November 6, 2012

Has D turned the corner?

It's a question Georgia fans everywhere have been asking in regards to the Bulldogs' defense - what's going on?

At least this time, it's meant in the best possible of ways.

After giving up an average of 367 yards and 24.1 points per game over their first seven contests, the fifth-ranked Bulldogs (8-1, 6-1) have allowed just 250 and 9.5, respectively, in victories over Florida and Ole Miss.

So, what's up?

"I just attitude," cornerback Sanders Commings said. "We're playing harder, we know in our hearts and our heads that we're a great defense."

So what took it so long?

"That's football. Every week is going to be different. You don't know what's going to happen this week," defensive end Garrison Smith said. "You've just got to go out and play, trust the coaches, your ability and do the best you can."

Head coach Mark Richt certainly likes what he's seen.

After giving up 23 and 20 points to Buffalo and Florida Atlantic earlier this year, the Bulldogs surrendered a combined 79 points in back-to-back games against Tennessee and South Carolina.

Adding to the embarrassment was the fact lowly Kentucky had its way with the Georgia D, rushing for a season-best 206 yards.

"We never wanted to make excuses, and we still don't want to make any excuses for what happened in the past, but if you have everybody from the very foundation of the spring and the offseason and the fall and the communication, obviously the more they play together, the better they are going to play and the better they'll communicate and the fewer mistakes they'll make," Richt said. "It has been a little bit of a juggling act, and we certainly know that either through injury or suspension, or sometimes something happens to a kid personally and they can't be there, things happen. We know we have to deal with it. It's part of coaching."

But since the string of defensive debacles, the Bulldogs seemingly out of the blue found their groove against the Gators.

"I feel we were capable of playing like that the whole year, although I think we had a couple of games where we didn't show up too well," cornerback Damian Swann said. "A lot of people questioned us, but we had a big test two weeks ago with Florida and we answered. Then, a lot of people said, 'Well, that's just one game let's see you do it again' and we came back last week and played another lights out game. We just have to keep the momentum going and I think we will be fine."

The Bulldogs obviously hope their run of defensive success continues in Saturday night's game at Auburn (7 p.m., ESPN2) and Tiger freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace who will be making his second career start.

"He definitely has ability," Commings said. ".He can run the ball, he can throw it. He's definitely an athlete."

Linebacker Amarlo Herrera hopes Wallace's youth will be an advantage to the Bulldogs.

"You always have to do that to a freshman because not many freshmen understand the game like everyone else does," Herrera said. "We're going to try and confuse him and rattle his cage."

Swann added the defense will need to employ a "take no prisoners" approach.

"I think it's not about what Auburn's offense does, but what we do on defense," he said. "I think if we execute what we have going into the game plan, we'll be fine."

That's what Richt is hoping.

With a win, Georgia will be heading back to the Georgia Dome for the second straight year as the SEC East Champs.

"We can't expect a perfect ride and a perfect season where nothing ever goes wrong. It's been our job to try to overcome it the best we can," he said. "I'm just glad that now it looks like everybody is really gaining confidence and everybody is playing with a lot of intensity. There are guys flying to the ball. We're getting more turnovers because of it in my opinion. We're just having more fun."

This and That

Georgia's post-practice injury report Tuesday consisted of right guard Chris Burnette (shoulder injury; out), fullback Merritt Hall (ankle; limited), wide receiver Michael Erdman (left foot sprain; limited) and linebacker Chase Vasser (left shoulder sprain; out). … Chilly conditions produced a crisp practice for fifth-ranked Georgia on Tuesday. The Bulldogs (8-1, 6-1 SEC) worked out for more than two hours in full pads, their most physical session in preparation for Saturday's game. "I thought it was pretty good," head coach Mark Richt said. "I don't know if it was the cold weather or what, but everyone moved around quick. They looked like they were trying to stay warm, but it worked out to our advantage. I thought the scout teamers tried their best. It was a good day." … The SEC announced that the Sugar Bowl will host the SEC-Big 12 champions following the 2014 campaign. The agreement is for 12 years. In the event that the bowl is selected as a semifinal game in the new BCS structure, the game would not host the SEC - Big 12 matchup in that year.