September 21, 2008

Defense puts the pressure on

TEMPE, Ariz. - Much has been made of Georgia's inability to create sufficient pressure on opposing quarterbacks, at least making it uncomfortable for them to throw. At least for one night, all that changed.

Although Arizona State's Rudy Carpenter completed 23-of-36 passes for 208 yards and one touchdown, Bulldog defenders were able to provide their first consistent pass rush of the young season and that was enough to keep the Sun Devils' talented quarterback off balance for much of Saturday's 27-10 win.

Georgia received key plays from a number of different individuals.

Linebacker Rennie Curran enjoyed his second straight impressive game, recording a team-high nine tackles, including his third sack of the year, one of four for the Bulldogs on the evening.

The Bulldogs also had a combined eight tackles for loss, and also appeared to have an interception by cornerback Asher Allen before a questionable defensive holding penalty nullified the play.

"I thought the guys played really well. I think for the most part we executed our defense, where last week we blew some coverages," Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said. "I'm not saying we didn't do that tonight, but we had less of it. We had better execution of our defense. I thought we got robbed a little bit on an interception, so I felt like we were playing against 18 people. That's how I felt like. But we moved on, we overcame it and guys did a really good job."

Georgia's defensive ends also enjoyed arguably one of their better afternoons. Demarcus Dobbs and Justin Houston both recorded their first career sacks, while Andrew Gully combined with Darryl Gamble for No. 4.

According to Dobbs, the game was especially sweet for he and the rest of Georgia's defensive ends, who had been questioned as to whether or not they had anybody capable of filling the shoes of the graduated Marcus Howard who led the Bulldogs with sacks in 2007 with 10.5.

While the jury may still be out about that, there were at least some positive signs.

"All week we've been telling ourselves that we've not really been pulling our weight on the team, so Coach (Jon) Fabris really emphasized a lot of things that really helped us out during the week on getting to the quarterback, getting pressure. We took it upon ourselves to finally step up and hold our own," Dobbs said. "Collectively, we said 'No Mas.' We were going to hold our weight and get our pressure.

It was very important. Coach Fab always says you may not want to talk to people but you don't want them talking about you."

The sacks by Houston and Dobbs both came off blitzes. The other two came when Georgia was making a simple three-man rush.

"It's just about making plays. It was the same time we had last week. We were making some, but tonight was a little bit different style of scheme. I just thought the guys came out and responded well, playing fast, and setting a tempo and we were able to do that," Martinez said. "We had four three-and-outs so we killed their momentum after we had the poor drive in the third quarter. And we gave them three of their points. We had two 15-yard penalties during that drive of theirs in the second quarter. We were of the field, but we overcame them and that was good to see."

Perhaps even more impressive was the fact Georgia held ASU to a mere fours yards rushing. It was the fewest recorded by the team since the Sun Devils were held to minus-two on November 2, 2002 against California.

Curran said the Bulldogs' superior speed on defensive certainly had something to do with that.

"With some of these different conferences, they don't experience that SEC speed," Curran said. "I mean, we're pretty fast. I felt it definitely did catch them off guard, especially with our linebackers' speed. We had more of that than they could handle."

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