Georgia’s defense looking to stem the tide of big plays

According to the Bulldogs, they're really not far off from playng defense at the level they were last season, when they finished fifth in the nation in total yardage allowed. (AJC photo by Bob Andres)

According to the Bulldogs, they're really not far off from playng defense at the level they were last season, when they finished fifth in the nation in total yardage allowed. (AJC photo by Bob Andres)

ATHENS – When talk at Tuesday’s weekly news conference turned to the big plays given up by Georgia’s defense, Mark Richt interrupted. “I don’t want to talk about the South Carolina game anymore.

“They beat us, they beat us soundly and congratulations to them,” the Bulldogs coach said. “But we’ve moved forward past that and now correcting mistakes is important.”

Trouble is, Georgia’s mistakes on defense this season have not been limited to the 35-7 drubbing it received in Columbia. The Bulldogs have given up yardage in large chunks to everybody they’ve played this season. The gashes the Gamecocks left in Georgia’s defense were just more notable because of the gravity of the situation.

Against South Carolina, Georgia gave up three plays of 20 or more yards – including a 62-yard pass completion. But that was more the rule than the exception this season. The Bulldogs have given up at least three plays of 20 or more yards in every game, including Buffalo and Florida Atlantic.

In total, they’ve allowed 21 plays of 20 or more yards and 14 plays of 30 or more yards. Missouri recorded the longest pass play (69 yards) and Florida Atlantic the longest run (48).

“It’s not disappointment because we know we have the ability to do just as good as last year or better,” senior cornerback Sanders Commings said. “We’re more angry than anything. We’ve just got to find that swagger and take it to the field on Saturday and we’ll be OK.”

That’s a far cry from what was expected from the 2012 defense, which came into the season drawing comparisons to Alabama, LSU and South Carolina. The Bulldogs were fifth nationally in total defense a year ago.

“There’ve been 13 explosive plays in the pass game in the first part of the season,” said defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who defines “explosive plays” as 24 or more yards. “That’s way too many. You can’t, but if you take those plays out we’re pretty much where we were last year from a yards per attempt standpoint. But they are there, so you have say why they’re there and you have to make sure you make the proper corrections.”

The chief explanation the Bulldogs offer for that is “miscommunication.” Players and coaches are trying to be careful not to offer it as an excuse, but having four starters miss a total of 12 games due to suspension contributed to that problem. The issue hasn’t been as much playing without those players as it has been all the residual personnel changes that resulted.

For instance, Georgia had three different free safeties in the first six games and three different boundary cornerbacks. Amarlo Herrera started the first four games at “Mo” inside linebacker but has started the last two at “Mike.” Each has distinctly different responsibilities in the passing game.

The end result has been the occasional wide receiver or halfback running free in Georgia’s secondary and two Bulldogs pointing at each other at the end of the play.

“We have no excuses for anything, no matter who’s in or who’s out,” said Herrera, who admitted his misread led to Tennessee’s running back Rajion Neal scoring a wide-open touchdown on a pass in the flat. “. . . Sometimes it’s complicated; we’ve got a lot of things going on out there. If one person doesn’t hear a call or understand what they have to do, then it can mess up everything.”

If a common denominator can be drawn from the Bulldogs’ first six games it is that their defense has taken its biggest licks in the first half. With the exception of the 48-3 win over Vanderbilt, Georgia allowed at least two first-half scores to every other team it played.

Of the 145 points the Bulldogs have allowed this season, 94 have come in the first two quarters of play. That’s an average of 15.7 points for the first half. Conversely, they’ve given up barely a touchdown on average – 6.8 points — in the second half.

That could be the sign of a couple of things: One, Georgia coaches aren’t anticipating what teams are going to do against them; and two, players aren’t reacting well to things they’re seeing for the first time.

“I think everybody has a little something new for you, especially the first couple of opponents,” Richt said. “You can only prepare for what you see. Sometimes there will be things that can catch you off guard but you can correct. Some of it you just get over-aggressive when it comes to stopping the run and wanting to be physical and all that kind of stuff.”

Those halftime adjustments are one of the reasons for optimism for this group, Grantham contends.

