One key ingredient was missing from Georgia’s secondary, which defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt believes played a part in Alabama’s 38-10 win on Saturday.
The Bulldogs’ were hit for a few big plays in the first half, which led to the Crimson Tide feeling comfortable and balanced offensively. Leading 17-3 in the second quarter, quarterback Jake Coker threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to receiver Calvin Ridley, who finished the game with five receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown.
Coker and Ridley also hooked up for a 50-yard throw-and-catch earlier in the first quarter, with Coker completing his first five passes of the game. Coker was able to go 11-of-16 for 190 yards and the score before the Crimson Tide decided to run the ball more in the second half.
Pruitt said the secondary’s experience, or lack thereof, in big-game situations played a major factor in why it had so much trouble early on.
“Some of it has to do with the fact they get all built up a little bit with emotion,” Pruitt said. “That’s everywhere. That’s why at the end of the day only a few make the playoffs. It’s the teams that know how to manage their emotions and execute, and do things the right way, over and over. That’s what we have to get to. Those are the habits you create in practice. When your emotions kick in during the big games and you get tired, all that other stuff, the habits you form in practice are what’s going to show up in a game.”
Pruitt said that all he can do as a coach is get his secondary, which starts three sophomores and a junior, to learn from experiencing a defeat in this manner. While Georgia lost three games a year ago, this is the first major-stage game this secondary has appeared in.
Pruitt pointed to the way Alabama was able to turn around its fortune with Saturday’s win, considering it dropped a game to Mississippi two weeks ago. Pruitt said Georgia will have to do the same when it travels to take on Tennessee next week.
“Are we happy about it? Heck no,” Pruitt said. “We got beat by a really good football team. They deserved to win, we didn’t. But when we watch the tape there will be a lot of people that are very disappointed. I think we got guys made of the right stuff that will respond to it. If you remember, Alabama lost to Ole Miss a couple of weeks ago too. So they’ve responded in the right way, and that’s part of it.”