Georgia looks to shore up run defense before taking on Nebraska’s ‘Big Red Machine’

Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree racked up a lot of tackles against Alabama (11), but too often it was not at or near the lilne of scrimmage. (AP photo by Dave Martin)

Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree racked up a lot of tackles against Alabama (11), but too often it was not at or near the lilne of scrimmage. (AP photo by Dave Martin)

ATHENS -- For all the adoration heaped upon Georgia’s defense and its cavalcade of all-star players this season, it hasn’t been all that good at the one thing considered a cornerstone of being great – stopping the run.

The fact is, the Bulldogs exited the 2012 regular season ranked among the bottom third in the nation in rush defense. They’ve given up an averaged 177.77 yards per game, which is 77th among 120 FBS teams.

Most notably, the last time we saw it in action, the Georgia defense gave up 350 yards on the ground to Alabama in the SEC Championship. For all the debate about whether the Bulldogs should have spiked the ball or not in the closing seconds, it could be argued the inability to stop the run is the reason they lost the game 32-28.

“Some of it was just wrapping them up better,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said of the Alabama debacle. “I told them going in, ‘You’re not going to be able to knock these guys down. You might knock them down a time or two, but if your goal is to just knock them down, you’re not going to be able to do it. You’re going to get embarrassed. You’ve got to wrap up and run your feet until you get them on the ground.’”

That didn’t happen. Eddie Lacy rushed for 181 yards and T.J. Yeldon for 153. And most of the Crimson Tide’s production came between the tackles. Linebackers Alec Ogletree and Mike Gillard were unable to bring the down their backs at the point of contact and safeties Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams spent more time unsuccessfully trying to snatch away the football than stopping the Bama’s backs progress.

The Alabama game continued a disturbing trend toward the end of the season. It was the third game in a row in which the Bulldogs gave up 300 or more yards rushing. Including contests against triple-option specialists Georgia Southern (302 yards) and Georgia Tech (306), Georgia gave up 958 yards rushing during that stretch. It came on an average of 58.6 attempts and 5.4 yards per carry.

“It is surprising considering how well we did last year in the run game and having most of the guys back,” said senior linebacker Christian Robinson, one of 10 starters back for a defense that finished 11th in the nation against the run in 2011 (101.21 ypg).  “We just gave up too many big plays, too many big runs. Those factor into why it may look so bad. But we should have been better and we have to be better in this last one.”

Enter Nebraska. The Bulldogs’ opponent in the Jan. 1 Capital One Bowl in Orlando comes into the game ranked eighth in the nation in rushing (254.5 ypg). The Cornhuskers are led by sophomore running back Ameer Abdullah ( 1,089 yards, 8 touchdowns) and dual-threat quarterback Taylor Martinez (973, 10). Both players are averaging more than five yards a carry.

The Bulldogs are a double-digit favorite over Nebraska. But if they’re not able to control the Cornhuskers’ rushing attack, they could be in trouble.

“Personally, I don’t think we need to do different,” senior linebacker Mike Gilliard said. “We just need to go out there and continue to do what we’re doing. I have 110 percent, complete faith in our defense against the run. I don’t think we need to change anything. Just keep doing what we’ve been doing, everybody run to the ball and play fundamental, sound football and we’ll be all right.”

Gilliard’s attitude reflects that of defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who insisted he’s not disappointed in the Bulldogs’ run defense this season.

Grantham said Georgia’s stats against the rush are a bit “skewed.” He called the games against Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech “irrelevant” due to the unique nature of their schemes. And the Bulldogs played their first four games without two of their better run defenders in Ogletree and Rambo, who were suspended.

“We were pretty low in points allowed this year,” Grantham said. “As a matter of fact, lower than we were last year. That’s really more important than anything. We got to the SEC championship game two years in a row. To me those things are more important than stats.”

Georgia did have a few run-stuffing efforts. Missouri managed just 102 yards on the ground, Vanderbilt just 106 and neither Florida (75), Ole Miss (46) nor Auburn (57) managed.

“Certain games we do well and other times we don’t do what we need to,” Robinson said. “We need to be more consistent.”

The Alabama game exposed one of the Bulldogs’ weaknesses, which is depth along the defensive line. For all the accolades John Jenkins, Kwame Geathers and Garrison Smith have received this season, the drop off was pretty steep behind them. Ray Drew, Cornelius Washington and Mike Thornton are good athletes but are undersized when it comes to defending smash-mouth football. As a result, Jenkins, Geathers and Smith played nearly every snap of the Alabama game.

“I thought we got tired at the end of the game,” Grantham said. “I think we’ve got to continue to work and develop some depth. I think if we do that they’ll be fine.”

Georgia hopes to address that through recruiting and up-and-coming players such as redshirted noseguard John Taylor. In the meantime, they’ll have to go with what they’ve got versus the ‘Huskers.

