ATHENS -- Damian Swann said he hadnt heard what was said on the television broadcast, but he remembered the play. Oh, did he remember it.
During the first quarter of Saturdays game, Swann had a straight shot at trying to tackle Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins. But the Georgia cornerback went low, Watkins bounced off him and then went on for a 77-yard touchdown, leading ABC analyst Kirk Herbstreit to decry Swann for awful tackling.
Swann said he wasnt bothered to hear the criticism, saying, Thats what theyre paid to do, and he and owned up to his mistake.
I thought I could hit him and hell go down. I didnt wrap up. That was my mistake, he said. But at the end of the game that wasnt the play that lost the game.
Thats true, as Georgia soon rallied to take a 21-14 lead. But missed tackles in general were an issue for Georgia, and that issue needs to be firmed up if Georgia hopes to knock off No. 6 South Carolina on Saturday.
To that end, the Bulldogs have been emphasizing physical practices all week. In an unusual move, head coach Mark Richt held a full-pads practice Wednesday.
We need to tackle better than we did, especially in space, Richt said.
There were plenty of examples.
On Clemsons first drive of the second half, freshman safety Tray Matthews couldnt wrap up on fourth down, on a stop that would have given the Georgia offense the ball at its own 37. Instead Clemson got the first down and on the next play got the go-ahead score on a long touchdown pass.
Early in the fourth quarter, with Clemson leading 31-28, defensive end Toby Johnson had a clear shot at Tajh Boyd but couldnt bring him down for a sack. One play later the Tigers had a first down into Georgia territory.
Some players traced the problems to the preseason, when numerous players -- especially in the secondary -- either missed practices or went non-contact because of injuries. Matthews was among them.
But it doesnt explain all of them. Swann was healthy pretty much all of preseason and started every game last year.
Johnsons missed sack may have just been inexperience. The junior college transfer reached the backfield in one of his first plays and admitted he was super surprised to suddenly be on top of Boyd.
It came too open, Johnson said.
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham did appear to think the missed practices were a culprit, not so much the lack of physical contact but the correct timing and taking the right angle on the ballcarrier.
We had a chance to stop them in the fourth quarter, and we had a couple missed tackles, which were more angles to the ball than necessarily the technique of tackling the guy, Grantham said. If wed have done a little better job there ,we would have given the offense a chance to win the game. So youve gotta work on it.
This isnt to say the defenses problem was just tackling. Other times the players were just in the wrong spot.
Outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins pointed to one of Boyds touchdown runs. Three Georgia linemen lined up to one side of the ball, leaving Jenkins practically alone on the other side. Boyd went right through the hole.
A couple times we just never gave ourselves a chance to win, Jenkins said. Its really small fixes like that; that will give us a chance to fight off of that and possibly stop it if everybody was lined up right.
Those instances will get a look this week, too. But physical play will get even more emphasis.
I mean tackling is one of the things you learn when you start playing the game, Swann said. So missing a couple days of practice, I dont think that was it. It was just being able to make the play. We didnt make them, and it kind of hurt us.