 pm

We need the defense to get a little better on 3rd down conversion, and keep hlding teams to under 4 points in the 4th quarter.

That’s it.

Do what Auburn did in 2010.

Daytona Dawg

September 30th, 2012
10:16 pm

All the pieces SEEM to be there…but it’s got to all come together. Under Richt UGA hasn’t been the get-better-and-better-as-the-season-goes-on kind of team. By the third or fourth game they’re usually at their peak. Here’s hoping they get the mojo going…

There’s a lot of talent in a lot of places. When all the cylinders are hitting, this will be a very special team.
Go Dawgs!!

social circle dawg

September 30th, 2012
10:17 pm

SSIgator….he’s on this UGA Blog faster than a north florida redneck cuttin’ off a pair of Wrangler’s…..I know Florida did not play this week and you have no where else to go but…dang….you are pathetic.

AAAAA Athens Bail Bonds R Us

September 30th, 2012
10:27 pm

How many dawgs arrested today?

Port Hobbs

September 30th, 2012
10:29 pm

South Carolina 54, Georgia 24

LogicalUS

September 30th, 2012
10:38 pm

Thank heavens for Coach Bobo.

Tried to tell people but everyone had proclaimed him the savior.

Fridawg

September 30th, 2012
10:43 pm

The defense will be fine. This was game 1 with the full squad. We’ll see more blitzes which will solve the weak pass defense you mention.with the offense reliably putting up points, we have remained vanilla on defense.

IloveDawg

September 30th, 2012
10:54 pm

Agreed USC 54, Georgia 24 I hope youre right Port Holes

Flo-Ri-Duh

September 30th, 2012
11:08 pm

Malcom was noticeably absent from the game – why? He should have been in there to block for Murray on pass plays> It cost UGA when the HB whiffed on the block near UGA’s goal causing Murray to fumble. The defensive line was manhandled on running plays and never got close to sacking Bray. Good to finally see the TE’s get involved in the passing game.

Flo-Ri-Duh

September 30th, 2012
11:13 pm

Tennessee has a much better OL than S.C. to go along with better WR’s and QB. Lattimore is still a powerful runner but seems to not have quite as much speed and quickness. It usually takes 1 1/2 years to fully recover from a serious knee injury. The one vulnerable spot that S.C.’s defense has is it’s DB’s in the passing game. They have not faced a good passing team yet. Georgia MUST avoid turnovers and blunders on special teams to win this game.

Sam

September 30th, 2012
11:18 pm

I got the impression that the option run was a missed handoff and then turned into a pitch.

Grantham's The Man!

September 30th, 2012
11:36 pm

UT’s O-line did a good job,but the Officials did miss many blatant holding calls.

It’s been said before that there’s holding on every play, but when a O- Linemen get’s beat, and then grabs the rusher from behind time after time, it has to be called.

I can’t remember a single one. Atrocious!

How many games will the SEC officials decide this year?

Ogletree and Rambo knocked the rust off. Time for some better communication and continuity.

Dawgs will be ready, Georgia will beat SC, in their house, in their Biggest game ever. Go Dawgs!!!

JRW7

September 30th, 2012
11:41 pm

Someone tell CTG, that the best pass defense is the BLITZ!!!!!

west ga dawg

September 30th, 2012
11:42 pm

Don’t turnover the ball stack the box to stop lattimore and play with passion like you have something to prove….the dawgs are better because we have more weapons!

Dawgern

September 30th, 2012
11:42 pm

Bill, chill out. Tennessee did a good job executing. Grantham is fine. UT is going to be a good team next year, and hats off to the Vols for a good game.

Joey

September 30th, 2012
11:46 pm

Steve Spurrier hit the nail on the head in a comment about Ga’s defense. Georgia’s offense scores so quickly the best way to wear Ga’s defense down is long drives that keep their defense on the field. Thus less time of possession for GA’s offense. Tn had at least a seven minute difference on offense that meant the GA defense was on the field longer. Also does GA work on an offense that is designed to bring the ball away from the one yard line. They have been concerned in the past about the offense scoring in the red zone. What about the other teams red zone? We seemed to do well vs Vandy but showed no ability to do so vs TN. Two other things. Let Marshall and Gurley be themselves instead of them becoming Gurshall and continuing the search for the next Walker which will never exist. Another thing. With Malcome and Samuel and the fullbacks available. Why not have some jumbo package to pound the middle of the line when we have to come out off the goal line. Those two freshmen are fantastic. Do not run either one in the ground. Do you suppose a fresh back would have been great in the fourth quarter or were we still predictable and continue to be in a shell to make a conservative effort to keep the ball moving. I suppose we became predictable with a possibly beat up back. Maybe that is one reason Marshall went the distance. I know he fumbled down close but the point is keep them fresh. There was no reason for Malcomb not to be in their running in the middle to come out off the goal line if that was what they were going to call. Whatever it may take GA needs some way some offense to move the ball off the goalline.

GaDawgsEmOut2012

September 30th, 2012
11:51 pm

Tenn fans saw the vols play the best game they’ll play all yr. That team will upset one of the teams they’ll play down the line. Dawgs special teams must improve though, and I cant beleive m.mitchell was used the way he was… not very effective would like to see him back on defense to defend those big wr’s. hopefully the defense can play better against the run, and find that chemistry we saw against vandy with ”tree” rambo back in the mix. A.ogltree almost made a pick on that tip, just a lil slow. that’ll change soon, good to have the team hitting on almost all cylinders going into this biggest rival of the Dawgs now.

