ATHENS — There were many reasons the Georgia Bulldogs lost Saturday. Of course, the long list of injured and suspended players didn’t help matters. But with a chance to stop Arkansas from winning at the very end, Georgia once again learned something about its new defense.
It’s going to take a while before it can make big plays like were needed at the end against the Razorbacks.
It was probably a mistake to expect too much too soon from the new 3-4 defense. The excitement of something that would just be different from last year was enough to get lost in the details. But fact is, teams can’t just snap their fingers, change a scheme and expect everything to be perfect.
“I don’t think there’s any question that it’s going to take time, you know, because sometimes you’ve got to do something in a split-second,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “If you haven’t been in that situation, then sometimes you’re a half a second late.”
Georgia’s defensive players were more than a half a second late on a couple of plays against Arkansas’ star quarterback Ryan Mallett. On the first series, Mallett threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to Chris Gragg. In the third quarter, Mallett threw a 22-yard strike to Ronnie Wingo Jr.
On both scores, the Arkansas receivers badly beat the Georgia defenders.
The Bulldogs had one more chance to stop Mallett, but with 47 seconds left in the game, he drove down the field and on the third play, connected on a 40-yard touchdown to Greg Childs.
“I think we’ve got to learn to close the deal,” Grantham said. “I think they’ve got to understand that you can’t have lapses. You have to execute every play. You could play great for 55 plays, but if you don’t those other five plays, you could give up five explosive plays and that overshadows a lot of good things.”
Last week, South Carolina’s running game exposed a few things about Georgia’s defense. And the potent passing attack of Arkansas showed even more this week.
It’s going to take some time for Georgia to get the right personnel for the new 3-4 scheme. There’s no doubt some of the players who were defensive ends in the 4-3, particularly Justin Houston, are better cast in this new alignment. But the defensive line is where Georgia needs help. Right now, it’s irrelevant.
It’s a shame Georgia lost three big lineman like Geno Atkins, Jeff Owens and Kade Weston in the same year. It’s easy to imagine how much better the 3-4 defense would be with even just one of those big guys on the line.
DeAngelo Tyson, who was hurt and had to miss part of the second quarter Saturday, is not really a perfect fit for the nose position. That’s why the coaches talked about moving him to end back in August.
The problem is, however, there’s no one better on the roster right now. As big as Kwame Geathers is, he’s not perfect either for nose guard. He’s too tall. Defenses want someone low to the ground who can stop a charging running back — someone like Atkins, Owens or Weston.
But they’re gone to the NFL, and it might just take a while to get a perfect fit for the front three.
The offense deserves credit for bouncing back after trailing by two touchdowns. And the more Aaron Murray is out there, the easier it is to see how young he is. But the absent pieces on offense perhaps cost Georgia the game.
Missing the suspended A.J. Green and injured running backs Caleb King and Shaun Chapas was difficult to overcome. Plus, the line was banged up, with Chris Davis out and players having to move around a bit.
Kris Durham, Tavarres King and Washaun Ealey did all they could, but it was still not enough.
Offensive Coordinator Mike Bobo must do a better job getting the ball to tight end Orson Charles, who didn’t even catch a pass Saturday, and heralded receiver Marlon Brown.
Maybe when Green, King and company return, this Georgia offense will be better. And maybe the defense will eventually stop having costly lapses.
The problem is, Georgia may be 1-3 by then.
Listen to The Bill Shanks Show from 3-6 p.m. each day on Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com.