Georgia's Sterling Bailey had more than just a rousing Sanford Stadium debut last Saturday as a starting defensive end.
He accomplished something that had not been done in more than a decade.
Bailey made 10 tackles in the 41-30 defeat of South Carolina, the most by a Bulldogs defensive lineman against an offense that did not run the triple-option since Charles Grant had 13 in a 24-17 loss to Auburn in 2001. Defensive linemen often rack up tackles against triple-option teams due to the fullback dive, and DeAngelo Tyson, Abry Jones and John Jenkins had double-digit stops in recent years against Georgia Tech.
"It surprised me when I saw the stats, and I just give thanks to the Lord for allowing me to play so well," Bailey said. "It was great to have a good coming-out party between the hedges."
The 6-foot-3, 282-pound redshirt sophomore from Gainesville, Ga., had four tackles in the opening 38-35 loss at Clemson, which was his first game as a starter. His four stops against the Tigers surpassed the one tackle he had in just three games last season.
Bailey not only improved from the first to the second game but improved as the second game transpired. In the fourth quarter, Bailey tackled Gamecocks tailback Mike Davis for no gain, tackled tailback Brandon Wilds for no gain and sacked Connor Shaw for a 1-yard loss.
"As a game goes on, your body gets tired, and that's when the mental aspect comes in," Bailey said. "That's when you tell yourself that your team is counting on you, and that you've got to stay low and not give in. The biggest thing I try to focus on at that point is being mentally tough."
Said coach Mark Richt: "I thought Sterling Bailey played extremely well. The guys who are playing with their pads down are having more success, and Sterling is playing low."
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham had Bailey on the move last week, as he lined up over the tackle, guard and center. Georgia's defense strengthened overall as the game progressed, holding South Carolina to six second-half points.
Junior inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera had a strip of Shaw early in the third quarter, causing a fumble that safety Josh Harvey-Clemons recovered, and the Bulldogs made a goal-line stand midway through the fourth quarter.
"Holding them to six points and getting the big stops that we had showed us how we can play as a defense when we get rolling," Bailey said. "If we can put that together along with a good first half, we'll be unstoppable."
As for the Southeastern Conference stat nobody saw coming -- Bailey's 14 tackles and one sack through two games dwarf the six stops and one sack by South Carolina All-America defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
"I could not have imagined that," Bailey said. "Not at all."
Mitchell has surgery
Junior receiver Malcolm Mitchell underwent right knee surgery Tuesday at St. Mary's Hospital in Athens to repair the torn ACL he suffered while celebrating Georgia's opening score at Clemson. Mitchell will miss the rest of the season, but UGA director of sports medicine Ron Courson expects a full recovery by the start of the 2014 season.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.