UGA Football

Smart: Following Florida win, still room for improvement in run defense

Dawgs stomp on Gators 42-7 in Jacksonville

Photo slide show as the Georgia Bulldogs kept their undefeated season alive by dismantling the Florida Gators 42-7 Saturday in Jacksonville.
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Photo slide show as the Georgia Bulldogs kept their undefeated season alive by dismantling the Florida Gators 42-7 Saturday in Jacksonville.

Georgia has been stout against the run. Through eight games, the Bulldogs rank sixth nationally in run defense by allowing only 94.8 yards on the ground per game.

But there was a period during last Saturday’s 42-7 win over Florida that raised some concern for Georgia head coach Kirby Smart. That came when the Gators were able to get some quality production from running back Lamical Perine, who ran for 70 of his 93 rushing yards during the second quarter.

That helped lead to Florida totaling 183 rushing yards, which is the most Georgia has allowed from any team all year. Granted, that yardage total came on 41 carries, which is only a 4.5 yards per carry average.

Smart chalked it up to his defense not using the same sort of fundamentals needed against the run.

“We had a lot of sloppy tackling,” Smart said. “We don’t top off, we don’t knock back, they get a lot of push. A lot of area for improvement when it comes to that. We’ve got to do to improve to stop the ground game of other teams. The No. 1 thing is to tackle and swarm to the ball and knock off. We’ve got to do a much better job of that. That was my disappointment in the first half.”

With that in mind, Georgia will face a South Carolina team that has won its past three games while averaging 188 rushing yards. That number is an improvement over the 123.5 average it holds for the entire season.

The Gamecocks totaled a season-best 212 rushing yards in last week’s win over Vanderbilt, with running back A.J. Turner going for a career-best 121 yards on the ground. It should be noted, however, that Vanderbilt ranks 12th in the SEC in rush defense and 122nd nationally by allowing 238.8 rushing yards per outing.

Even so, head coach Kirby Smart has seen some improvement over during his film study with how South Carolina has been able to run the ball. Specifically, Smart said the South Carolina offensive line has been able to get a much better push over the past few weeks.

“It’s much more physical, dominant up front,” Smart said. “They really come off the ball. They’ve got some big guys. They’re committed to it. They have two good blocking tight ends. The backs are running really hard. When you watch them, they do a really good job.  After our Florida game that’s something we really have to improve on."

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