“Early on we had some young players that were playing new positions,” he said. “They see something new and sometimes they don’t fit up the right way. Once you get them on the sideline you can show them what it is, they have a tendency to play better. If you look at all our games it’s kind of gone like that. But that’s a credit to the players because they hung in there and kept playing. They understood what we had to do and they made corrections and we won the game.”

It’s bound to get better this week. In Kentucky the Bulldogs are facing an offense that is currently ranks 13th or 14th in the SEC in scoring, total offense, rushing, pass efficiency and third-down conversions. The Wildcats are currently playing without their top two quarterbacks and will start true freshman Jalen Whitlow on Saturday.

“We’re ready to get back to being the same type of defense we were last year,” Herrera said.

That’s still a steep climb. At the moment Georgia is ranked in the bottom half of the SEC in virtually every statistical category. Nationally, the Bulldogs finished last season fifth in total defense, 11th against the rush, 10th against the pass and 23rd in points allowed. This season their ranking in the same categories is 50th, 67th, 39th and 51st, respectively.

“That was the first half of the season,” Commings said. “I think last year we played our best ball in the second half. Hopefully this year we will, too.”

Grantham believes the timing is right for marked improvement.

“I love bye weeks,” he said. “We took a hard evaluation of the things we were doing and made sure everybody understood it, because the main thing is being on the same page and doing their job. [The players took a workman’s like approach in the bye week and I’ve seen progress. I think as we move forward with the continuity we have, we’ll be fine.”

MORE GEORGIA FOOTBALL

188 comments Add your comment

Mobile Dawg

October 16th, 2012
10:52 pm

Exactly what I would say if I were in their position and my a$$ was on fire.

Mobile Dawg

October 16th, 2012
11:11 pm

To clarify, they (the coaches) are not officially on anyone’s hot seat, just don’t understand why it’s always after we get our heads handed to us on a platter is when we learn what we’re supposed to be doing. From the players perspective it’s obvious, the coaches didn’t prepare us for what we encountered. We learned from our experience. That tells me that if we’re going to get better, it’s the players who will make it happen, not the coaches.

JRW7

October 16th, 2012
11:14 pm

I would be embarrassed too, if I was CMR, embarrassed at a 35-7 loss, because my team was not prepared for SC and CSS! This terrible and embarrassing loss was on the UGA coaching staff! EMBARRASSING!!!!!

JRW7

October 16th, 2012
11:17 pm

CMR is not on the hot seat, why? Because he wins 10 games per year, and everybody is happy and content?

t2go

October 16th, 2012
11:22 pm

Come on D!!! We have Fla coming up and their QB can move! He had over 150 yds last game….scary!

evil empire

October 16th, 2012
11:29 pm

its over ladies…9-3 and chik-fil-a bound

GDawg

October 16th, 2012
11:30 pm

Everytime we have a loss we have this “New” start or “new” understanding and we’re “Going to get better”. At what time have we heard Nick Saban, Les Miles, Urban Meyer make these kinds of statements. I would love nothing more that to see this coaching staff win every game from here out and win a National Title. I don’t see that happening! UGA has exactly 1 game that is of importance the rest of this year… Florida! I hate to say it but I don’t know if I want us to win that one (okay, of course I do I hate the Gators). It’s past time to bring UGA back to national importance. UGA needs to be that school that every team fears. There is entirely too much money in our coffers to be consistently turning out the 2nd tier results. Our talent is better than the VAST majority of our competitors. It’s time to win Championships! It’s time to put several on the shelves in Athens!

evil empire

October 16th, 2012
11:30 pm

who yall got …TAMU vs LSu?

I'm Done.

October 16th, 2012
11:31 pm

I have wasted to much time, money, energy and emotion on this team and have not gotten a very good return on my investment. I will be selling or giving my tickets away for the rest of this season and I will no longer buy any more of their cheap over priced merchandise. The only people that receive my true unconditional love and respect are my wife, kids, sibilings, and my pastor. This awful coached, unprepared and uninspired team does not. Trying to defend Richt is like trying to defend Obama, the record does not lie. UGA is a bully team pure and simple. Until Richt is gone I’m Done.

