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Post Expect more of the defense

Saturday September 2, 2017

I’ve seen more predictions than not giving Appalachian State 17 or 20 points. It’s understandable – I respect their running game. I respect their senior quarterback. But if Georgia is giving up in the neighborhood of 20 points to a non-P5 opponent, it tells me that Georgia’s defense isn’t what we think it is. With so many returning starters and contributors in their second year in the system, there shouldn’t have to be much of a readjustment period for the defense. If we’re using last year’s Appalachian State-Tennessee game as a cautionary tale, the Vols’ problem was an offense that took the better part of three quarters to get going. Tennessee held the Mountaineers to 13 total points and shut them out in the second half, and as we saw in Athens, it wasn’t the most dominant Tennessee defense. Appalachian State managed just ten points at home against Miami. Should we expect as much from the 2017 Georgia defense?

I’d like to see this opponent held to no more than ten points. It’s an ambitious target given the quality and experience of the offense we’re facing, but the defense is supposed to be the lynchpin of the 2017 team. Let’s challenge them. A low score for App. State would also imply that other areas of the Georgia team are pulling their weight. The offense isn’t creating a short field via turnovers or three-and-outs. Special teams isn’t shanking punts or giving up long returns. It would also tell us whether Georgia’s red zone defense has improved.

It would truly be a team effort to hold the Mountaineers under 10 points, and I include the reserves in that goal. Last year against ULM Georgia coasted to a 35-7 lead. They gave up consecutive touchdowns in the final five minutes to close the gap to 35-21. Those touchdowns were meaningless in the outcome, but fourth quarter misadventures were part of the story way too often in 2016. Finishing a complete game has to be a team mindset, and hopefully we’ll get to see how even the true freshmen handle it.

Again, if we’re looking at their opener against Tennessee last season, the bigger challenge should be for Georgia’s offense. We can expect the same compact look we saw from every defense last season in an attempt to stop the run first. We’ll see what new weapons are available to stretch the field in the passing game. We’ll see if Eason can trust his protection and become a more accurate and efficient passer to sustain and finish more drives. We’ll see if the coaches can continue the creativity they showed in the bowl game with Michel catching passes out of the backfield or the tailbacks gashing the defense on outside runs late in the game. There’s a lot more uncertainty about the offense, especially with several inexperienced linemen making their first starts.

Appalachian State’s formula for keeping this game close isn’t a shootout; it’s a low-scoring ugly game similar to the 13-13 regulation draw in Knoxville a year ago where a single turnover, busted defensive play, or field goal could turn the game. 17 or 20 points on their side would be enough to keep them in the game. It’s the job of this experienced and talented defense to make things a little more comfortable as the offense finds its way.

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