ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia football players are thrilled to be 2-0 in Southeastern Conference play for the first time since 2006.
Of course, the offensive players are a lot more excited than their defensive teammates as to how the victories have transpired. Tallies such as 41-37 and 52-41 tend to do that.
"It's kind of a bittersweet feeling," defensive end Demarcus Dobbs said. "You're glad you came out with a win and did some good things on defense considering some of the positions you were put in, but you look up at the scoreboard and see all those points and realize there is a lot you can do better."
The Bulldogs have room for improvement in every defensive statistic imaginable, having evoked many similar issues that plagued last year's unit.
They are last in the SEC and 97th nationally in total defense (406.3 yards per game), last in the SEC and 108th in scoring defense (34.0 points), and they are last in the league and 112th in pass defense (285.3 yards). They have allowed more first downs (60) than any league team and have the fewest sacks (four) and fewest turnovers gained (two).
"I've got to do a better job as a coach and put our guys in a position to make plays, and our guys have to execute better," said defensive coordinator Willie Martinez, whose unit has allowed 30 or more points seven times in the past 12 games dating back to last year. "Obviously it's not fun when you're not playing the defense that everyone is accustomed to playing around here."
When Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt is asked about the defense, he notes that the offense has turned the ball over nine times. Georgia has allowed 102 points, and a whopping 60 indeed have been the direct result or aided by turnovers or special-teams blunders.
"It's a miracle with our turnover ratio that we're 2-1 right now and undefeated in the league," Richt said.
Yet nobody can deny Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett shredding the Bulldogs secondary last Saturday for 408 yards and five touchdowns. Mallett attempted 39 passes and was sacked just two times, which happened a week after South Carolina's Stephen Garcia threw 53 times and was sacked twice as well.
Georgia has been respectable in stopping the run, allowing 121 yards a game.
"In the run, you've got guys who are hungry to get to the ball," linebacker Rennie Curran said. "In the passing game, you've got more assignments, where sometimes you might flinch or sometimes you might get picked. Things like that are going to happen a lot in the pass game, and blitzing a lot leaves underneath routes exposed. It's just more about assignment football when you're playing the pass game, so that's something we have to improve on."
Georgia's rare defensive highlights include holding Oklahoma State tailback Kendall Hunter to 75 yards, holding Arkansas tailback Michael Smith to 59, and Curran deflecting a fourth-down Garcia pass to preserve that victory. The 41 points scored by the Razorbacks are the most ever allowed by Georgia in a regulation win, and safety Bryan Evans remains embarrassed by the performance.
"We're pretty good limiting yards after the catch," Evans said, "but if they're already throwing 50-yard balls, they don't have to run too far."
Odds and ends
Georgia's athletic board Wednesday approved a recommendation by athletic director Damon Evans to move forward with a six-year extension that will keep the Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville through 2016. ... When asked about his injured strongside linebackers after Wednesday's practice, Richt said Darius Dewberry should play this weekend but that Akeem Dent wouldn't. ... Left tackle Vince Vance will play despite missing practice time this week. ... Richt on Mallett: "I think he's eligible for the NFL after this year, and I think it would be a good idea for him to check that out."