November 19, 2011

Defense finishes strong

During its current nine-game winning streak, one constant in Georgia's drive to the SEC East crown has been defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's ability to adjust to whatever new looks opposing offenses have shown.

Take Saturday's 19-10 win over Kentucky, for example.

After allowing 152 yards in the first half, the Bulldogs dominated in the second, holding the Wildcats to just 13 yards.

"In the second half I thought we were pretty much on top of what was happening to us. We made the right adjustments and were able to get them behind the sticks quite a bit on first down, got quite a few third and longs," Grantham said. "That's the stuff you've got to do to be a good defense and that's what we kind of relish. We realize there's good defenses in this league and we want to put ourselves up there with them."

The Bulldogs (9-2, 6-1) have already done a very good job of that.

Georgia's came into the day as the SEC's third-ranked defense and fourth in the country, and aren't likely to drop in those standings after giving up just 165 yards to Kentucky (4-7, 1-6).

The Wildcats' only second-half first down came with just over three minutes to go in the game.

"We're going to have a game plan and we're going to look and see what they do, but as the game goes you've got to be able to adjust to what's happening to you. To our players' credit they do a great job of understanding what's happening and that's a total team thing," Grantham said. "That goes to all the coaches on the sideline, going up to formations, so that's a total team thing. From there, we just make our adjustments and that's what we've been pretty much able to do all year."

Georgia tied a season-high by accounting for four turnovers in the game - two on fumbles and two more on interceptions by Brandon Boykin and Branden Smith.

"It all starts with Coach Grantham. He's the leader and we follow behind him. We'll follow every step he takes, man," Smith said. "Without him, we wouldn't be able to get this done, so we give thanks to him and all our other defensive coaches."

The Bulldogs continue to get stellar play from their linebackers.

Alec Ogletree lead Georgia with eight tackles and a sack while teammate Jarvis Jones added 2.5 sacks, giving him 12.5 for the season, just 1.5 behind former Bulldog great David Pollack who hold's Georgia's single-season record with 14.

Jones also made the defensive play of the game when he stripped quarterback Maxwell Smith of the football which linebacker Christian Robinson recovered at the Wildcat 10-yard line.

Three plays later, Aaron Murray hit Marlon Brown on a 7-yard touchdown to account for the final 19-10 score.

"I think we come into every game thinking that we need to make big plays," Jones said. "Today the offense struggled a little bit and that put a little more pressure on us, but I thought we did a good job staying focused and just going out there and make plays."

So did Grantham.

"I'm really proud of our guys. If you just look where we've come in two years, these guys have really bought in. They've got mental toughness, they understand there's a certain way to play the game, you've got to practice that way and you've got to be pretty relentless," Grantham said. "It wasn't a perfect game, but the guys kept playing and the guys got better as the game went along, just as the team's got better as the year went along."