“I think we could have done a whole lot of things better this season,” All-American outside linebacker Jarvis Jones said. “I think we could have played the run better; I think we could’ve played the pass better. I think if we eliminate the big play from Alabama at the end of the third quarter or beginning of the fourth or whatever it was, I think we shut the game out right there.

“It’s just small things, discipline things, we’ve got to work on going into this bowl game. I think if we take care of that, I think we’ll be fine.”

154 comments Add your comment

The Georgia Way

December 19th, 2012
2:52 pm

We had the season gift-wrapped for us,…..should have taken advantage of it. Doubt we ever have this easy of a schedule again. Hey,…..at least we got to the Dome the past two years.

Spanky

December 19th, 2012
2:54 pm

This is why we need Kwame to stick around, to show this Taylor kid the ropes..We had to good-sized guys redshirt, and maybe “Moose” will see his potential value at the nose in this D!! We will need the best we can get with this schedule on the docket!!

Spanky

December 19th, 2012
2:55 pm

Georgia Way, “shoulda-coulda-woulda” is for tech fans!…Let’s move forward!

bh

December 19th, 2012
2:56 pm

I read that depth along the d-line is the biggest problem and that it is being addressed thru recruiting, but then I am constantly reading where UGA is late to the table with defensive guys in our state. Not only our state, but kids in the metro Atlanta area. I don’t understand that.

Dawg in Napa

December 19th, 2012
2:56 pm

Defense played a great second half of the season, no reason to worry here. I’d be more worried about motivation coming into this game than talent/scheme. Could someone send a note to Shawn Williams for us to get the boys fired up?

Huskerfan92

December 19th, 2012
3:05 pm

Dogs aren’t man enough to stop the Nebraska running game.

DawginLex

December 19th, 2012
3:11 pm

Next year’s d-line will be loaded with Taylor and Atkins and Moose Johnson and Ray Drew. If we land M Adams it will just be more talent.

Find some defensive backs and our defense will be pretty darn good

dawgfan

December 19th, 2012
3:16 pm

This game will be closer than most think. I don’t think our defense matches up well with Nebraska with all their running and a dual threat QB. Plus a lot of minds in our defense will be on the NFL draft instead of winning the bowl game. Hopefully our offense comes to play, which I fully expect, and we get the W. I predict a high scoring affair that is decided in the 4th quarter.

You’re welcome.

Vel Crow

December 19th, 2012
3:18 pm

If UGA wants to stop the run , they need to learn how to tackle. Wrap up the runner instead of all this MMA wanna be tackling like in the TECH game. UGA 3-4 defense is overated, they should go back to a 4-3 front. Tech, GA Southern, KY. and Bama all ran all over them. Throw on TENN., SC, and Buffalo too.

icedawg

December 19th, 2012
3:19 pm

DAWGS had a pretty good season. With the schedule and “talent” it should have been even better. There is no reason why the same personnel from last year could not have improved in stopping the running game, but they did not, no excuses. Not stopping the run cost them the championship game. The D was gassed in the 2nd half. I don’t doubt that they played their heart out. But they did not improve in the run defense from last year. We stunk it up.

Vel Crow

December 19th, 2012
3:20 pm

Vince Lombardi

December 19th, 2012
3:22 pm

Some people try to find things in this game that don’t exist but football is only two things – blocking and tackling.

Georgia got blocked, that is why Alabama got 350 yards and we lost the game. We lost the game on the line of scrimmage.

They played their hearts out and almost won, but they got blocked and beat. Great game of football!

It ain’t rocket science.

JB

December 19th, 2012
3:25 pm

The reason Saban ( and I’m ALL Dawg) is a few days away from NC #4 and Mark Richt has NONE is that Saban knows to win championships, you can’t have ANY weak links or phases of the game. You can’t have a great offense and so so defense or vice versa. You can’t have great RB’s and a slack OL. You can’t have a all star QB and no receivers. Saban covers all the basis. Like him or hate him, he has the hardware. Don’t know if Richt gets that.

Jarvis Jones gives Muschamp nightmares

December 19th, 2012
3:30 pm

Depth along the defensive line is often a big part of championship teams and we don’t have quite enough of it. I won’t make any excuses, because we lost, but it would have been nice having Abry Jones against Alabama. Then again, for next year’s sake, it was good he was out because Garrison Smith got a ton of experience and now is more polished for next season, meaning one less starter we’ll have to replace. Drew needs to improve, but I’m glad to see he got some playing time toward the end of the season. Also, I’m excited to see what Ramik Wilson can do next season. He had a big play against Alabama near the goal line the play before Commings picked off McCarron.

JB

December 19th, 2012
3:35 pm

Speaking of Drew, the hype on recruiting always needs to be tempered. I remember reading about him when he committed. The “experts” told us we wouldn’t be able to keep him off the field……….Hadn’t seen him on the field much.

