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

RunninWithTheDawgs

October 1st, 2012
8:26 am

Dawgs — 31 S.C. — 30

mike addington

October 1st, 2012
8:49 am

When I saw Tenn running the ball up the middle in the first quarter, I became concerned. They were getting three or four yards every carry until late in game. very concerned about that

yep

October 1st, 2012
9:05 am

I think with Ogletree and Rambo coming back and moving people around it just didn’t quite come together for the defense. But they got a game under their belts and some practice this week so they should be clicking on all cylinders against South Carolina. Plus, I’m not sure it South Carolina’s offense is as good as Tennessee’s.

Dawg 95

October 1st, 2012
9:21 am

So now it’s Grantham and Bobo? Not a QB who makes HUGE mistakes seemingly every time we’re rolling against a real opponent. Not a senior DB (Smith) who has NEVER challenged anyone at the line of scrimmage. And that’s just to name two. Seriously, Bill? And this is insightful blogging?

Can we trade Bill for the Tech blogger – at least he’s intelligent.

robodawg

October 1st, 2012
9:22 am

Yup, the offensive predictability put us in danger. Run, run, throw, punt. It’s easier to stop the run if that’s what you’re betting we’ll do. Same with our next to last first half possession: 1st down on the 20 with 2 minutes to go, perfect place to run a 2 minute offense, but they guessed run, blew up the play in the backfield and forced a fumble.

Overall, we can’t allow ourselves to get shell shocked like that and keep winning. Gotta stay in control and stay aggressive.

DIT

October 1st, 2012
9:23 am

@mike addington – I agree! Imagine now Latimore getting big holes between the tackles!! If that is not fixed we are in for a long day. I also agree on the fact that SC offense is not as good as UT’s. Still, with Latimore in the backfield and the way UT ran against us there is much concern.

robodawg

October 1st, 2012
9:24 am

I don’t remember a single holding call in this game. Can that be right?

If it happened

October 1st, 2012
9:28 am

If UGA won the SEC CG and had the 5th or 6th best D in the conference, statistically, I would be elated.

Go Dogs

NCDawg

October 1st, 2012
9:31 am

Do you really think Grantham would say publicly, before a BIG game, what he really thinks about how his guys are performing? If he did he would need to be fired. I am sure those buys are going to be getting the rough side of his tongue all week. I think the problem is our NG’s. Sure they are taking up blockers but they are getting moved around as well. Tenn did a great job of hiding their holding as well. I can’t tell you how many times I saw jerseys stretched out behind our guys on the edge when they got around their guy. I saw at least 2 or 3 bearhugs in the middle when they were running the ball up the gut. I don’t know why those weren’t called. Either way the defense needs to shore it up in the middle. They were out of their running lanes alot. Maybe it they were concentrating too heavily on the pass rush. However, when it really mattered the pass coverage stepped up and made Bray pay for less than perfect throws. Florida couldn’t cover those guys either until Bray threw in the towel late in the 3rd quarter. Minus our gaffes this is a 4 TD win or more. I’m sure Grantham isn’t telling his guys that they are doing fine. No way.
BTW UGA wins Sat. We can beat USC and we will do it on the ground. USC gave up big plays to Vandy in the passing game folks. They will try to grind it on us and cover up their lack of explosiveness in the passing game. We have to jump on them early and I think we will. We’ll see if Shaw can really throw the ball or not.

mark

October 1st, 2012
9:43 am

Protect the football and we win…simple. Go Dawgs.

Mtn Dawg

October 1st, 2012
9:48 am

UGA 45 SC 30

DC Dirty Bird

October 1st, 2012
9:50 am

DIT and mike addington

Let’s be totally clear….SC does not have two NFL-leve talent WR’s nor do they have a 6-6 future 1st round pick QB. As such, I think we’ll be playing more run defense with Shawne Williams in the box than we did against TN. SC’s offense, while effective, is simple; zone read and option for Shaw and Lattimore with dink and dunk passes from Shaw. Missouri. If our offense takes care of the ball, we should have not trouble preventing big points from getting put on the board.

