UGA Football

Georgia defense eager to return to field after Auburn loss

Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson is tackled by Georgia defensive back Aaron Davis.
Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson is tackled by Georgia defensive back Aaron Davis. AP

When Tyler Clark returned from Georgia’s 23-point loss at Auburn, he had trouble sleeping.

The thoughts of the uncharacteristic mistakes from his defensive line unit continued to appear in his head. The sophomore’s emotions were drastically different than that of the previous nine games — in which the Bulldogs collected a win.

Clark got about six hours of sleep, which may be a good night’s sleep for some, but he continued to be “hurt” from the defeat.

“It really shocked me that we lost,” Clark said.

The following morning, Clark, position coach Tray Scott and his defensive line teammates got together and watched the game again. From that moment, Clark felt better because he realized that errors made throughout the contest against the Tigers were fixable with intensified practice and study.

Georgia allowed its highest point total of the season and had given up 62 total points in its previous six SEC contests. But the 40 given up in four quarters to Auburn serves as an outlier.

“I wouldn’t say there was a major change because they’ve practiced well each week,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “The demeanor this week has been physical — tough, striking and working to get off of blocks. That’s not a change, we just have to do it at a higher level.”

Auburn’s 40-point surge against the Bulldogs came against a balanced attack — 251 passing yards and 237 rushing. Kerryon Johnson led the way for the Tigers with 233 all-purpose yards and a touchdown.

Georgia had faced a number of upper-echelon running backs throughout its campaign, including Notre Dame’s Josh Adams and Tennessee’s John Kelly. The Bulldogs were successful in containing each of those play-makers, but Johnson used a patient running style to break loose.

Following the game, linebacker Roquan Smith promised improved production in the following weeks. The message amongst the defensive unit remains the same following a less-than-expected performance — whether it be in a win or loss.

“We didn’t play to our standard, because really and truly, they had too many rushing yards,” Clark said. “That’s not our defense.”

Smart displayed pleasure with his team’s effort in Tuesday’s practice, and players concur with the belief that there’s little time to hammer on the lone defeat thus far.

While the approach may remain the same, an uptick in intensity becomes present.

“It’s like failing a test and you pay a little more attention to what you did wrong,” Georgia defensive back J.R. Reed said. “You do a little bit extra to get you over the hump.”

Georgia’s No. 1 ranking that it held for two weeks will be no longer, and the path to the College Football Playoff becomes more difficult as it leaves no room for a loss in the SEC Championship. The Bulldogs have locked in on their upcoming opponent in Kentucky, and a victory would bring along a number of positives.

The season’s final game at Sanford Stadium serves as the final home contest for the seniors and an opportunity to defeat every team in the SEC East. In addition to all of that, it also allows for a statement to be made to those nationally.

“I’m ready to get back out there so we can prove that it wasn’t the Georgia that was supposed to be out there last week,” Clark said.