ATHENS — There were two things Georgia football fans were waiting to see Saturday. The first was the new quarterback, freshman Aaron Murray. And the second was the rebuilt defense under new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.
What they didn’t expect to see was a sideline show that might have explained why there’s a new sheriff in town running the defense.
The offense, without star players A.J. Green, Tavarres King, and Washaun Ealey, scored 55 points. Any time an offense scores that much, some credit must go toward the quarterback.
But the Georgia defense was most impressive.
For the first time in many years, Georgia fans saw pressure on the quarterback from the defense. Pressure, pressure and more pressure.
The result? Three interceptions from a team that had only 10 all last season.
“I think we made them uncomfortable,” cornerback Brandon Boykin said.
And that was the plan all along for Grantham, who brought in the 3-4 defense with the goal of creating turnovers and causing havoc. Grantham’s unit allowed only 128 offensive yards and seven points to the Ragin’ Cajuns.
“I thought they got after it,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “They kept a good edge on them.”
There was one play that did allow Grantham to show Georgia fans something else they had been waiting to see — emotion from coaches on the sidelines.
Louisiana-Lafayette scored late in the first half when tight end Ladarius Green beat Georgia strong safety Bacari Rambo for a 60-yard touchdown.
After the play, Grantham chewed out his defense, and particularly Rambo, in an almost five-minute tirade that drew an applause from the fans sitting right behind the bench.
“He’s going to continue to give them that throughout the whole season, I promise you,” Boykin said. “That’s the type of person he is, and that’s the type of coach he is. I love his enthusiasm.”
The tongue-lashing worked. Georgia did not allow another score the rest of the game, and the longest drive for Louisiana-Lafayette in the second half was for only 27 yards.
“I’m proud the way our players responded because we came back in the second half and gave up no big plays,” Grantham said. “I think our players responded well.”
“He’s going to get on you if you make a bad play,” Boykin said. “We’re going to get on each other. We expect each other to hold each other accountable.”
Grantham showed that it’s not bad for a coach to lose his cool once in a while. It happens in coaching all the time. He might not have been New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan on HBO, but there was no doubt Grantham got his point across to the wide-eyed defense.
The players probably know now what’s to come if they get beat again on a 60-yard pass play.
Granted, this was Louisiana-Lafayette. Now comes the real challenge as Georgia starts its SEC schedule in Columbia on Saturday against South Carolina. Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia and freshman running back Marcus Lattimore will offer a much tougher opponent.
“If we take this same mentally we had and put it in the game plan to stop South Carolina I think we’ll be all right,” Boykin said. “You know it’s going to be a bigger atmosphere going there, so we’ve just got to be clicking on everything.”
They better, cause if not Grantham will be ready for yet another verbal explosion to get them on track. And that’s why he’s here in the first place.
Listen to The Bill Shanks Show from 3-6 p.m. each weekday on Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com.