Voyager Dawg

October 16th, 2012
11:34 pm

Don’t look past Kentucky Mr. Richt and Mr. Grantham (remember the score last year). Don’t even think about Florida until next week. We have had a history of playing to see if we can win or playing not to loose and we go into too many games looking unprepared. That has become our m.o. and that reflects on coaching. With the way our defense is playing I won’t be surprised to see Kentucky do some things on offense that they haven’t been able to do to this point in the season. I’ve seen it too many times over the past decade. It’s always an adventure. I would love to see the Dawgs play a complete game on offense and defense in one game, but I’ve lowered my expectations and hope to have fewer disappointments. I will always be a Dawg fan (have been for more than 40 years) but my blood pressure can’t take it. GATA this weekend and put it together against Kentucky for 4 quarters on both sides of the ball. Make an old man happy!

Hank Hill

October 16th, 2012
11:48 pm

One game at a time. Pound Kentucky into the ground.

Gman 84

October 17th, 2012
12:09 am

I’m Done and GDawg,

Very, very well said. You guys are not the lunatic fringe you are the formerly loyal constituency that CRM can’t afford to lose. I’m with you and so are many others. If you lose every big game year after year, let’s move on. If CRM isn’t the answer, let’s start looking for someone who can actually maximize- rather than squander -the talent at UGA.

tony

October 17th, 2012
12:11 am

Maybe this coaching staff don’t see what the fans see. I see a team that is very weak in the trenches and lack physicality. It seems as though this coaching staff don’t coach fundamentals and make their players work hard in practice. To have so much talent this team just not mean enough to play sec football. That’s the way I see it.

ARdawg

October 17th, 2012
1:15 am

Charlie Brown’s teacher would say:
WAH….WAH…..WAH

Thanks for asking it Chip, it needed to be. Just it is a shame Richt wouldn’t give a straight answer

ARdawg

October 17th, 2012
1:17 am

It’s time to make some serious defensive strides against Kentucky, Impressive. Yeah, right

go-bravos

October 17th, 2012
2:23 am

Seems like every play on defense this year you see several players looking confused and/or lost out there before the snap. Our substitution seems slow and causing confusion, just a lot of plays were the coaches have not put the players in a position to be successful and big plays have ensued.
Coach the kids up and get everybody on the same page and the D should improve because it cannot get much worse at this point.

Go Dawgs!

DogRoll

October 17th, 2012
3:08 am

Georgia—should win out easily and finish 11-1! Ga will upset alabama—book it.

hop

October 17th, 2012
3:12 am

I could not agree more with the comments stated here! our defense has been horrible and the sad news is it is made up with mostly seniors.

this does not speak well for next season.

MARK RICHT will be coaching next year and we will have a much tougher schedule and it will be far worse with a very average team.

It is time to look for a new coach after next year because we will be sattled with him then as well.

Our state plays top flight High School football and uga is not getting the very best players with many going to other SEC schools e.g. alabama,south carolina ,auburn to name a few.

HOPEFULLY , our A.D. IS BEGINNING TO PUT TOGETHER a list of possible replacements for CMR.ONE would hope so!

It is great that we have a winning NFL them that we can support since we do not a very good college team.

GO FALCONS!

7576DAWG

October 17th, 2012
3:37 am

What I don’t understand is Grantham and Richt always say they had a good practice and then in a game missed assignments are frequent and is why South Carolina beat us so bad. During our practice why didn’t all these missed assignments show up then. If it is because we didn’t practice at full speed then I suggest we start practicing at full speed because I am not hearing about very many missed assignment in practice. If we do have a lot of missed assignments then why do we shut down physical practicing after Tuesdays practice. I would practice into Friday every week if it took that for the players to learn their assignments.

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Columbus Dawg

October 17th, 2012
7:18 am

Richt has no trouble getting defensive when pressed with obvious questions, needs to channel that emotion to the field. Great person, not so great coach. I do not doubt what I read from a poster somewhere about players not respecting Richt. Also character counts in recruiting. Night and day character between players like Gurley and Marshall, and players who were already on roster when they arrived. They are not the only examples. There are coaches who would clean house on bad apple players, much like what Muschamp has done since his arrival at UF. There are more problems than one in Athens, I’m afraid, and a totally different culture will have to take hold on the players before Dawgs will accomplish goals. I know first hand what the culture was in Athens in late seventies/early eighties, and yes, a heap of partying going on. The difference was that coach Dooley would not allow players to get bogged down in it. I have a good friend who is related to an All American linebacker from that era, and have heard first hand stories about the fact that Dooley did not take crap from players, and that they either did it his way or they did not get on the field. Been a long time since any coach throttled the players like Dooley did at Georgia. Look at the Donnan/Quincy fiasco.