BP85

October 1st, 2012
10:07 am

In regard to, “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.” Rambo was blatently blocked in the back at about the 15-20 yard line and was going to have a clear shot at him. A ref came in and threw a late flag at the very spot and for some reason they waved off the flag.

Hatfieldgeoff

October 1st, 2012
10:14 am

Taking Mitchell off of punt returns is a move that should have been done sooner. He has made a number of errors seemingly because he wanted to make big play where they just didn’t have a chance. The debacle that was the last 6 minutes of the first half all started when Mitchell failed to come up and field a punt and allowed it to be downed at the 1. This loss of field position led to first Tenn offensive touchdown. Mitchell is a great player but he has to let the game come to him. I hope the defensive effort was due to fatigue as well as the turnover. We scored on one play (the 75 yard run) then 3 plans on Gurley’s long run. then the turnover gave Tenn Short field. We just didn’t run that many plays even though we were dominating on the scoreboard.

nobody

October 1st, 2012
10:16 am

Throughout the TN game I was never comfortable….I had the feeling we were always playing not to lose rather than playing to win… in fairness to our QB we cannot tie his hands late in the game and then criticize his play?….in all fairness, had #17 not dropped a pass that hit him square between the numbers, we would have run out the clock and there would have been no need for late game heroics….but I am not critizing #17….he’s just a kid, and drops happen …. but honestly, why does Mitchell not start?…he has great hands….by playing him both ways, he cannot get any rhythm….what a waste of talent that he is not be better utilized….

Shaky max

October 1st, 2012
10:21 am

Let’s put this in perpective. All the consternation and wailing about the

orlandodawg

October 1st, 2012
10:29 am

Tightenup D, and hold the ball Murry and we will win by 17 points! Maybe 21 if the receivers catch like Sat. They were outstanding, only drop was TK but he made up for it…. Go Dawgs!

Visions of Willie

October 1st, 2012
10:29 am

Todd Grantham, Third choice coach and Third Rate coach. He hasnt stopped the big offenses. Mike Blozo again went conservative and Richt continues to wonder why. Seems like Richt would know that it should be a priority to correct the same ole same ole. I mean he hasnt figured it out yet and we (UGA) pay him millions?

Shaky max

October 1st, 2012
10:31 am

All the consternation and wailing about the failure of the defense is meaningless unless put into perpective. More than than likely the defense was slightly overrated at the beginning of season (as anyone who watched the 4th quarters of the SC, LSU, and Mich. St. Game last season will contest.)
Tenn ran 85 plays and John Jenkins and Geathers were playing in way, way to many. Tenn’s hurry up in the 4th quarter kept

dawgfacedboy

October 1st, 2012
10:34 am

They ran the ball 6 times in a row before Murray fumbled. Even Danielson told them to turn the page. I think Spurrier is right: UGA has a tendency to score quick, leaving the D very little time to rest. Shaw’s ability to run and throw the ball 60 yds could give us fits. Maybe I had too many Bud’s but our pass rush seems non existent.

Visions of Willie

October 1st, 2012
10:37 am

When was the last time Richt really put a team away? I think it was when he had Donnan players….

pop

October 1st, 2012
10:39 am

fix the defense line put ray drew at defensive end aubrey jones cant run fast enough to put pressure on the qb put freshman jenkins in vassers place then u would see a lot better defense the dawg nation has spoke

UGA Insider

October 1st, 2012
10:39 am

If not for special teams this game was a blow-out. Do we not have one player who ever returned punts in high-school? Also, CMR needs to go down to the soccer fields today and find someone who can kick a football 70 yards. Not that difficult folks. I can kick it 40 or 50 and I am 35.

pop

October 1st, 2012
10:46 am

fix the defensive front put ray drew in aubrey jones place he cant run fast enough to sack the qb then u would have more pressure up front then put freshman jenkins in vassers place then u would have a very good defense the dawg nation has spoken

Visions of Willie

October 1st, 2012
10:54 am

Fix the coaching…. We are gonna need it against Spurrier!

