UGA Football

UGA doesn’t believe defense played to ‘standard,’ despite final score

Georgia defensive lineman Michail Carter records a tackle against Vanderbilt.
Georgia defensive lineman Michail Carter records a tackle against Vanderbilt. Georgia Sports Communications

Georgia’s defense kept Vanderbilt to 236 total yards. The Commodores totaled only 64 of those yards on the ground.

Statistically, the Bulldogs did what they’ve done all year. Opposing teams have yet to total 300 total yards. No one has scored 20 points, including Vanderbilt, which was defeated 45-14 Saturday. Yet after the game, there were areas head coach Kirby Smart pointed to that didn’t have him pleased.

In the first half, Georgia allowed Vanderbilt to convert five of nine third-down opportunities. The Bulldogs also allowed quarterback Kyle Shurmur to complete five consecutive passes on the Commodores’ final drive of the first half, which led to a touchdown.

“We didn’t strike up front, we didn’t tackle well,” Smart said. “We didn’t get off the field on third down. But you know what? Our defense needed that because everybody, and (the media), has told them they’re the greatest thing ever. Vanderbilt came out with a good quarterback, executed well, converted third downs, and we didn’t play to the standard we’re supposed to play to. That’s the most disappointing thing.”

Georgia did show significant gains on the defensive side of the ball in the second half. While Shurmur finished the game with 172 passing yards, only 50 of those came over the final two quarters.

The front seven won the battle up front and limited the Commodores on the ground in the second half. On Ralph Webb’s first three carries, he totaled 31 rushing yards.

From there, Vanderbilt was stifled in subsequent carries.

But with how Georgia has opened the season, the game didn't sit well with defenders.

“We could have played way better,” inside linebacker Juwan Taylor said. “We’ve just got to go to practice, approach it the right way and get better.”

Inside linebacker Roquan Smith said he wasn't satisfied with the defense's performance, despite winning big on the scoreboard.

“We made a lot of mistakes on the defensive side of the ball so we have to get in and correct those,” Smith said. “We didn’t play to our standard but we got better throughout the game.”

Georgia was also without a trio of regular defenders in its rotation. Defensive tackle Trenton Thompson has a sprained MCL and was therefore out of the game. Inside linebacker Reggie Carter missed the game due to an undisclosed injury. Inside linebacker Natrez Patrick, who has 17 tackles this season, did not travel due to a recent marijuana-related arrest and will be suspended for three more games.

Those absences were certainly felt early, although no one used that as an excuse. Smart simply thought the defense could have played better.

“Did not play as well defensively as we need to,” Smart said. “Don’t think we got better this week. Just don’t think we executed first or second half to the level of what our standard is.”

Smart said that despite the final outcome, there were many moments that showcased needed improvement.

He hopes to use those particular plays can serve as teaching moments for his defense.

“We can get better defensively and we can coach off this to maybe get their attention,” Smart said.