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Post Getting defensive

Friday January 2, 2009

I imagine that most Georgia fans had some version of this internal (or, depending on company, external) discussion going on today.

“Now THAT is Georgia defense.”
“Where the heck was that in the other 12 games?”
“How many times are they going to have to bail us out?”
“Is this the result of a few people getting healthy, or did someone light a fire under this defense over the past month? “
“…or is it the result of playing a one-dimensional Big 10 offense?”
“If we join the Big 10 and give them a total of 12 teams, would the Big 12 mind?”

Ringer stuffed
(Radi Nabulsi / UGASports.com)

It was a throwback to earlier in the decade or at least to September 13th and the game at South Carolina. Sloppy Bulldog offense leaned on the defense time after time until the offense could make a play. I’m sure the enjoyment of the win for some was tempered with the thought, “some of this in the second half on November 29th would have been nice.” The performance of the defense didn’t make up for whatever happened in the regular season and likely won’t make those losses any less painful, but most Georgia fans can let it go long enough to recognize a job well done.

Whatever you have to say about the game, it came down to this one series for me:

1st and Goal at GA 6: Javon Ringer rush for 3 yards to the Geo 3.
2nd and Goal at GA 3: Javon Ringer rush for no gain to the Geo 3.
3rd and Goal at GA 3: Brian Hoyer pass incomplete to Blair White.

How many times this year did we see the Georgia defense deflate after a turnover and/or a costly penalty? We had both here. A Stafford interception was returned to the 12, and a personal foul moved the ball to the Georgia 6. It was the third time that Michigan State had the ball on Georgia’s half of the field. The Dawgs kept Ringer out of the end zone, sniffed out the pass on 3rd down, and made MSU settle for the tying field goal.

You can say what you like about the quality of the opponent. As with Hawaii last year, watch how quickly a respectable ranked foe in a major bowl gets spun (even by our own fans) as a team barely worthy of a September cupcake game. But this hunkerdown-ness was something that was absent from even the Kentucky game. To see it show up time after time on Thursday against a decent team shouldn’t be discredited. Late or not, it was welcome.

We welcome Javon Ringer to the Ron Dayne Club. The standout tailback was held to 47 yards on 20 carries – a little short of a perfect afternoon. It’s not that Knowshon Moreno was that much more productive on the ground, but Georgia at least had a passing game on which to fall back. Ringer was the heart and soul of the MSU offense, and they got away from him. The Bulldog defense held Ringer to his second-lowest output of the season, and the result for the Spartans was much the same as it was the other two times this season in which Ringer ran for fewer than 21 carries.

MSU was one-dimensional, but when the defense was coming off a horrible effort against the ultimate in one-dimensional football, you can’t take it for granted that the strength of an offense would be shut down or that the weakness won’t burn you. MSU had their chances in the passing game, but the Bulldog defense made enough plays and got enough pressure to make it a non-issue.

One final note on the defense: Georgia had 18 sacks in 12 regular season games in 2008. They’ve had a combined 14 sacks in the past two bowl games. If someone could smuggle a calendar that reads “January 1” out to Stillwater in nine months, it would be most appreciated.

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