Talk about bad officiating...

October 1st, 2012
11:03 am

Enter your comments here

Dawg Tired

October 1st, 2012
11:04 am

Murray has to protect the ball better. He was not hit that hard on the fumble play. Wrap that baby up with both hands and hit the deck. Especially with the lead.

Dawg Tired

October 1st, 2012
11:08 am

Lack of pressure on Bray was disturbing. Conner Shaw is actually much more accurate than Bray even though his arm strength is not in the same neighborhood. If Shaw has time, he will pick us apart. Must pressure QB. Certainly worth considering trying some new faces up front. C Wash is basically mailing it in. Get him out of there unless he wants to play. It seems like he’s still mad about his friend IC being dismissed from the team. Fine. Let him pout on the bench.

Shaky max

October 1st, 2012
11:10 am

All the consternation and wailing about the failure of the defense is meaningless unless put into perpective. More than likely the defense was slightly overrated at the beginning of season (as anyone who watched the 4th quarters of the SC, LSU, and Mich. St. Game last season will contest.)
Tenn ran 85 plays and John Jenkins and Geathers were playing in way, way to many (remember, those two haven’t had to play much in the 4th quarter. Gratham may need to give them longer blows during quarters1 through 3.) Tenn’s hurry up in the 4th quarter kept GA from subbing and, in my opinion, was the reason Neal was able to cut us up. The offense needed to man up and didn’t .

I’m a harsh critic of Bobo although his play calling has improved this season with the exception of this 4th quarter. When it’s close he seems to lose confidence in his offense and reverts to his old self.

I was in Neyland stadium in 1980 at Hershel’s historic debut and all the subsequent adoration. Lost in this hoopla was the fact the game hinged on Ga forcing a fumble at their own 2 with less than 2 minutes in the game. Without that turnover, no national championship. In the long run turnover ratio decide games, we won against Tenn, let’s hope we do so against SC.

To the Ogletree critics, the guy led the team in tackles and had an assist on interception. Give the guy a break!

Alum2012

October 1st, 2012
11:20 am

I agree with you on the blown coverage assessment Bill, but you have to admit, the refs weren’t calling holding on Tenn’s offense, and they were holding all night. With fair play calling, the D would have been monstrous.
That being said, we shouldn’t have put ourselves in a position where the refs could have blown the game for us.

Also, the Offense and Special teams put the D in some horrible situations during the game.

Jon Fabris

October 1st, 2012
11:24 am

Miss me yet?

Newnandawg

October 1st, 2012
11:29 am

Hope we win in Columbia, but the performance at home against this sad sack UT team was not inspiring.

nobody

October 1st, 2012
11:41 am

Question: why is Tree not an OLB and Herrera the ILB….with Tree and JJ @ OLBs, would not our corner rush be a whole lot more effective….as Tree is not a natural LB and Herrera is, a switch might enable him to help our big down linemen stop the runs between the tackles a little more effectively

Minnesota Dawg

October 1st, 2012
11:47 am

This Bulldogs defense looks alot like a girl pretending to be hard to get, some of my boyfriends also play that game tee.

Jon Fabris

October 1st, 2012
11:49 am

Minny Dawg, I also lie Crazy Charlies gay bar downtown, as well as the site Gayties.com Let’s meet this wekend, cutie. Dont you just love the really tight pants on college football players.

Minnesota Dawg

October 1st, 2012
11:51 am

You’re a rant..I come here for the cute guys on the site, as well as the fact Im a frontrunner fan, since My state hasnt had a winner in anything for decades now. Also love the Atlanta Waffle houses and hot guys that Serve..

DC Dirty Bird

October 1st, 2012
11:52 am

Conner Shaw vs Tyler Bray is like Chad Pennington vs Eli Manning. Sure he completes a higher percentage of his passes, but which one is more likely to beat you with his arm.

