UGA finds its swagger

UGA finds its swagger

Bulldogs defense makes statement in Auburn win

November 16th, 2009 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Was that a little defensive swagger emanating from Georgia's locker room late Saturday night?

Auburn was held 97 yards below its average during Georgia's 31-24 comeback win at Sanford Stadium. More importantly, the Bulldogs did not allow the Tigers an offensive touchdown in the final 48 minutes.

"The way our defense played showed that we can play against anybody," Bulldogs sophomore cornerback Brandon Boykin said. "They were supposed to be the best offense in the SEC, and we were able to contain them."

For all the Georgia fans wanting to remove defensive coordinator Willie Martinez, Auburn fans are right there with you. The Tigers have not been able to produce more than two offensive touchdowns in any of their four consecutive losses to the Bulldogs.

Auburn racked up 156 yards on its first 20 plays Saturday, taking a 14-0 lead in the process, but the Tigers only had two plays in the red zone the rest of the way. Those occurred late in the third quarter, resulting in a 1-yard run by Ben Tate and a pass from Chris Todd to tackle Lee Ziemba that drew an illegal-touching penalty.

The only touchdown allowed by the Bulldogs (6-4, 4-3 SEC) after the first quarter was Demond Washington's 99-yard kickoff return.

"Our goal coming in this thing was to give our offense a chance to win, and we were thinking three scores," Martinez said. "Obviously 17 would have been awesome if it happened to be that number, and to do it in the fashion we did it -- they kept their cool and got that three-and-out that third series, which was huge for the confidence."

Redshirt freshman safety Bacarri Rambo made the biggest defensive play when he slammed into Mario Fannin to break up a potential completion near the goal line with 1:16 left. Rambo suffered a concussion and will not play Saturday night against Kentucky (6-4, 2-4) on ESPN2.

Despite being pillaged by SEC East rivals Tennessee and Florida, the Bulldogs are 33rd among the 120 Bowl Subdivision teams in total defense, allowing 334.1 yards per game. Tate entered Saturday averaging 114.2 rushing yards per game but was held to 67, keeping Georgia's streak intact of not allowing a 100-yard rusher this season.

"The thing I would have really liked to have seen is what kind of defense would we have played all year long if we weren't constantly turning the ball over deep in our own territory or throwing the pick six or having the kickoff returned for a touchdown," head coach Mark Richt said. "All those things can deflate the energy of a team, not only a defense. If you could magically take away all the short fields we've put them in and all that, it would be interesting to see how it would have all stacked up."

Green out this week

Richt announced Sunday that sophomore receiver A.J. Green is out this week after suffering a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder against Auburn.

"We're not certain after that," Richt said. "We don't believe it will require any surgery and will heal on its own."

Richt will let practice determine his starting receivers this week, admitting he was disappointed in the perimeter blocking against the Tigers.

Odds and ends

Kentucky junior quarterback Mike Hartline, who suffered an MCL sprain Oct. 10 at South Carolina and returned to action at Vanderbilt, will have surgery to repair cartilage and is out the next two weeks. ... Wildcats sophomore quarterback/receiver Randall Cobb bruised his shoulder late in the 24-13 win in Nashville but should practice Tuesday or Wednesday. ... Bulldogs sophomore punter Drew Butler, among the 10 semifinalists for the Ray Guy Award, continues to lead the nation with a 49.04-yard average. ... Richt expects senior linebacker Darius Dewberry (elbow) to play this week. ... After getting flagged just four times Saturday, the Bulldogs inched from 119th to 117th in penalties per game (8.9).