Georgia defenders: ‘Only stat that matters is our 5-0 record’

ATHENS – Despite reports to the contrary, Georgia is sporting a Top 10 defense this season. It’s just not the top-10 ranking everybody expected.

Heading into Saturday’s monumental matchup with No. 6-ranked South Carolina in Columbia, the Bulldogs are ranked 10th in the Southeastern Conference in total defense. That’s 10th as in 10 among 14 teams. Not 10th in the nation, as everybody expected this year.

The good news is Georgia (5-0, 3-0 SEC) arrives at the midway point of the season with an unblemished record and a No. 5 overall ranking in the national polls. They’ve just done it with its vaunted defense looking nearly as dominant as was expected.

And now the biggest question mark for the Bulldogs heading into the most anticipated game of the season is, what in the world is going on with your defense?

“It definitely hasn’t gone the way we wanted,” senior defensive end Abry Jones said. “But I think we’ve been strong in the second halves of games and strong in the fourth quarter and we’ve been still coming away with wins. That’s the most important thing to us.”

Jones’ answer is typical of what was offered from pretty much anyone who works inside the Bulldogs’ football complex. That is, Georgia is pretty defensive about its defense.

And it has had its share of conquests. While the Bulldogs have been a bit of a statistical anomaly on that side of the ball, they’ve tended to make important plays at important times.

Case in point, this past weekend’s game against Tennessee. The Vols’ high-powered offense gashed Georgia for 197 yards rushing and 478 overall. But with the game on the line in the final minutes, the Bulldogs forced them into a pair of interceptions and a fumble.

Georgia was similarly opportunistic at the end of its game against Missouri, which had hit it with 371 yards on the night. An interception and a forced fumble at the end allowed the Bulldogs put away a 41-20 victory.

“[Coming into the season] people wanted to talk about whether this was going to be a great defense. But what I said from the beginning was what I’m most concerned about is when the game is on the line are we going to be able to make the play in the moment of truth?” Georgia coach Mark Richt said Tuesday. “ You can have great defensive stats, but if you didn’t get that one stop at the end of the game, you still might have great stats for the day but you lost. You didn’t stop them when you needed to. I was more concerned about are we going to stop people when we have to stop them, when it means the most. “

With the exception of Tennessee, which may have the SEC’s most explosive offense, Georgia hasn’t faced many offensive juggernauts. That’s what makes its defensive numbers so hard to fathom.

The Bulldogs are ninth in the league against the run (147.8 ypg), 10th against the pass (222.4 ypg), 10th overall (370.2 ypg) and 7th against the score (22.0 ppg). That’s a long way from where Georgia ended last season. The Bulldogs finished 2011 ranked fifth nationally in total defense (277.2), 11th in rushing (101.2) and 23rd in scoring (20.6).

Georgia was returning nine starters from that unit, and 12 of the top 14 tacklers.

“I feel fine about the way we’re playing,”  Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “I understand the issues we’re having. Better yet, I think the players understand the reasons why things happen. They’re very self-correctable.”

Personnel availability certainly has been one issue. The Bulldogs were without All-America free safety Bacarri Rambo and star linebacker Alec Ogletree until last week due to four-game suspensions. Two other starters missed the first two games with suspension and injuries have sidelined All-American linebacker Jarvis Jones defensive ends Abry Jones and Cornelius Washington and noseguard John Jenkins for all or parts of other games.

While the suspended players were able to practice, players contend it’s not the same as playing games. They expect to play considerably better

“The amount of time we got to practice together was limited because we had to get the guys ready that were going to be playing in the games,” said senior cornerback Sanders Commings, who missed the first two games due to a suspension. “But now we’ve got that first game together under our belt and it’s only going to get better from here. We’re not going backwards.”

The absences have required constant lineup shuffles. Receiver Malcolm Mitchell started three games at cornerback; Devin Bowman started one game at corner; Commings played two games at safety, one at corner; Connor Norman started two games at safety; Amarlo Herrera started four games at “Mo” inside linebacker but played the “Mike” position this past week with Ogletree back in the fold.

“I think the newness of the positions some guys played as well as being out there for the first time after four games off has had something to do with it,” Grantham said. “I think as we move forward will we’ll become a little more consistent. Once that happens we’ll start jelling and we’ll be fine.”

That Georgia is still trying to “jell” defensively at the midpoint of the season is not a good thing. It’s especially troubling with a matchup such as the one with South Carolina on the horizon.

The Gamecocks don’t blow away anybody with their offensive firepower or quick-strike capability. But the combination of dual-threat quarterback Connor Shaw and the unstoppable force that is tailback Marcus Lattimore makes South Carolina a very difficult offense to get off the field. The Gamecocks average 409 yards and 36.6 points per points per game.

