News & Notes: Despite any struggles, UGA defense sticks to brand

Patrick Garbin, Staff
GA Varsity

Radi Nabulsi

Nobody said it was going to be easy—Georgia defending the high-powered, up-tempo offense of Samford, regardless of the fact the visiting Bulldogs are part of the lower-tiered FCS. Head coach Kirby Smart said as much, again, following tonight’s game at Sanford Stadium.

“They (Samford’s offense) are faster than anyone we’ve gone against,” Smart claimed after his 13th-ranked Bulldogs prevailed, 42-14. “Their quarterback is special; he’s frustrating.”

Samford’s Devlin Hodges seemed to continually peck away at Georgia’s defense. The junior quarterback completed 26 of 35 passes for 227 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Through three games this season, Georgia has yet to intercept a pass in 107 attempts by the opposition.

“[Hodges] put the ball in some good spots, especially on the slants—he put them low where we couldn’t get to them,” said safety J.R. Reed, who recorded a tackle and a blocked field goal. “But, we expected that. We expected him to get the ball out quick and quick little short routes. We just had to rally and tackle.”

Despite Hodges’ passing prowess, senior linebacker Lorenzo Carter thought the Georgia defense, as a whole, did pretty well.

“We came out and executed, tried to play fast and physical—that’s our brand of football,” said Carter, who totaled four tackles and two of Georgia’s three sacks of Hodges. “No matter who we play, we try to do that week in and week out, and I think we did that.”

The Bulldogs’ defense did limit Samford to 22 net rushing yards on 23 rushes, four of 11 on third-down conversions, and forced three-and-outs on six of the visitor’s first 10 possessions. More so, Georgia held Samford to 14 points.

“And, a good defense is going to hold them to only [14 points],” Reed added.

Smart agrees that although Samford found success throwing the football, his defenders played hard in limiting the Bulldogs to 249 total yards—their lowest output in nearly two entire years when Samford gained just 201 yards in a 45-3 loss to Louisville in 2015.

“The defense has confidence in the system,” Smart said. “They’re playing really hard and physical and we haven’t had a lot of injuries.”

Georgia will need to exude such confidence and exhibit similar work ethic and physicality—and probably even more so—a week from tonight when it hosts another group of visiting Bulldogs—Mississippi State. Including tonight’s shocking 37-7 rout of 12th-ranked LSU, Mississippi State is averaging 48 points and 492 total yards per game through three contests—all victories. Still, at least according to one member of the defense, whether facing Mississippi State, Samford, or another team’s offense, it doesn’t matter—Georgia is going to keep playing its brand of defense.

“We’ve been preparing for this—really since the winter, we’ve been grinding,” Carter said. “So, it doesn’t matter who we play. We have to face [whatever] opponent, we’re going to come out and keep playing our brand of football.”

Playing Time

…Several Georgia players not accustomed to playing much—if, at all—saw the field during the Bulldogs’ somewhat comfortable four-touchdown win. Freshman linebacker Monty Rice, who entered having totaled two tackles in two games, was second on the team with five stops. Freshman Mark Webb, a highly-touted wide receiver, saw action as part of Georgia’s secondary. Placekicker David Marvin, a graduate transfer from Wofford who was beaten out by Rodrigo Blankenship during fall camp, attempted and made his lone PAT following the Bulldogs’ sixth and final touchdown.

Great Kicking Continues

Rodrigo Blankenship continued the tendency for his kickoffs to go for touchbacks. After entering the game whereby six of his 11 kickoffs on the season had gone for touchbacks, the sophomore placekicker was a perfect seven for seven tonight in placing his kickoffs in the end zone.

Cameron Nizialek punted twice: a 36-yarder followed by a 57-yard boot. Only one of the punts was returned—and for a loss of a yard. On the season, the graduate-transfer punter has a 44.3 punting average and, better yet, an extraordinary net average of 44.5.

Record Watch

Nick Chubb rushed for 131 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns. His first touchdown run was his 32nd for his career, tying Charley Trippi (1942, 1945-46) for the fifth-most in school history. Chubb’s second score was his 37th total touchdown of his career, tying Lars Tate (1984-1987) for the third-most in school history for that category. In addition, his 131 rushing yards was his first 100-yard rushing outing this season and the 19th of his career.

This & That

J.R. Reed’s blocked field goal in the second quarter was Georgia’s first blocked kick of any kind since the Florida game in 2015 when Sterling Bailey blocked a PAT.

…Georgia’s fourth-quarter drive of 14 plays for 40 yards, ending with a turnover on downs, lasted 9:09 of possession time, signifying the second-longest offensive drive in Bulldog history resulting in no points.

…The Bulldogs, which entered having been penalized an average of 10 times—114th in the FBS—for 86.5 yards, were flagged only three times tonight for 25 yards.

Missing in Action

…As expected, cornerback Malkom Parrish missed the game with a broken foot, as did quarterback Jacob Eason with a knee injury. Also, receiver Michael Chigbu did not dress out after not appearing during Wednesday’s practice, defensive lineman Tyler Clark was held out with a “small undisclosed injury,” and running back Sony Michel was held out because an ankle ailment. For Michel, it was the seventh game he has missed during his Georgia career due to injury.

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