Defense on display in SEC East showdown
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Georgia coach Mark Richt is not worried about his team's defense, no matter how many yards the Bulldogs have allowed.
No. 5 Georgia ranks near the bottom of the SEC, checking in at 10th at more than 370 yards allowed per game. That's almost 100 more than the team gave up a game a year ago, when Georgia was fourth in the league and adding to the SEC's reputation for powerhouse defense.
The Bulldogs (5-0, 3-0) must ramp things up defensively Saturday against No. 6 South Carolina (5-0, 3-0) in an East Division showdown sure to have a bearing on who will play for the SEC title.
Richt said his players have made critical stops with the game on the line, which has helped the Bulldogs to their first 5-0 start since 2006.
Not that it's been pretty. Georgia gave up 371 yards in the SEC opener against Missouri and 478 last week in beating Tennessee, 51-44.
“I was more concerned about, ‘Are we going to stop people when we have to stop them, when it means the most?' ” Richt said. “I think that happened in the Missouri game, and I think it happened in the Tennessee game defensively. I'm pleased with that.”
Georgia got three turnovers to hold off Missouri, including a fourth-quarter interception by star linebacker Jarvis Jones. The Bulldogs picked up three interceptions and a fumble to beat the Vols. Perhaps more importantly, the defense got back suspended starters in linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety Baccarri Rambo.
Ogletree made 14 tackles and tipped a pass that led to an interception; Rambo had nine tackles. Jones is the leader, though, with 4½ sacks and eight tackles for loss.
Georgia has had its troubles stopping South Carolina's rushing attack the past two years. Gamecocks star Marcus Lattimore scorched the Bulldogs for 182 yards and two touchdowns in 2010, then had 176 yards and a touchdown last season — both South Carolina victories.
The Gamecocks have picked up defensively where they left off a year ago, when they finished third nationally. In last week's 38-17 win at Kentucky, the Gamecocks gave up 196 yards and trailed, 17-7, at the half, then held the Wildcats to 47 yards and no points the rest of the way.