“It usually takes us a while to get it down the field,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “Our defense is hopefully only out there 58-63 plays, something like that. I think Georgia’s been scoring so fast and there’s been so may turnovers in their games maybe, their defense is just playing more plays than a lot of the others. But they can make plays all over the place. Even last year we didn’t move the ball very well at all. . . . We’ve struggled scoring a lot of points against Georgia offensively.”

That’s been another issue for Georgia’s defense. It has been put in some difficult positions. Twenty-one of the Vols’ points were attributed to the Bulldogs’ offense giving up an interception for a touchdown and turnovers inside the 10.

But you won’t hear Georgia’s defenders using that as an excuse.

“It’s our job to stop the offense no matter where they get the ball on the field. If they get it on our 1-yard line, it’s our job to stop them.”

Said Abry Jones: “We’ve messed up a little here and there, but I’m not really a stat guy. I just know right now we’re 5-0 and we’re still ranked No. 5 in the country, so that’s good with me.”

134 comments Add your comment

Mista

October 2nd, 2012
5:24 pm

Coach Richt, you are driving a 2012 S600 V12, all you need to do is put your foot on the pedal. And remember don’t bring a donkey to the Kentucky Derby.

The Old Coot

October 2nd, 2012
5:24 pm

Chip, I wrote this to Bill King, but it is aplicable to your artical as well:

Bill King, you dumb piece of crap.

The D is one of the best things we have going at UGA.

If the O wouldn’t throw pick six’s and fumble the ball inside its own 20 yard line we would be fine.

If only the O line would block on Murray’s blind side and he wouldn’t get steamrolled from behind. He fumbles every time he is hit. If I can spot it I am sure you can too and perhaps even the coaches on the other teams.

If Special teams players wouldn’t step out of bounds at the 1 yard line and would have the sense to know when to field punts and when to get away from them we would be fine.

At least 28 UT points were directly the result of Offensive and Special teams foul ups this pas weekend. I thought the D did a great job in saving the game with three take aways.

People who do not know anything about football have no business writing about it.

You sir are as dumb as dirt.

Z$

October 2nd, 2012
5:25 pm

Dawgs 51 – Coqs 37

Knock knock. Who’s there? Daisy. Daisy who?

Daisy me rollllllin. They hatinnnnn!

Dawgs are being doubted by tons of sports sources. They know they need to win this, and so does CMR. This game is ours, as is this season.

Just a thought

October 2nd, 2012
5:28 pm

Georgia needs to send Spurrier a message in this game. The message is: Don’t worry about our schedule, worry about UGA!!! Go Dawgs!!

Moe

October 2nd, 2012
5:32 pm

NC_Dawg

October 2nd, 2012
5:37 pm

I’ll take the ‘W’ over statistics. I don’t care if we give up 1000 yards as long as we get the win. Who cares?

We won some nail-biters in 1980 if you recall. We cannot dominate every team. Sometimes, lady luck has to help us out.

It will be a slug-fest in Columbia on Saturday. Hopefully, we come away with a huge win.

BigDawg

October 2nd, 2012
5:39 pm

Let’s get mad at Spurrier like we did for $hitzik and Jane Franklin!

NC_Dawg

October 2nd, 2012
5:42 pm

Old Coot – you should have a little more respect for Mr. King. He writes an opinion column and he has a right to his opinion. If you don’t agree with him, that’s fine, but no reason to insult the man. That only makes you look like a ‘dumb piece of crap’ and ‘dumb as dirt’. You’re an ignorant a-hole.

Here we Go

October 2nd, 2012
5:43 pm

@ The Old Coot-Agree 100%.The D is fine.Stop the turnovers on offense and stop the errors on special teams.In fact,I’m predicting a low scoring game.A good ole SEC defensive ball game. Let’s say a 17 to 14 or a 17 to 10. I hope we are the 17!!!! GO DAWGS!!!

The Old Coot

October 2nd, 2012
5:45 pm

NC_Dawg you are right about that.

Do you remember the Georgia – Clemson game in 1980?

We had a Scott Werner punt return for a touchdown and a Scott Werner 99 yard interception that Hershell took over from the one yard line for a touchdown and a field goal to win that game.

Clemson dominated us all day long when our O and their D was on the field but our D made those points stand up for the win.

One of the greatest games I have ever seen. It was great, wasn’t it?

The Old Coot

October 2nd, 2012
5:47 pm

NC_Dawg, If Bill King can belittle my Dogs, then I can belittle Bill King.