tell me again

October 17th, 2012
7:21 am

Wow ~ our team is 5 ~ 1 and ranked 11th in the country and people are slitting their wrists. You guys are hilarious. Show some perspective.

tell me again

October 17th, 2012
7:29 am

Columbus Dawg. Richt runs a convent compared to what Dooley ran when he was there. Those boys were at Effie’s every Friday night getting laid and drank till they puked. Give me a break. Dooley had more than his fair share of players who wouldn’t give him the time of day. Don’t paint the picture that Dooley was feared and Sabanesque. Just isn’t true. Richt deals with an entirely different athlete as well. You can’t compare apples and oranges. Different players, different times.

Bruce Dawg

October 17th, 2012
7:47 am

Let Jones sit for the Kentucky game. We are going to need all hands on deck for the Florida game.

Dawg_Mike

October 17th, 2012
8:00 am

“miscommunication” “missed assignments”
Funny, I don’t hear Alabama saying those kinds of things.

gomdawg

October 17th, 2012
8:01 am

Back when Dooley coached we played maybe 5 SEC teams and now we play 8 SEC teams a lot differents but Look at Dooley and CMR records and you will see how good CMR is WE ARE LUCKY TO HAVE A GREAT COACH SO IF YOU DON’T LIKE HIM GO TO FLORIDA OR SOUTH CAROLINA
JUST DON’T BAD MOUTH MY DAWGS AND THEIR LEADER GO DAWGS

Coarch Ric

October 17th, 2012
8:05 am

“Georgia’s defense looking to stem the tide of big plays”

Yep… Too bad they didn’t think of that back during spring and fall camps, huh? ;)

Smarticus

October 17th, 2012
8:11 am

Richt and his blind homers have led us to ruin. The guy doesn’t really have a clue. He’s frozen in the ACC of the 1980s… Copies Bobby Bowdoin like a kid…

Grantham is starting to look like he’s also a paper tiger, or else perhaps Richt has neutered him since he arrived.

The players are out of shape and undisciplined. The schemes are not executed with any precision.

It’s the coaching, stupid. How long must this BS go on?

Time to get a completely new coaching staff in Athens.

Next year will be a ghoulish nightmare if Richt stays…

DIT

October 17th, 2012
8:12 am

“Wow ~ our team is 5 ~ 1 and ranked 11th in the country and people are slitting their wrists. You guys are hilarious. Show some perspective.”
________________

Thank You!

Coarch Ric

October 17th, 2012
8:16 am

If we didn’t have to play these SEC games, we’d probably be undefeated.

You can bet we won’t be scheduling any more non-conference games with traditional powerhouses like Boise State again! ;)

Smarticus

October 17th, 2012
8:17 am

DIT, we may be 5-1, but we are not one of the top 20 teams in the country. We cannot beat a ranked team.

Only an idiot really thinks that UGA can beat Florida. It will definitely be a Corey Smith long ride back from Jacksonville.

On the way back, just ponder the thought that UGA has paid Richt in excess of $30Million dollars to get us to the sad state that is UGA football today.

This is Reality boys

October 17th, 2012
8:19 am

We had better get these plays fixed before we play the Gators. Driskel ran 177 yds in 11 carries against Vandy last week including a 70 yarder where he ran away from their DB’s. I am sick of the excuses by blowhard Grantham.

Coarch Ric

October 17th, 2012
8:22 am

I’d just like to thank Phil Fulmer and Oscar Meyer for coming to my rescue just in the nick of time. Now, if I could only figure out how to get the Evil Genius fired we would have a cakewalk to the Division Championship.

DIT

October 17th, 2012
8:25 am

The difference between you and I Smarticus is that I KNOW that there is so much more to life than football. I believe it’s a game and it’s entertainment.It does not run my life. My life is not predicated on what a bunch of 18-22 year olds do on a football field. UGA can go 0-14 or 14-0 and it does not chance one thing in my every day life.
Top priorities in order: Jesus, My Wife, My Children, My job………. football is way down on that list. Hey, I’d love to see UGA win it all and to start, win the big games. However, it sure does not control my life as it does yours. AND this is coming from an Alumnus of UGA!