I have to say, the state of GA has some of the worst fans that I’ve ever been exposed to. I’ve never seen so many find so many ways to denegrate the the Hawks, Bulldogs, Falcons, or Braves. Does a team have to be perfect for the fans to get behind it and support it 100% in a POSITIVE manner?

DC Dirty Bird

October 1st, 2012
11:55 am

All these comments are making me hot and horny now.

Dawgsatl1

October 1st, 2012
11:55 am

They played fine to me plus 21 came off turnovers so back off the d.yall not gon be happy until they lose 1 then you can really talk crap about the dawgs.a win is a win no game is perfect and the vols played tough.good job ga dawgs

Dawgsat/1

October 1st, 2012
11:57 am

Yummy Yummy yummy, I like white guys swallowing in my tummy.

Newnandawg

October 1st, 2012
11:58 am

Ruff Ruff, Woof Woof, Im in heat now.

Whiskey Breath

October 1st, 2012
11:59 am

Who cares about the defense, the offense scored a bunch of points?
The offense has always scored a lot of points, until you play a decent team.
Then the defense determines if you lose or win.
Lack of appreciation for defense has always made Ga close, but no
championships.

Whiskey Breath

October 1st, 2012
12:01 pm

Have to leave for awhile, my man came home and wants me to make him a quiche, and have a Nooner whoopieeeeee

Desert Fox

October 1st, 2012
12:04 pm

Wonder what officiating crew will do sc-ga game? Lots of calls were missed in the TN game. Can we expect the same?

Bill’s column said what had to be said. Bottom line: To beat SC you better do just that, BEAT ‘EM!! Score quick and often. Less chance Murray has to throw int’s and fumble. Likewise, Bobo gets too conservative after a Murray miscue. Special teams and D bring their best game of the season. Get some TO’s and capitalize on them and for pete’s sake, make the PAT’s!!! Allow Spurrier to get the upper hand and its all over.

Whiskey Breath

October 1st, 2012
12:14 pm

Pretty funny Whiskey Breath number 2. Now I have admirers and imitators?
Oh Yea!

AirForce1

October 1st, 2012
12:30 pm

Dawgs must play smart, shut down Lattimore…in the second half, Special Teams must be Special, Mr. Murray…you need to tuck and run (you are fast) instead of taking sacks and/or fumbling. Oh yeah…take some risks!

G-Dawg

October 1st, 2012
12:31 pm

Dawgs defense matches up much better to USCe offense…compared to Tenn offense. Theres no other team in the SEC who can throw the ball as well as Tenn.
Bray was really on point with his passes.,,there were some INTs barely missed by Dawgs defense…took an incredible throw by Bray to make those completion. Including one goal line TD (Ogletree just missed it).
Dawgs dline needs to work on getting off cut blocks.
And officials blew some blantant holding calls at pivotal moments in the game…on some of Tenn’s big 3rd down conversions.
Wooten dropped two game changing passes.
Rambo needs to get his head in the game. He wasnt even watching the play on Tenn last TD run. MM is trying to hard to make a play on special teams, and contributing to the mistakes…leading to bad field position.
Whats so hard about kicking a PAT?
Tenn made adjustments to the RB sweep plays, but Bobo didnt make any adjustments…aka bootlegs.
Tenn came out and played good ball despite the big first quarter.
Still not impressed with the SECw this year…all teams look very beatable with the right preparation.

Dawg_Mike

October 1st, 2012
1:08 pm

USCe 17
UGA 24

ugab

October 1st, 2012
1:28 pm

Enter your comments here

LOYAL DAWG

October 1st, 2012
1:30 pm

I honest ly don’t get why we as a fanbase wanna get so crazy over the Tenn game. I hope that the players are over it. We can win the next 9 games 51-44 and I wouldn’t care. Survive and advance in college football. Sometimes the teams that we assume are “easy” on your schedule based off last years results, are really not that easy. I guess our schedule isn’t so much of a cakewalk after all.