Jarvis Jones gives Muschamp nightmares

December 19th, 2012
3:37 pm

I’m very proud of the dawgs for the season they had. We can sit here and say the guys should have done this better, but Alabama’s dominant offensive line outplayed our defensive line. Yeah, it sucks that we didn’t win against Bama, but if you look back the last four years and not many teams have been able to do that. It sucks that Abry wasn’t able to play and that Bennett and Brown were out for the year but Bama had injuries of their own (Kenny Bell, DeAndrew White).

Also, if the dawgs are motivated at all, I don’t see how Georgia loses this game. The Huskers can run the ball, but their defense was torced by Wisconsin and Ohio State. Those teams both scored over 50 on them. Plus, remember what happens when SEC teams play other teams out of conference. The SEC defenses tend to stand out. I believe Georgia’s defense will play very well against Nebraska.

Uncle Tom

December 19th, 2012
3:38 pm

Gilliard says we need to “continue what we’re doing!”???????????? Giving up over 300 yards per game: Whose side is he on?

JB

December 19th, 2012
3:38 pm

Dawgs win this bowl game 86 to 54

JB

December 19th, 2012
3:40 pm

We have 9 DB’s committed and 3 OL……………HELLO.

Jarvis Jones gives Muschamp nightmares

December 19th, 2012
3:42 pm

Nebraska gave up 70 to Wisconsin! How do you expect them to stop Gurley?? It won’t happen. If you look on some of the Nebraska blogs, most of their fans are thinking it’s going to take a great game by their team to win or that the defense is too bad to stop our offense. There’s a few idiots in every fanbase, but a lot of their fans seem to think our team will be tough to beat.

Jarvis Jones gives Muschamp nightmares

December 19th, 2012
3:43 pm

JB, do we really have 9? I thought we only have six. If so, that’s great! But we better load up on some more linemen, we sure as heck need Tunsil.

Dawg Fud

December 19th, 2012
3:44 pm

Need to address the OL and DL issues….which it does not seem we are. Wake up Football Staff!

JB

December 19th, 2012
3:47 pm

Jarvis. I heading over to commit list and recheck, but I believe so

JB

December 19th, 2012
3:49 pm

OK, just went there. As of today 12/19/12, we have 8 DB’s and 3 OL committed.

DP

December 19th, 2012
3:49 pm

“Personally, I don’t think we need to do different,” senior linebacker Mike Gilliard said. “We just need to go out there and continue to do what we’re doing. I have 110 percent, complete faith in our defense against the run. I don’t think we need to change anything. Just keep doing what we’ve been doing, everybody run to the ball and play fundamental, sound football and we’ll be all right.”

Gilliard’s attitude reflects that of defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who insisted he’s not disappointed in the Bulldogs’ run defense this season.

I’m kind of amazed by those attitudes. It reminds me of Mark Richt shrugging off Georgia being near the top of the SEC in penalty yards most years. How can you expect to win championships without having high standards?

JB

December 19th, 2012
3:51 pm

If you were the DC at Bama and gave up 350 yards in the SECCG, you would be looking for a job

Jarvis Jones gives Muschamp nightmares

December 19th, 2012
3:51 pm

We have 8 commitments from defensive backs and 5 commitments from defensive linemen (2 ends, 3 tackles).

JB

December 19th, 2012
3:53 pm

Correct. and THREE OL commits, although they feel good about adding two more OL.

DP

December 19th, 2012
3:54 pm

JB, I agree. Alabama has only given up 300 yards rushing to an opponent once in Saban’s 6 years, to Georgia Southern in 2011 when they sat all 3 nose tackles with minor injuries to get them healthy for Auburn the following week. Grantham’s defense gives up over 300 yards rushing 3 games in a row and he says he’s not dissatisfied with the run defense? Incredible.

Jarvis Jones gives Muschamp nightmares

December 19th, 2012
3:54 pm

Also, we have THREE four-star linebackers. I’m glad we’re solid in that area as well, even though we still have Herrera and Ramik Wilson.

CEPH

December 19th, 2012
3:57 pm

Whatever happened about Saint Richt selling his house on the lake and giving the money to charity? Please excuse me, I forgot that is just like his excuse for the football team, “wait until next year”

Bip

December 19th, 2012
3:57 pm

Rush defense has been nationally:
2010 50th
2011 11th
2012 79th

Rush def vs. ranked teams nationally:
2010 35th
2011 48th
2012 70th

Scoring defense vs. ranked teams nationally:
2010 26 pts per game (16th nationally)
2011 39 pts per game (61st nationally)
2012 25 pts per game (18th nationally)

Jarvis Jones gives Muschamp nightmares

December 19th, 2012
3:58 pm

Any idea of who the two they think they can add? We could use more offensive linemen, no doubt.