GaDawgsEmOut2012

October 1st, 2012
12:00 am

Joey, i agree to an to disagree. when you have 2rb’s it cuts down on the overall workload for both. remember these are freshman doing this… Both Gurley/Marshal have different skill sets, thats why this duo is sooo lethal, another kid thats a freshman that needs to get the ball more is Jay Rome. Thats kids gonna be very special, he’s huge and physical but has quick feet along with hands that’re a magnet to the pigskin! lots of potential yet to be tapped into, and its time we’ll see more of these youngpups stepup and make a memorable season we havent seen awhile in these parts.

BullDawg Nation is fulltime

October 1st, 2012
12:11 am

your either all in or your just a part timer bandwagon fan. bobo and richt fully understand alot better than you what they have on this team. Let the season play out and you’ll be fulltime believers again. #BullDawgNationFaithful

Ed

October 1st, 2012
12:24 am

“Should Todd Grantham really ‘feel fine’ about the way Georgia’s defense is playing?”

No, he should be worried as hell. Receivers seem to get open easily on our corners, the middle of the defense is soft despite having a 350 pounder in the middle, and the pass rush is very inconsistent. And we are near the bottom in the SEC in most defensive categories. And South Carolina and Florida are coming up. We should all be worried.

Give Credit!

October 1st, 2012
12:30 am

Give credit to the TN OL. They played outstanding and had a lot to do with the struggles of UGA’s DL. Think the D will improve next week now that ‘Tree and Rambo are back and got a game in. Plus TN has some weapons with their skill players.

As for Bobo, I just don’t get the playcalling in the 4th quarter. TN hadn’t stopped the offense all day and the defense was struggling to stop TN’s O. Keep scoring until the clock runs out PLEASE!

Ed

October 1st, 2012
12:31 am

Avery, the offense is playing great but there’s no way Georgia is going to run up and down the field on teams like South Carolina, Florida, and if we are able to get there, Alabama or LSU in the SECCG. To answer your question – WE do. Fast.

Tom, Tom The Atom Bomb

October 1st, 2012
12:43 am

Booboo really is predictable. A opposition can load their defence up when he goes into the 4th quater mode of running up the middle into the defencive strength three times, then punt, then hold on and pray…I wish for Christmas, Booboo would be replaced with fresh thinking in the booth…..

Ty

October 1st, 2012
1:10 am

When GA goes into the safe play calling mode they go away from their personality and the defense stuffs the plays because of the predictability of the offense coming off the goal line.

Icedawg

October 1st, 2012
1:25 am

What’s Grantham really going to say? Just what he said. But everyone knows that the Dawgs’ D has been a disappointment so far. Yes we’ve won games but the D has not really performed up to expectation. It won’t remain in the top 5 or10 for long unless it ramps up its game.

Hugh

October 1st, 2012
4:31 am

Wanna know why this talented bunch is the underdog in Columbia? Coaching. When in doubt, always go with the well coached team. Maybe the UT game did what UGA’s coaches have failed to do – get Aaron to protect the ball.

sc fan

October 1st, 2012
6:23 am

you guys whine about your team too much. can they get better? sure . so can everyone!

sc fan

October 1st, 2012
6:23 am

Enter your comments here

ZinoDawg

October 1st, 2012
6:27 am

What bothers me is how pathetic we looked in the 4th quarter on both sides of the ball. If Bray doesn’t give it away the Vols win.
We need to stop Lattimore and Shaw from running and make the chickens beat us thru the air.

Ed

October 1st, 2012
7:13 am

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE! When we have the lead in the 4th quarter in the future, dont stop doing what has gotten you 51 points in 3 quarters. We are so predictable with the lead. It will backfire! We need 60 minutes of the same unless we are up 30.

papadawg

October 1st, 2012
7:25 am

Enter your comments here

DC Dirty Bird

October 1st, 2012
7:32 am

Zino, we had at least two takeaways in the 4th. I don’t call that pathetic. The defense’s job is to get stops, turnovers are stops aren’t they?

Looking at the game within the game, here is what concerned me. Lack of pressure from the opposite edge and interior given that both Jarvis and Big John were consistently doubled. Branden Smith getting beat one on one with no safety help (TN has the best WR combo in the SEC). Lack of a screen game with the fastest RB in the SEC (Marshall).

DC Dirty Bird

October 1st, 2012
7:46 am

Ed, we did it up 27-10 and it sapped all of our offensive momentum. Bobo seems to not be able to call “conservative” pass plays or plays where he can trust his RS Junior to not throw a pick in. It doesn’t suprise me though. The CMR/Bobo regime has always trusted their play-calling ability over any player. I just wish they would trust their ability to coach the player to make the play….then again…maybe that’s their concern….

jdatl

October 1st, 2012
8:03 am

The defense is terrible. Period. Play like that, and we’ll lose at SC. The defensive line is not creative in getting off blocks. Ogletree should have been ready but wasn’t. Secondary was terrible and STEVE’s coming to town. Every time we are in this situation, Georgia chokes.

Minnesota Dawg

October 1st, 2012
8:03 am

Good teams always find a way to win. You always have a couple of tests during the season. We need to wait until they play South Carolina to assess how good they are.

RunninWithTheDawgs

October 1st, 2012
8:09 am

Dooley has done a great job with the Tenn. offense. They have great talent and he’s obviously got them fired up. I’m just happy the Dawgs were able to stay ahead of them. It might not have turned out so well had the game been in Knoxville.

Buh bye to the dawgs

October 1st, 2012
8:11 am

USC 45, UGA 27

Sleepless in Greenville

October 1st, 2012
8:18 am

South Carolina 45, Georgia 34

The Evil Genius takes three in a row over the hapless dawgs, a clear triumph of good over mediocre.

How much longer will the alumni and fans continue to suffer under the 3rd rate coaching of Richt, Bozo, and Grantham?