Its that simple.

Chris Phillips

October 2nd, 2012
5:50 pm

Georgia has a BIG opportunity this weekend to shut the mouths of all their critics. I believe they can do it. They certainly have the talent. They just have to go out and do it. They made a statement against Vanderbilt; and, a lot of people took notice. They can do it again in Columbia on Saturday night. (And if they win by only 1 or 2 points, I don’t care. A win is a win at the end of the day.)

Our Team, Our Time, No Regrets.
Hope to you see you in Miami UGA.

Resident Georgia Fan

October 2nd, 2012
5:50 pm

To the Old Coot: Walker never scored a TD against Clemson, We won the game but Herschel did not get a TD in his entire career against the Tigers. Check the media guide. I am right.

Beach Dawg

October 2nd, 2012
5:51 pm

To “Old Coot” — being old is no excuse for being impolite. Why don’t you shuffle back to your rocking chair and deal with your drool!

BigDawg

October 2nd, 2012
5:51 pm

The defense has faced a lot of adversity. But there are finishing the drill unlike many prior years! I think they will be dominant Sat and the rest of the season!!

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

October 2nd, 2012
5:51 pm

How is Bill King belittling the dawgs

NC_Dawg

October 2nd, 2012
5:53 pm

Old Coot – I don’t think Bill King wrote anyhting that isn’t true. To date, our defense has been overated. Everyone expected them to shut-out teams and be ranked as one of the best D’s in the nation. Unfortunately, it has turned out that way. But who cares what their ranking is? As long as we keep winning, that’s all that matters.

mike addington

October 2nd, 2012
5:53 pm

Old Coot, that was typical of the way Georgia used to win most of its games. Vince and Erk would let you run up and down the field but not score. We’d make maybe 1 offensive TD, a few FG, and a defensive score or two. We’d win 17-14 or so and the other team would have all kinds of off yardage and TOP. You know Dooley believed in the Gen Bob Neyland theory: Put in your D, your Kicking game, and, if you have time, an offense. Scott Woerner one of the best big play guys in CF history.

The Old Coot

October 2nd, 2012
5:59 pm

Beach Dawg, God bless you son.

And I love my Dogs. Always have and always will.

Mike S.

October 2nd, 2012
6:02 pm

Not having all their starters was huge. Im not sure why everyone thought they could just plug people in that dont regularly play those positions and dominate. I actually expected they might lose to MIssouri or UT because of it. If they can get by South Carolina, the will have a couple of weeks to tune up for UF. I expect by then they will be at full strength on D. Maybe UGAs players will finally learn that when they screw up, they are hurting the team and everyone involved.

D-MAN

October 2nd, 2012
6:02 pm

I agree Coot,alot of Kings blogs suck! GO DAWGS!

Grantham's The Man!

October 2nd, 2012
6:02 pm

Georgia’s Defense will come to play.

Murray, the Dynamic Duo, aka Gurshall, and the best receiving corps in the SEC will get the job done.

Georgia by 7. Go Dawgs!!!

The Old Coot

October 2nd, 2012
6:03 pm

Resident Georgia Fan, you sir are correct.

Walker never did score a TD against Clemson, a point that Clemson took great pride in.

It must have been another back or Belue on a QB sneak.

I always felt bad that Scott Werner couldn’t get that final yard before being bounced out of bounds. he deserved a TD for that interception. I was there watching when he steped in front of the Clemson receiver under the Georgia goal post and picked it off and took off. It was beautiful, just beautiful.

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

October 2nd, 2012
6:12 pm

I hope the D comes to play havent seen them do anything yet against a good team in a long time

Lord Saban

October 2nd, 2012
6:20 pm

“They’ve just done it with its vaunted defense looking nearly as dominant as was expected.To win”

Georgia has a “vaunted defense?” Seriously??? Um. No. A vaunted defense would be more like Alabama which is averaging 7 pts a game and is yet again positioned to be the nation’s premiere defense. To win a championship you need defense in the big games. And Georgia just aint got it. Plain and simple.

Sammy

October 2nd, 2012
6:30 pm

UGA is top 25 in 2nd half scoring defense
UGA defense is also top 25 in the nation in 4th quarter scoring.

UGA, as a team, is #7 in nation in average scoring margin, at 27+ points per game.

These UGA guys remind me A LOT of the 2010 Auburn team which had an EXPLOSIVE offense, and a great 2nd half AND 4th quarter defense.

joe jenkins

October 2nd, 2012
6:35 pm

I hope we can win damn it….This game means everything to me….We cannot afford to lose to the chickens again….Go russ…I hope you can break free from your master and rip that chicken to shreds….damn that would be great

Sammy

October 2nd, 2012
6:37 pm

The UGA offense is in the top 10 in the nation in scoring, total yards, and rushing yards. Much like Auburn was in 2010.