AltamahaDawg

December 19th, 2012
3:59 pm

Giftwrapped? we won the only division in tha nation with 3 top ranked team, and needed to beat the best team in the nation to collect that “gift”.

I’d say a team with a completely rebuilt line and a couple of freshman backs, couple of freshman kicker, some bad injuries, low on scholarships players, missing half the defence to start the season, took advantage as well as any team we have had.

Bip

December 19th, 2012
4:00 pm

Mismatch:

Nebraska is 8th nationally in rush offense
Georgia is 79th nationally in rush defense

Gonna be a long da for Georgia defense, the Georgia players are soft, can’t tackle, and fear injury hurting NFL draft potential

Delusional Georgia hater

December 19th, 2012
4:00 pm

Oh boy, here’s my chance to rag on Georgia for giving up all those rushing yards to Bama! I don’t know what I would have done with myself if the dogs had won. I might have to move out of the state. Now I can praise Alabama like a moron even though I’m not even a fan of their team.

Bip

December 19th, 2012
4:03 pm

The trend for the Georgia rush defense isn’t looking good:
35th in 2010 to
48th in 2011 to
70th in 2012

The Georgia rush defense is getting 2x worse (35th to 70th in 2 seasons nationally in rush defense), every 2 years under Grantham.

Could be looking at falling to 140th in rush defense in 2014 if Grantham is allowed to continue coaching at Georgia.

JB

December 19th, 2012
4:04 pm

Jarvis, there are 3 I keep reading about ( names escape me) two from Florida I believe, but that scares me because all 3 have us and like 2 or 3 more as finalist. Richt will just not feel the slots if he can’t land them. Although we are in decent shape NOW on the OL, he needs to bring in minimum of 4 a year to have 16 in the program at all times.

Jarvis Jones gives Muschamp nightmares

December 19th, 2012
4:04 pm

Bip, you are forgetting Nebraska does not play in the same caliber of conference as UGA. The other matchup you failed to mention is the Georgia offense versus the Nebraska defense. You do realize that Nebraska gave up 539 yards rushing to Wisconsin. Todd Gurley will run through their defense at will. If he can get 120 on the best run defense in the nation, odds are he is going to get close to 200 in this game.

Destin Dawg

December 19th, 2012
4:06 pm

Huge game vs. Nebraska… could still end up # 3 or so in the Nat’l rankings with a win !!!! Next year looks good too… S.C. and LSU. games are in Athens, and we have By week before Florida… Go Dawgs .. Beat Nebraska !!!

Bip

December 19th, 2012
4:06 pm

Nebraska is ranked #1 in pass defense.

So Nebraska ranks HIGHER THAN ALABAMA IN BOTH RUSHING OFFENSE AND PASS DEFENSE.

Mistmatch for Georgia. Look for Nebraska to win by 21.

JB

December 19th, 2012
4:07 pm

First 13 poll out I saw last week had Dawgs 5th. What?

Jarvis Jones gives Muschamp nightmares

December 19th, 2012
4:07 pm

The most important stat is that our scoring defense has gone down this season. Minus the free points in the case of a pick 6 or fumble inside the 20 (see the Tennessee game), the scoring defense is more important of a statistic.

Bip

December 19th, 2012
4:08 pm

Nebraska is no fluke.

They rank 7th in PASS DEFENSE AGAINST RANKED TEAMS.

Top 20 in RUSH OFFENSE against ranked teams.

And UGA got blown out by South Carolina and rolled for 350 yards against Alabama.

AltamahaDawg

December 19th, 2012
4:08 pm

There is a misconception that we need to sign a lot of OL. Numbers are not the issue. We had close to 20 going into this year. Our issue was lack of experience, but somehow that got twisted around to believe that not having a lot more lack of experience was the problem.

JB

December 19th, 2012
4:09 pm

BIP….. I don’t think so. Their message boards folks saying they hope they can stay on field with us and Richt has mercy.

SEC Football

December 19th, 2012
4:09 pm

IT SCARES ME WHEN THEY DO NOT ASSUME RESPONSIBILTY FOR THE POOR STATS IN STOPPING THE RUN. YOU ARE CORRECT ABOUT NOT WRAPPING THEIR ARMS AROUND THEM AND JUST TRYING TO KNOCK THEM DOWN.

Jarvis Jones gives Muschamp nightmares

December 19th, 2012
4:11 pm

But they are 56th overall in total defense. And they haven’t faced a quarterback who can sling it as well as Murray.

Bip

December 19th, 2012
4:11 pm

If the defense hold under 30 points, Georgia usually wins in big games, but if defense yields 30 points or more in big games, Georgia almost always loses.

my personal opinion

December 19th, 2012
4:11 pm

maybe saban will write a book years down the road and richt can read up on how to win championships. it seems the book Homer Smith wrote really helped him on game time manangement