After weeks of chatter about the four suspended defensive players who would not be on the field for Georgia’s SEC opener at Missouri, the topic of conversation in the game’s aftermath turned to one who did play, linebacker Jarvis Jones.
Georgia coach Mark Richt called Jones “maybe the best defensive player in America.” The Walter Camp Football Foundation named him the national defensive player of the week. UPDATE: Jones was also named SEC defensive player of the week on Monday. Even Braves third baseman Chipper Jones chimed in, posting to his 145,000-plus Twitter followers: “Jarvis Jones is a monster! Shocker! He is a Jones!”
“I think it was a special game,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said Sunday of Jones’ performance. “… He is a special guy that works extremely hard in his preparation. He’s really instinctive. He does a lot of things for us.”
Jones was a force throughout Saturday’s victory over Missouri and punctuated his performance with two huge plays near the end: an interception and a forced fumble that gave Georgia’s offense the ball at Missouri’s 1- and 5-yard lines, respectively, in the fourth quarter. Those plays led to 14 points within less than three minutes, stretching a tenuous 27-20 Georgia lead to the comfortable final margin of 41-20.
For the night, Jones had eight tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, one interception and one pass breakup – all of that with a strained groin muscle that Richt said hobbled him at practice last week and bothered him throughout the game.
“Really, I think the way [Jones] finished the game is the way we finished as a team,” Grantham said. “We emphasized finishing in the fourth quarter, taking charge of that quarter and winning it. And really that’s what we did there.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo noted the difference from last season’s SEC opener, when Georgia led South Carolina 35-31 in the fourth quarter in Athens but lost 45-42.
“We didn’t finish in the fourth quarter [against South Carolina],” Bobo said. “But [Saturday] night we did finish on the road in a very hostile environment.”
Grantham and Bobo filled in for Richt on Georgia’s weekly media teleconference Sunday evening. Richt was tending to some family business, UGA said.
Not surprisingly, both Grantham and Bobo expressed a desire to have cornerback/wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell on their side of the ball.
“I promise you, I’m going to go in there politicking hard for him offensively,” Bobo said. “… He’s going to get back on offense some this week.”
Georgia (2-0, 1-0 SEC), which remained No. 7 in the media and coaches’ polls, plays a non-conference game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Sanford Stadium against Florida Atlantic (1-1, 0-1 Sun Belt Conference). Florida Atlantic is coming off a 31-17 loss at Middle Tennessee.