By RYAN BLACK
For the AJC
ATHENS — Shawn Williams doesn’t want anyone to say he saved Georgia’s season.
The Bulldogs’ senior strong safety said Monday night the defense was always capable of playing the way it has for the last four weeks, during which it has allowed only 33 points. Speaking to reporters for the first time since Oct. 22 — when he made his now-famous comments about the defense playing “soft” — Williams says he’s ready to move on.
“I don’t care if it got everybody stirred up or whatnot, but we’re looking past that now,” he said after Monday’s practice. “We’ve got Georgia Tech, so we’ve got to go out and get another win so we can keep them rolling.”
Williams acknowledged the Bulldogs’ defense is “playing really good ball now,” but says there are still areas they needs to shore up.
“There’s always room for improvement,” he said. “That’s what we’ve got to look at now. Take film of our previous games and see where we made mistakes and just get better so we don’t make those mistakes this week or the week after.”
Williams was pleased with the defense’s showing against Georgia Southern’s option offense. The Bulldogs gave up 302 rushing yards, but Williams felt the more pertinent statistic was the Eagles advanced into the red zone just twice and came away with only one touchdown.
“That’s the most important thing,” he said. “Getting stops when it’s critical, when you have to have them.”
The day after his “soft” comments went viral, Georgia coach Mark Richt noted Williams was not pleased with the way his remarks had been interpreted and had not meant for them to come across as harshly as they sounded. When asked what he regretted about the remarks, the senior strong safety couldn’t recall.
“There were a whole lot of things spinning back and forth,” he said. “I’m not really trying to look into the past and say I regret this or that.”
Though Williams refused to take credit for the uptick in the defense’s play, he was named a captain for Saturday’s game, which happens to come Senior Day. But he scoffed at an assertion that his rant could go down as Georgia’s version of Tim Tebow’s postgame “promise” following the Florida’s loss to Ole Miss in 2008.
The Gators did not lose a game the rest of the season, which culminated in a national championship victory over Oklahoma. Two months later, then-Florida coach Urban Meyer had the text of the speech engraved on a plaque outside the front entrance of the team’s football facility.
“Yeah,” Williams joked. “Maybe I can get a plaque.”
Georgia Tech offense feels ‘like déjà vu’
At the conclusion of its annual rivalry game with Georgia Tech each season, Georgia can breath a sigh of relief. Its once-a-year attempt to stifle the triple option complete, the Bulldogs can go back to focusing on defending more conventional offensive schemes. But after playing Georgia Southern’s version of the triple option last Saturday, Georgia defenders feel they have only reached the halfway point as they prepare for Tech.
“It’s definitely like déjà vu,” inside linebacker Mike Gilliard said. “It’s just another week where we have to defeat the cut block and make tackles on the perimeter. That’s our focus right now.”
Noseguard John Jenkins agreed.
“It’s the same type of offense,” he said of Tech’s triple option. “They have their own style, their own swagger, but it’s the same thing, getting cut and trying to stop the run.”
Trying to stop the run won’t be the only thing the Bulldogs have to contend with Saturday. During his teleconference on Sunday, Richt praised the gains he has seen from the Yellow Jackets’ passing game.
That meant little to Jordan Jenkins. The freshman outside linebacker has little hope he’ll be able to notch a sack Saturday.
“I think they’re just going to run it,” he said. “They may take a shot deep every now and then, but sack-wise, I’ve given up even worrying about it.”
Bulldogs apply varying approaches to last Saturday’s upsets
Senior linebacker Mike Gilliard said he watched the upsets of Kansas State and Oregon Saturday night with a bunch of teammates.
“At the time, a bunch of us were together,” he said. “So we were all able to celebrate at the same time.”
By contrast, John Jenkins said he spent the evening “chilling” with members of his family. He said he doesn’t feel the need to follow what other teams are doing.
“I don’t want to feed into it,” the senior noseguard said. “I feel like if you feed too much into it, you start losing sight of what’s right in front of you. What’s right in front of us is Georgia Tech, so all of that will play a part when the time comes.”
Etc. . . .
Georgia’s captains for Saturday’s game are wide receiver Tavarres King, cornerback Sanders Commings, snapper Ty Frix and Williams … Jarvis Jones was named as a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award on Monday, given to the nation’s most outstanding defensive player. The other two finalists for the award are Notre Dame inside linebacker Manti Te’o and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. The winner will be announced on Dec. 6.
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