When your offense is playing that good, you keep your guys FRESH in the 1st half, with a lot of ratation, so they’ll be FRESH in the 2nd half, ESPECIALLY the 4th quarter. Everything HAS CONTEXT.

The UGA defense is in the top 25 in the nation 2nd half scoring (#18) only allowing a td per 2nd half, and #22 in 4th quarter scoring in the nation, only allowing 4 points a game in the 4th quarter. Much like AUburn was in 2010.

Auburn 2010 won it all by averaging 41 points a game, and 500 total yards of offense. UGA is at 48 a game, and 540 yards per game. So there’s some context to HOW YOU PLY defense WHEN YOUR OFFENSE CAN PUT UP POINTS AT WILL.

Tampa Gator

October 2nd, 2012
6:40 pm

Old Coot……

Anyone calling someone a “dumb piece of crap” should….first learn…..how to spell the word….ARTICLE. Just saying. And that is coming from someone who has no access to posting on King’s blog (for no justifiable reason….other than I am a Gator). But that is his right….as it is for him to post his opinions on the AJC. In fact, that is what he gets paid to do….I would guess.

Tampa Gator

October 2nd, 2012
6:47 pm

Sammy……

The defenses of Buffalo, Florida Atlantic, Missouri, and Tennessee are not exactly the top defenses in the country…….so I would not expect Georgia to win games vs. SC, Florida…..or win the SEC this year……if their defense does not improve dramtically in the weeks to come. It is certainly possible that can happen. The talent is their. But it will be hard for Georgia to overcome poor defensive play against much better defensive teams…..and they are facing a good one this coming weekend. Georgia better come with their A game on both sides of the ball this weekend.

Tampa Gator

October 2nd, 2012
6:47 pm

dawg4life

October 2nd, 2012
6:52 pm

UGA is better than SC in every area of the field. Better QB, better WR, better RBs, better OL, better Def. The only thing that SC has going for them, is that the game is in Columbia. This one isn’t close. UGA 42-24.

UGA’s def played Tenn not to give up the big play. That is why Tenn was so successful running the ball. South Carolina has a pedestrian offense…

GaTruth

October 2nd, 2012
6:54 pm

Some fluke plays have padded stats. If we can get one thing fixed, it should be to get Bobo to realize it is NOT just the run that sets up the pass, but also the pass that sets up the run. When you need to burn clock, some quick passes loosen up the D to make your run lanes more accessible. Murray is not erratic, let him throw it even when we need to burn clock.

Sammy

October 2nd, 2012
7:11 pm

I feel UGA should be ranked #1 in the country, because when your offense is putting up this kind of numbers, if Auburn was ranked #1, why isn’t UGA?

UGA 2012 offense is better than 2010 Auburn in:
1) Passer rating (murray is better than Cam Newton who won the Heisman that year, Murray is at 183, Newton was 182. Murray is ranked #3 in nation in passer rating.)
2) Scoring- UGA is scoring a td more than 2010 Auburn did
3) total yards, UGA is averaging almost 40 yards more per gaME THAN Newton’s did
4) yards per play, UGA is #1 in nation in yards per play

This offense is palying at a National championship level.

And the UGA defense is matching 2010 Auburn in 2nd half scoring, 4th qaurter scoring, tackles for loss, etc.

It’s a National Championship team. UGA is getting overlooked.

Sammy

October 2nd, 2012
7:13 pm

UGA dominated South Carolina last year, but made big mistakes in turnovers and special teams. Clean those up, and UGA should win by 21.

South Carolina got lucky last year, and needed tons of turnovers and horrendous special teams to squeek out a 3 points win.

UGA will not repeat all those mistakes.

Habersham Dawg

October 2nd, 2012
7:33 pm

As long as we score one more point than the opposition, it’s a win. 7-6, 14-13, or 51-50. It counts the same in the W column.

Pricedawg

October 2nd, 2012
7:46 pm

Hershel never smelled the end zone againt Clemson. Ever.

Tampa Gator

October 2nd, 2012
7:47 pm

Sammy
October 2nd, 2012
7:13 pm
UGA dominated South Carolina last year, but made big mistakes in turnovers and special teams. Clean those up, and UGA should win by 21. South Carolina got lucky last year, and needed tons of turnovers and horrendous special teams to squeek out a 3 points win.

