published Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Georgia Bulldogs last in the SEC in third-down defense

Georgia wide receiver Michael Erdman (6) jumps into the arms of cornerback Damian Swann (5) as they celebrate after their 44-41 win over LSU  in an NCAA football game against the LSU, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, in Athens, Ga.
Georgia wide receiver Michael Erdman (6) jumps into the arms of cornerback Damian Swann (5) as they celebrate after their 44-41 win over LSU in an NCAA football game against the LSU, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, in Athens, Ga.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Georgia survived the attack led by LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger last Saturday in Athens, but Mettenberger made a mess of the Bulldogs from a statistical standpoint.

The Bulldogs enter this week's game at Tennessee ranked 13th in the Southeastern Conference in passing yardage allowed (277 per game), and they are 14th in scoring defense (32.5 ppg). The Tigers converted 10 of 15 third-down plays into firsts, so it's no surprise Georgia is last in that category as well, allowing a 44.8-percent conversion rate.

"We got ourselves into good situations on third down as far as the distance, but we just didn't get the stops," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "We've got to keep trying to get everybody in those situations, but then we've got to get everybody off the field. We just didn't do a good job of that.

"It is kind of a building process, and to get an offensive team in that type of situation over and over and over is great, but if we don't finish it, they're going to score points."

In rushing defense, Georgia ranks sixth in the SEC, allowing a respectable 126.8 yards a game.

"You've got to put more pressure up front, and the times we did put pressure on the quarterback we had some success and some balls batted," Richt said. "We had some sacks and pressures, which were good, but when the protection was clean and Zach had the ability to step up and let it rip, we didn't cover well enough.

"In a game like that, just one more stop might have kept them from getting seven more points on the board, and it may not have been as dramatic of a finish."

Weekly honors

Bulldogs senior quarterback Aaron Murray was named Monday as SEC offensive player of the week, winning the honor for the fourth time in his career. Murray completed 20 of 34 passes for 298 yards and four touchdowns against the Tigers.

Sophomore kicker Marshall Morgan, who scored 14 points and made a career-long 55-yard field goal, was named SEC special teams player of the week for the first time.

Fullback shuffle

After sophomore fullback Quayvon Hicks turned heads the first two games with rushes of 37 and 15 yards and catches of 38 and 23 yards, redshirt sophomore Merritt Hall has had more time at that position these last two weeks. A former walk-on, Hall made six starts last season.

"I think it's good to have more than one, and we think the world of both of them," Richt said. "Merritt was a full-time starter a year ago, and Quayvon kind of knocked him out of the box throughout the spring and fall practice. Merritt has done well and has done well in the past, so it's not like we're putting a rookie in there."

Odds and ends

Georgia's Oct. 12 game against visiting Missouri will be on ESPN with a noon kickoff. ... Sophomore strong safety Josh-Harvey Clemons on racking up 15 tackles against LSU: "I didn't know until I looked at the sheet. I knew had a lot, but I didn't think it was 15. I wasn't expecting that at all." ... Keith Johnson, the starting center on the 1983 team that won the Cotton Bowl, died this past weekend.

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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