October 31, 2012

Can defense pull a repeat?

After watching what his defense was able to do in last Saturday's 17-9 win over Florida, Georgia head coach Mark Richt was only half-kidding when he asked if anybody in the media wanted to pen an article questioning whether or not the Bulldogs can give a repeat performance against Ole Miss.

"You ought to write a story about that, maybe make everybody mad. That would be nice," Richt said. "I'm serious. I don't know what they are going to do this week. I hope they play like they did this past week. I hope we continue to get after it with that kind of emotion and heartbeat."

Oddly enough, the 6th-ranked Bulldogs (7-1, 5-1) have seemed to play their best defensively when responding to some sort of challenge - contrived or otherwise.

First it was Missouri, when Tigers' defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson claimed the Bulldogs played "Old man football." Georgia won the game 41-20.

Flash forward to Vanderbilt.

Heading into the game on Sept. 22, much of the pre-game talk centered around the post-game exchange between Commodore head coach James Franklin and Bulldog defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Georgia won 48-3.

Finally, last week it was safety Shawn Williams who called his defensive teammates out, calling them soft, a theme that was repeated by several national analysts about the Bulldogs' recent play.

"I think our guys have a lot of pride and resilience to them. They do find a way to make plays in those games you're talking about. It's just a matter of stringing them along now and understanding the importance of these games," Grantham said. "Basically, you're playing for the SEC East Championships, the chance to go to Atlanta and you've got to take them one at a time. The next one's Ole Miss, they're talented and we've got to understand that and be ready to play. We are. "

Jarvis Jones says that won't be a problem.

Knowing the Bulldogs need wins over the Rebels (5-3, 2-2) and next week at Auburn to get back to Atlanta for the second straight year, should be all the motivation necessary.

"A lot of people don't understand that Ole Miss is going to be a big game, just like last week's was. They're way better than they were they were last year," Jones said. "Their new coach (Hugh Freeze) has them playing very well. They're definitely a team that we can't look past. We know they're coming to play and they've got athletes who are capable of making plays with a good quarterback (Bo Wallace)."

But when talking Ole Miss, when talking about the Rebels' offense, it's not just about their personnel. It's the way they like to operate their no-huddle- as fast as they possibly can.

"If you have 11 guys that can go 15 plays in a row, you don't have to slow down. Now I don't know if anybody's quite doing that, but if you don't substitute on offense, you can go as fast as you want to go," Richt said. "They really don't give the defense very long. Once they're on the field, it's not long before they walk away. So you're barely on the field getting the call and trying to get lined up fast enough to play defense. A lot of times you're not even in the stance. So yeah, that's been problematic for defensive teams to try to keep up with that."

Earlier this year, Alabama head coach Nick Saban appeared to take exception to the way the Rebels' no-huddle operated, claiming it not only gave the offense a distinct advantage, but raised the possibility for more injuries.

Grantham was asked if he agreed.

"You've got to play with the rules you've got right now and just play. We kind of understand that so we'll make sure we're prepared from a substation standpoint and a personnel standpoint and just play," Grantham said. "That's just the style of some guys. I really don't have an opinion on it from that standpoint and it is what it is. We've just got to be ready to play."

Grantham also disputed the notion his defense would have trouble substituting on time against the Rebels' up-tempo scheme.

"We don't have a hard time setting up, I don't know where you saw that," Grantham said. "We'll be fine. They've got pace but the SEC officials do a good job of allowing us to sub. It won't be a problem."

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