ATHENS, Ga. -- Another game. Another improved performance by Georgia's defense.
In suffocating Mississippi State 24-10 on Saturday afternoon at Sanford Stadium, the Bulldogs shut down the rushing tandem of quarterback Chris Relf and Vick Ballard and did not allow any big plays. The visitors were held to 213 total yards, and their lone touchdown came defensively.
"We've been making some opportunities these last couple of games," junior outside linebacker Cornelius Washington said after collecting two of Georgia's five sacks. "We didn't let the quarterback get going, and I don't feel like they ran the ball a whole lot. It was just a really good defensive day."
The five sacks matched Georgia's tally in its first four games combined, but the Bulldogs have nine in the past two games after registering four last week at Ole Miss.
So impressed was Georgia coach Mark Richt with his defense against MSU that he began his postgame news conference by thanking coordinator Todd Grantham as well as the defensive assistants and players. He then added, "I can't say much, other than outstanding."
Georgia's first objective was stopping Relf, who rushed for 109 yards on 20 carries in MSU's 24-12 win last season in Starkville. That goal was met from the start, as the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder had minus-12 yards after the first quarter and minus-2 at halftime.
Relf finished with 31 yards, but his 2.1 yards per carry was a far cry from last year's 5.5-yard clip against the Bulldogs.
"They run traditional runs with Relf, and you've got to take away those runs," Grantham said. "That's it. He's really another tailback back there."
Ballard had 64 yards against Georgia last season on 13 carries but was nearly invisible Saturday with 23 on eight.
"And that's pretty much their offense," junior nose John Jenkins said.
By slowing Relf and Ballard, Georgia hampered Mississippi State's big-play ability. MSU's longest run was a 13-yarder by Relf early in the third quarter with Georgia up 21-3, and the longest pass play was a 19-yarder from Relf to Arceto Clark in the first quarter.
Georgia will continue to rank high nationally in third-down defense after yielding just 4-of-15 success on MSU opportunities Saturday, and Sanders Commings and Shawn Williams had interceptions.
"I'm so excited with how we're playing right now," Commings said. "It's only going to get better from here."
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 ...