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

G-Dawg

October 3rd, 2012
9:18 am

Beat the cocks, the trolls and haters will just say SC was overrated. Either way its a lose lose situation trying to educated the fools!!!

robodawg

October 3rd, 2012
9:23 am

D will put it together this week and rise to the occasion. I think in this game the pressure’s gonna be on them to win the game for us. We’re going up against probably the best defense we’ll face in the regular season at least, so I expect a defensive battle.

LogicalUS

October 3rd, 2012
9:40 am

“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 ”

This can’t be right? UGA is 4-1 then correct, because as we have been endlessly told by every dawg fan around you can not count wins which result from TOs by the other team.

Missouri gave UGA the game so to be consistent I think we can be sure that the hypocritical UGA fans will DEMAND that their football program petition the SEC to rightly award Missouri the victory for this sham win, right? Right?

Ot otherwise, they should shut up about their loss last season in their own house to that SC club which they have been bellyaching about for 360 days.

kingdaddy

October 3rd, 2012
9:43 am

I am pretty sure both teams will have a couple of new wrinkles to “spring” on each other. I also thik the ol ball-sac will try a few “trick” plays. Look for CTG to throw more blitz packages at Connie Shaw, something we hadn’t done a lot of so far. Looking for a very flustered lil-crybaby to pitch a fit or two on the sideline. Anytime he calls a play that works, he “smirks” like the pathetic jerk he really is. I want to see lil stevie get a 15 yard penalty for grabing one of his own players facemask on the sideline when he’s cussing the kid out for a mistake. What a sorry excuse for a role-model…

kingdaddy

October 3rd, 2012
9:49 am

Log
you mean SC is going to give up that squeaker victory against the mighty Vandy Dores, lol???

WDE

October 3rd, 2012
10:09 am

Ask your self if the D is better at this point in the season than they were last year at this time….hmmm 5-0 vs 2-3 ……this is a huge test this weekend, play hard and fast every play and GATA !

DAWGFAN13

October 3rd, 2012
10:24 am

In this game the defensive line is the biggest part of the team for Georgia. they have to be able to win the line of scrimmage against SC to stop latimore. They also need to put a spy on Connor Shaw. Jarvis Jones needs to show up big time in this game. Tennessee was able to keep him from making his presence felt. On offense, Georgia needs to use a 5 wideout formation in the beginning to open it up for the running game. If they can do all of the above, they will win by at least 10 points. My prediction is UGA 27 SC 17. UGA 6-0, 3-0. I am also predicting Florida to beat LSU 20-14.This makes the Cocktail Party HUGE! Both teams undefeated! Georgia will have to beat Alabama to win the SEC and to get a chance to play for a National Championship against Oregon or West Virginia.

LOYAL DAWG

October 3rd, 2012
10:37 am

We are 5-0. So the defense is good enough to be 5-0. We played 3 SEC teams and we are 3-0. We won the type of game this past Sat that I have gotten used to seeing us routinely lose over the last few years. In some of our really good seasons over the last decade, we’d always lose a game that we shouldn’t. We may be as talented as Bama and everybody else, but all we need to concern ourselves with is being better than SC Sat night. I don’t care if the offense or defense is more responsible for the win. Just win. College football is survive and advance. We are not gonna blow everybody out or hold everybody to 3 points a game. We just need to keep winning. GO DAWGS!

Shep

October 3rd, 2012
10:42 am

Sorry language on this blog is unacceptable. That just shows immaturity and doltishness. Mark Richt is about the coolest coach there has ever been. Temperate is perfect. NEVER gets flustered. It is how you play the game and Mark, of all the coaches, is the best. The water girl is a big part of the reason too. Let’s don’t leave her out. She is fantastic. What more cd anyone ask for?

dawgfan

October 3rd, 2012
10:51 am

Lattimore an “unstoppable force” Chip? That’s a little strong don’t you think? He’s currently 6th in the SEC in rushing. South Carolina as a team is 9th in the SEC in rushing and they haven’t exactly faced the toughest of schedules thus far. I think Lattimore is a great player and it sucks that he got it hurt but let’s keep it real here. Unstoppable force? That’s laughable.

spurya

October 3rd, 2012
10:57 am

SC defense will dominate Murray…Shaw and Lattimore will run over the UGA defense. See you folks in Columbia real soon~!

