October 6, 2013

Defense still struggling

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - It wasn't like Tennessee entered Saturday's game against Georgia with the most feared offense in the SEC.

But based on the Vols' success, it was certainly hard to tell otherwise.

Tennessee became the fourth school this year to pile up 30 or more points and gobble up more than 400 yard of offense against the Bulldogs, who also continue to struggle forcing turnovers, recovering just three fumbles and intercepting one pass all year.

Georgia's penchant for ill-timed mistakes repeated itself as well.

Leading 24-17 early in the fourth quarter, Georgia (4-1, 3-0) the Bulldogs appeared to have stopped the Vols, who faced a fourth-and-6 from the Tennessee.

But the defense would be in a giving mood. A delay of game on the defense when Tennessee was in punt formation, caused the Vols to the change their minds and go for the first down.


Running back Rajion Neal took the pitch and rumbled 43 yards down the left side, setting up the game-tying score which he scored from 1 yard out to tie the game with just over 11 to play.

Head coach Mark Richt was not a happy man.

"Man, I've just got to watch the game. So many things happened. Basically we get them off the field, then flinch on a punt, give them a fourth and inches and they get the big play," Richt said. "That would have been a nice stop there."

Bulldog defensive coordinator Todd Grantham agreed.

Although everyone concedes that youth has played a large role when it comes to Georgia's defensive troubles, mental mistakes like the afore mentioned penalty continue to keep the Bulldogs from reaching their full potential.

"When you're a top-ranked team, people have to take chances," Grantham said. "They feel they've got to take chances because our offense is good, so people are going to take chances like that. When you let a guy slip out, or get on the edge, you get an explosive play. We've got to work on that, but we got the win and we'll move forward."

At some point though, the Bulldogs are going to have to tighten up.

Saturday's second blocked punt this year for a touchdown also nearly ruined Georgia's night.

"When you get a kick blocked for a touchdown that score goes against your defense; that stinks," said Richt. "We've had three special teams touchdowns scored against our defense, that's not good."

The Bulldogs were able to get a trio of sacks (two by Ray Drew) but otherwise Georgia was unable to affect Vol quarterback Justin Worley.

Worley came into Saturday's contest averaging only 145 yards passing with an SEC-worst six interceptions. But against Georgia he was more than effective, completing 17-of-31 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown, although his final pass in overtime turned out to be just off the fingers of Pig Howard, who fumbled through the end zone for a touchback which led to Marshall Morgan kicking the game-winning field goal.

"To be a good defense, and this comes with maturity, you've got be able to put the fire out," said Grantham, whose defense actually played well early on in helping the Bulldogs assume a 17-3 lead. "We did it a couple of times, but you've got to really be consistent. This was another learning experience for us, so we move forward with that."

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