:rol:

Tons of turnonvers…….I checked…..SC had two turnovers and Georgia had 2 turnovers.
Also….SC had 395 yards of total offense and Georgia had 436 yards of total offense.
Time of possession…..SC 29.02……Georgia 30.58
Sorry….but I do not see DOMINATION by Georgia in those stats. But Georgia did make critical mistakes late in the game that cost them the game…..but that is football….and no team can do that and win a big game.

Sammy

October 2nd, 2012
7:50 pm

UGA gifted South Carolina in 2011:
1- 7 points via a pick 6 interception
2- 7 points via a sack fumble
3- 7 points on a fake punt return for td

like I said, clean that up, and UGA wins by 21.

DirtyDawg

October 2nd, 2012
7:51 pm

Early on we seemed to be forcing Mitchell into the action. Fact is, and regardless of his obvious talents, he’s either trying too hard, hasn’t yet learned some of the plays/skills called for or just plain spread too thin. The punt returning…missed hand-off on one of those flanker-arounds…and not cutting his runs up-field and instead just running to the sidelines in hopes that he’ll be fast enough to turn the corner but, as yet, hasn’t been.

I know that doesn’t have anything to do with the defense, but its how I feel. One thing I wish they would do is try Scott-Wesley in punt and/or kick-off returns. Of course it’s a little late for that now, but there’s talent going to waste. Meanwhile just take care of the ball…don’t let punts hit and roll…fight like hell to get to fair catches and if they get in your way, it’s a penalty on them.

Tampa Gator

October 2nd, 2012
7:51 pm

Also….Sammy…….

To answer your question why Georgia is not ranked number one right now……

1. Alabama
2. Oregon
3. FSU
4. LSU

Bama is clearly the best team right now. Oregon is blowing out people and has recently played for a national title. FSU is blowing out people and beat a top 10 team already. LSU is the only team above Georgia that should not be ranked higher than Georgia.

Tampa Gator

October 2nd, 2012
7:53 pm

Sammy……

Defense and special teams are what makes teams…..championship teams. South Carolina forced turnovers….that is good defense……and Georgia did not have good special teams last year….and so far….not this year either. And your defense has not been very impressive so far. We all hope that changes this weekend.

ZMONEY

October 2nd, 2012
7:54 pm

Gratham needs to leave the six pack alone.GA is the most talented team in the SEC .BAMA is overrated and it will show when they play MISS.ST ,LSU .

Tampa Gator

October 2nd, 2012
7:56 pm

Sammy…..

Go out and win by one point………no matter what the score is. That is what both Georgia and Florida have to do this weekend. I am sure no Georgia fan will mind if Georgia wins 72 to 71 this weekend. And no Florida fan will mind if Florida wins 3 to 2 this weekend. Just win, baby.

daddo

October 2nd, 2012
8:06 pm

You clay eaters are delusional….we are just like 2010 Auburn…..Vandy was a statement game…..we are ranked number three defense for the first five minutes of the third quarter…..with a coach grinning ear to ear, like he won something, after giving up 44 points to Tenn. Think Nick Saban would be grinning?

Just nuts. I hope u will get beat this weekend just so u will shut up for a day.

Sammy

October 2nd, 2012
8:09 pm

Nay, Auburn 2010 didn’t win with defense and special teams, they won with offense. Defense was good at key times, like 2nd haf & 4th quarter, just like UGA is in 2012.

Sammy

October 2nd, 2012
8:13 pm

The media are sort of writing UGA off because UGA does not mirror ALABAMA.

You know, great defense, QB manages the game. Blah, blah, blah.

Sorry, Saban got his butt whooped in 2010 by an Auburn team that gave up a lot of points and yards on defense, and their QB wasn’t a game manager, because that formula didn’t work for Saban in 2010.

And UGA’s offense, so far, is averaging MORE points, and yards, than Auburn 2010 did.

UGA is closer to Auburn 2010 than Bama 2012 is, so UGA is a better team.

Mark Richt was a QB, and a QB coach, then an Offensive genius at FSU.

Saban is a defensive coach, and a defensive genius.

Very different.

Sammy

October 2nd, 2012
8:17 pm

UGA 2012 defense is beating Auburn 2010 defense in:

1) 2nd half points allowed per game
2) 4th quarter points allowed per game

GB's Hamburgers

October 2nd, 2012
8:25 pm

Buffalo and Florida Atlantic put multiple long drives on our defense. Despite what some are saying Bill is correct. The D has underperformed and needs to step up this week.

Sammy

October 2nd, 2012
8:29 pm

aUB 2010 DEFENSE gave up 371 yards per game.

UGA 2012 giving up 370 yards per game.