Two weeks ago, the Georgia Bulldogs learned a hard lesson. The Auburn Tigers rolled up 488 yards on a Georgia defense that had been one of the best in the country.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart said at the time his team would be defined on how it responded to the loss, not the loss itself.
Well, two games have been played since, and the results are promising. Georgia was embarrassed in Auburn, beaten badly on the lines of scrimmage. But maybe, just maybe, Georgia has gotten its swagger back with wins over Kentucky and Georgia Tech.
Georgia’s defense made someone else look ordinary this time, and it was Paul Johnson’s unordinary offense. The Yellow Jackets’ offense that can occasionally humble a defense was shut down.
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Georgia won 38-7 Saturday and limited the Yellow Jackets to 226 offensive yards. The Bulldogs doubled that production on their offense, getting 471 yards in one of the more-balanced performances of the season.
Ironically, Georgia has given up 488 yards the last two weeks against Kentucky and Georgia Tech. Yes, that’s the the same exact number they gave up against Auburn.
If Georgia wins the SEC next week or does anything special in January, the defense will likely be the reason. And the defense that dominated teams in the first nine games seems back.
Former Macon County star Roquan Smith continued to make NFL scouts drool with another tremendous game. Smith led Georgia with nine tackles, had the Bulldogs’ only sack and had three tackles for loss.
It was as if Smart told Smith to simply watch who gets the ball in the option and get them. Wherever that ball was, Smith seemed right there, and he helped make it impossible for Georgia Tech to get anything going offensively.
Smith said Georgia was ready for the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option offense, mainly due to a strong effort by the scout team that prepared the first-team defense all week. And, some experience at good ole Macon County helped, as well.
“I love playing the triple option,” Smith said. “You have to embrace it. My entire region was triple-option, wing-T, so it was something I was accustomed to, so it didn’t bother me at all.”
That’s for sure. Nothing seems to bother Smith, well, unless you count whatever Auburn did to neutralize him a few weeks ago. Smith’s speed cut down Georgia Tech Saturday. Whenever the Yellow Jackets ran one of their signature plays, they sometimes had nowhere to go. Smith was usually there to stop them cold.
If every great team needs a star, Smith has emerged as Georgia’s defensive beast. Most believed Smith was ready to take that next step, but he’s become a game-changer – a player most offensive coordinators will worry about if they are to score points.
Georgia’s challenge next week in the SEC championship game will be greater, but simply getting some confidence back should help. Maybe it helped being humbled in Auburn. Maybe that was needed, in a strange way, to get the Bulldogs prepared for tougher opponents ahead.
“We feel like we want to dictate games, and we just didn’t do that in that (Auburn) game. It’s an awesome feeling being able bounce back last week and this week.
“We made a lot of mistakes (against Auburn), so you always try to learn from your mistakes. The best teacher in life is experience.”
The Auburn game is an experience Georgia never wants to relive. If Smith plays another game like he did Saturday on the flats, they may not have another nightmare.
Georgia Tech’s season is over, but Georgia’s has just begun. The Bulldogs did what they had to do to erase the Auburn game, and that could make the next game very interesting if Smith and his defense do their thing.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.