published Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Georgia defense still seeking complete game against SEC foe

  • photo
    Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Grantham and coach Mark Richt talk before a 2011 game at Sanford Stadium.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ATHENS, Ga. -- The Georgia Bulldogs are 60 minutes away from completing the Southeastern Conference portion of their 2013 football schedule, which means one last chance for a complete game defensively.

Georgia has been brilliant in bursts but disappointing overall under fourth-year coordinator Todd Grantham, with last week's 43-38 loss at Auburn serving as a microcosm. The Bulldogs were ravaged for 473 yards through the first three quarters but then held Auburn to 20 yards on 16 plays before the miraculous 73-yard touchdown pass from Nick Marshall to Ricardo Louis on fourth-and-18 with 25 seconds remaining.

"I think that's a little bit of a reflection of how these guys continue to grind and work," Grantham said. "The inconsistency is obviously something we've got to work on, but I saw a lot of passion out of the guys this past Saturday, and I saw guys taking it to another level with their passion for what they were doing and what our offense was doing and what our special teams were doing.

"I thought it was a step, because we made a lot of good things happen in the fourth quarter. We've just got to build on it."

The 73-yard score resulted in Auburn finishing with 566 yards, the most given up by the Bulldogs since Florida tallied 584 during Mark Richt's first season in 2001. Georgia already has allowed 30 or more points a program-record seven times this season, and their 302 points allowed are on pace to surpass the 337 given up by the 2009 team as the most in program history.

Georgia has yielded an average of 402 yards a game since last December's loss to Alabama in the SEC championship, which has coach Mark Richt fielding a lot of questions now about his satisfaction with that side of the ball.

"I think they're playing hard as heck and trying to get better," Richt said. "I was pleased with how we finished this last game other than that one play. There was a string of some great defense being played just to allow us to get back into the game without trying to do some desperation onside kick."

The Bulldogs, who lost 12 defensive regulars from last year's team, held North Texas to 245 yards and Appalachian State to 253, but it's been a turbulent ride in league play. They limited Tennessee to 127 first-half yards before being torched for 277 the rest of the way, and they held Vanderbilt to 243 through three quarters before allowing 94 in the fourth.

Georgia gave up just six second-half points against South Carolina and had a late stand against LSU, but quality play has been far too infrequent.

"I thought we played well in the Florida game," Grantham said. "There was a spurt in there in the second half where I thought we got it back. The Vandy game was another one where we had the fourth-and-4 [targeting penalty on linebacker Ramik Wilson, who was allowed to stay in the game].

"What's crazy is that we've had a fourth-and-4 and a fourth-and-18, and a little bit of change here and there -- that's how competitive this league is."

That the Bulldogs have been riddled with offensive injuries and are just two fourth-down defensive stops away from being 8-2 is certainly interesting to ponder, but it won't do them any good Saturday against visiting Kentucky. The Wildcats are 13th in the SEC in total offense (349.2 yards a game) and 12th in scoring (21.5), giving Georgia its best chance at a 60-minute defensive game.

"We haven't put one together yet," inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera said. "We've got a lot of young guys and a lot of inexperience, and the inexperience has come out a little bit. When you're inexperienced, you just need to play more."

Said outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins: "People were expecting the same results out of a younger generation of Bulldogs. I definitely think we'll get there, whether people believe it or not, and I'll defend these guys until the day I leave."

Odds and ends

The Bulldogs practiced Wednesday for two hours. ... Among those wearing green jerseys were safety Tray Matthews (sprained shoulder), cornerback Shaq Wiggins (sprained knee) and inside linebacker Reggie Carter (knee), who Richt said was doubtful.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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