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Putting the defensive woes into perspective

September 23, 2009

One thing most Dawg fans have in common is a shared disdain for defensive coordinator Willie Martinez. And after last year, that disdain only grew, most notably after 3 embarrassing performances against Bama, UF and GT.

This year was supposed to be different. The defense was supposed to be healthy, with a chip on their shoulder and ready to quiet the critics. But 3 games into the season with a total of 102 points allowed, the critics have been significantly less than quiet.

So what is the deal? Why has our defense looked worse so far this year than it was last year?

Part of the answer has to include the teams we’ve played. Oklahoma State was 7th nationally in total offense in 2008, and they returned most of that offensive attack. But the general thinking is that UGA’s defense played reasonably well against the Cowboys. It’s the performance against South Carolina and Arkansas that has Dawg fans in an uproar.

Let’s take a closer look at each of our SEC opponents thus far.

South Carolina has not been a good offensive team under Spurrier, which has been surprising, given that the ol’ ball coach is generally regarded as an offensive mastermind. The Gamecocks ranked 87th nationally in total offense in 2008. In their season opener, the Gamecocks only managed 7 points against N.C. State, and those points came off of a turnover that occurred on the NC State 15 yard line. So it came as a shock a week later when the Gamecocks took the Dawgs to the wire, scoring 37 points, 427 total yards, 313 of them passing yards.

One really has to put this in perspective though. South Carolina scored 10 points off of turnovers in the first quarter alone; the first 7 off of an AJ Green fumble that was returned to the UGA 26 yard line. The other 3 points off of a fumbled kickoff return that SC recovered at the UGA 8 yard line. In the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters, the Georgia defense only allowed 6, 3 and 3 points to the Gamecocks. Meanwhile, the offense gave up 2 points on a botched snap that led to a safety in the 3rd, and an interception that was returned for 6 in the 4th. Excluding the points given up by the offense, that’s 12 points allowed by the defense after the first quarter, in which the Gamecocks only had one touchdown drive that they started on their own side of the 50. Now consider that the Gamecocks ran 83 offensive plays in the game. Take away the points that the offense was directly responsible for, as well as the 10 points off of turnovers in the first quarter, and UGA’s defense only gave up 19 points.

Now let’s take a look at the Arkansas game.

Like in the South Carolina game, in Arkansas’ first possession, the UGA defense forced them to punt. However the punt was fumbled and recovered by Arkansas at the UGA 34, which led to a TD for the Hogs. After Georgia answered with a TD of its own, special teams then allowed the kickoff to be returned by Arky to the UGA 48. Arkansas would score a TD. On the Hogs’ next two possessions, the UGA defense forced a fumble and forced them 3 and out. Then the UGA offense fumbled the ball again on their own 30 yard line, leading to another Arkansas TD. Georgia’s defense did not allow any points in the 2nd quarter, despite Cox throwing an interception at mid-field. In the 3rd quarter, they allowed 17 points that cannot be blamed on anyone other than the defense. But in the 4th quarter, they buckled down and only allowed a field goal.

In the first quarter of that game, Arkansas scored 21 points on drives that started in Georgia territory due to turnovers or poor special teams play. The Georgia D only allowed 20 points in the rest of the game. True, the secondary looked bad against the passing attack, but you cannot give the Hogs that kind of field position and manage to keep them from scoring. Because, unlike South Carolina, the Hogs can be an explosive offensive team. That is Petrino’s offense, and he has the perfect quarterback to run it. In his 2nd year at Louisville, Petrino’s offense ranked FIRST in the nation in total offense (note: he’s in his 2nd year at Arkansas now). His next two years they finished 3rd both times. Petrino never had a QB as good as Mallet while at Louisville, and he never had the talent he has at Arkansas now. This is why people said to watch out for the Hogs this year, and it was a very grounded warning.

Now, after three games most Georgia fans believe the defensive performance against OK State was an aberration. But closer examination will show that the defense was not that bad against South Carolina, or even Arkansas, considering the field position and offensive and special teams mistakes that Georgia made against both. Yes, Georgia ranks last in the conference in defense right now. But Georgia has also played MUCH stronger competition than anyone in the conference has to date.

So are the defensive problems really THAT bad? Or have turnovers and special teams mistakes, coupled with a dangerous offense in Fayetteville, made them look worse than they actually are?

Your thoughts?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. RedCrake permalink
    September 24, 2009 12:16 am

    I’m done being a Willie Martinez apologist, but yeah…what you said.

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