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

October 17th, 2012
8:25 am

I thought when Mcgarity took over that Richt would be able to spend more time on football

I guess he has learned how to dodge questions and make more Ford Truck commercials

;)

Jimmy Crack

October 17th, 2012
8:25 am

I wonder what kinds of new techniques Georgia can employ that will make this team not tackle like a bunch of teenaged girls with freshly done nails. Fix that little problem and we will have our dynasty of second place trophies intact.

As far as rooting for Georgia…ZERO expectations from here on out, including the remainder of Richt’s gentle tenure.

Joey

October 17th, 2012
8:31 am

“…you will see how good CMR is WE ARE LUCKY TO HAVE A GREAT COACH…”
********************************************
Great coaches don’t lose 20 games in 4+ seasons.

And great coaches damn sure don’t lose 9 in blow out fashion.

9 blowouts – how can you call him “great?”

gomdawg

October 17th, 2012
8:36 am

JOEY simple BECAUSE HE IS A GREAT COACH , YOU COMPARE HIM TO ANY COACH IN SEC WIN FOR WIN SINCE HE CAME TO GEORGIA AND YOU TELL ME WHO HAS A BETTER RECORD PLEASE

333

October 17th, 2012
8:37 am

“Grantham believes the time is right for improvement”. To quote coach Grantham—I’m sure glad he and all of the other UGA coaches have waited until now for “that time”, and not before the USCe game. There is nothing wrong with losing to a better team, but to be so UTTERLY unprepared should be an embarrassment to all of you!!!!

Go Dawgs!!!!

October 17th, 2012
8:37 am

@I’m Done……what does Obama have to do with UGA football…..typical idiot with A.D.D

gomdawg

October 17th, 2012
8:43 am

ALL THESE PEOPLE THAT DISLIKE OUR COACHES WHY DON’T YOU JUST MOVE ON TO BE GATOR OR GAMECOCK OR MAYBE A AUBURN TIGER YOU SEE WHAT HAPPEN TO THEM WHEN THEY CHANGED COACHES IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

October 17th, 2012
8:46 am

gomdawg

there are only 3 coaches in the SEC that have been coaching over 4 yrs

2 of those coaches have National Titles and win big games

And their record is as good as Richts

So much for your record argument

gomdawg

October 17th, 2012
8:46 am

FLAT TIRE YOU NEED TO GET A LIFE , IT WILLL\ BE FINE THE WORLD IS NOT COMING TO A END NEXT WEEK.

Kirk

October 17th, 2012
8:46 am

I fully expect that we’ll have one of the best games of the year this week, and frankly with the pressure and week off, we better. HOWEVER, what worries me is the Florida game as we’ll probably be out of steam by then. It worried me after we destroyed Vandy and sure enough, the team looked hung over and forgot to play until it was too late.

Iornhead

October 17th, 2012
8:47 am

Go ahead and lose to Kentucky and Florida, maybe then it’ll open eyes at how under-coached NFL-level talent is at UGA. Bring on Kirby!!!!!

gomdawg

October 17th, 2012
8:49 am

FLAT TIRE YOU DID NOT GIVE ME A WIN AND LOST FOR THE LAST 12 YEARS ON ALL THE COACHES

This is Reality boys

October 17th, 2012
8:49 am

Lets see moron gomdawg you are correct about cheezik and the Barn. But SC fired Grandma Lou and got the Evil Genius who is 15-5 against us and is now doing it to us at SC. UF didnt fire Urban Crier but he left because of an empty house and no Tebow and what do they have now after just 1.5 seasons? A #2 BCS ranking, a top Defense and a QB who just put up 177 yards on just 11 carries that broke Tebows record. How is that for starters moron?

gomdawg

October 17th, 2012
8:50 am

GEORGIA WILL KICK FLORIDA BUTT AND WHEN WE DO THAT THEN ALL YA’LL WILL STOP CRYING LIKE BABYS

This is Reality boys

October 17th, 2012
8:51 am

gomdawg you are the one who does not have a life other than idolizing the great suntanned ford truck salesman.

Rip Van Winkle

October 17th, 2012
8:52 am

Wake up gomdawg.