The Riddler

October 3rd, 2012
11:07 am

West Virginia may be the team to beat Alabama.

Pitbull

October 3rd, 2012
11:15 am

If the Dogs contain Lattimore then Georgia wins.

Al

October 3rd, 2012
11:19 am

Bennett out with torn ACL. Gone for the season

Rick James

October 3rd, 2012
11:26 am

@spurya

October 3rd, 2012
10:57 am

SC defense will dominate Murray…Shaw and Lattimore will run over the UGA defense. See you folks in Columbia real soon~!
——————————————————————————————————————————-
So I guess the Georgia defense along with Gurley and Marshall wont make the trip to Columbia huh? Get real..Shaw and Lattimore didnt run over the Vanderbilt defense.South Carolina has not faced a defense or offense as good as Georgia’s all year.The SC offense is nowhere near what Georgia faced against Tennesee..Dont place any bets on your team.

SM9

October 3rd, 2012
11:26 am

Terrible news about Bennett. Lets hope Conley can step up. Go Dawgs!

JB

October 3rd, 2012
11:33 am

bottom line….better hold Lattimore to about 100 yards…..If not, he’s moving the chains all night for them getting first downs, eating clock and keeping our offense on the bench. Go Dawgs

Robby

October 3rd, 2012
11:37 am

Michael Bennett, out for season. Torn ACL…

JB

October 3rd, 2012
11:37 am

Then where was Shaw and Lattimore the first 5 games against ALL teams played having losing records?

Robby

October 3rd, 2012
11:38 am

dang. I just saw the other guys post…

mark

October 3rd, 2012
11:47 am

our history…if it’s close we loosewhen is thelast time Mark Richt out coached anybody his equal.I can’t remember, i will be surprised if we win

tony

October 3rd, 2012
11:48 am

I like what I’ve seen from Josh Dawson thus far. Starting lineup should look like this on defense.

DE-Garrison Smith
NT- John Jenkins
DE- Abry Jones
OLB-Jarvis Jones
ILB- Alec Ogletree
ILB- Amarlo Herrera
OLB- Josh Dawson
CB-Malcolm Mitchell
CB- Sanders Commings
S- Shawn Williams
S- Bacarri Rambo

Alphare

October 3rd, 2012
11:58 am

Underrated? according to lots of UGA fans, UGA D is #1 in the land. One fan even said except OLine, UGA is better than BAMA in every other category.

If you are considered #1, how in the world you are underrated?

Michael Dyer

October 3rd, 2012
12:05 pm

You guys are funny. Georgia is #1 every year — until they lose. Then they start being #1 next year. ;)

Alphare

October 3rd, 2012
12:07 pm

Chip,

“Tennessee, which may have the SEC’s most explosive offense”.

To which team though? FL or UGA?

Michael Dyer

October 3rd, 2012
12:14 pm

I think “most explosive offense” in this context means “most likely to blow up”. ;)

WDE

October 3rd, 2012
1:20 pm

@Michael Dyer 45-7 and even showing up like you did for the LSU game don’t think it will be any easier for your bunch this year…now go get thrown out of another school.

Return to Glory

October 3rd, 2012
6:46 pm

Time for Grantham and his boys to step up. Defense wins championships weve got have it bottom line, make the stop no matter the field postion, great defenses force field goals when faced with turnovers.

OrlandoDawg

October 3rd, 2012
7:13 pm

LET THE BIG DAWG EAT SOME CHICKEN!!!

OrlandoDawg

October 3rd, 2012
7:14 pm

UGA WILL MAUL COCKY

Chicken Fever

October 3rd, 2012
9:00 pm

All of us know that the best team will win. Period. Just watch the game and quit all your smack talk until the clock has expired. Cocks roll the Dawgs AGAIN! Whooooooooop! Go Cocks! Dawgs will be licking their nutsacks after this one!

Hugh

October 4th, 2012
12:18 am

Uga’s coaches definitely have low expectations. Imagine Bear Bryant or Adolph Rupp saying it’s OK that we gave up a bunch of points, because we performed when the game was on the line? I believe they expected performance all the damn time. Low expectations breed poor and inconsistent performance. Breads mediocracy.

Hugh

October 4th, 2012
12:20 am

Breeds mediocrity. See what happens when you have low expectations.

Rick James

October 5th, 2012
11:36 am

@ Spurya

SC Gamecocks win against ugly doggies!!

I have your number Chip.