- Wednesday, 09 October 2013 12:45
- Author: Murray Poole
Photo: Greg Poole/BI
Yes, the Georgia defense is extremely young this football season but, hey, the guys playing on this side of the ball for the Bulldogs are entering their sixth game of the year on Saturday when they move against a Missouri Tiger offense that is putting up no less than 46 points per contest.
So I would say this about a defensive unit that has surrendered a whopping average of 32.2 points a game this season: Let’s have no more excuses!
Unless Todd Grantham’s defense starts slowing opposing offenses’ continuous trips to the end zone, this 2013 football team isn’t going to be playing in a third consecutive SEC title game in December. A now injury-riddled offense, even with the great Aaron Murray directing the attack, is unlikely to be able to keep putting up right at 40 points per game.
Indeed, where have all the great defensive teams gone at the University of Georgia in recent years?
I’m certainly not saying Todd Grantham isn’t a good football coach. He’s had success in both his NFL and college stints but cold facts are cold facts and the numbers don’t lie. After succeeding the beleaguered Willie Martinez as the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator in 2010, Grantham’s defense allowed 22.1 points per game in his first season in Athens, then allowed 20.6 a contest in 2011 when the Georgia defense truly did some outstanding things and finished 5th overall nationally. The highly-touted, veteran defensive unit of the 2012 Bulldogs gave up a respectable 19.6 points a game to opposing offenses but just finished 32nd nationally in total defense due to its inability to slow down power running attacks.
And now, the five outings this season of being pummeled for that 32-point average by the offenses going against Georgia. But thanks to a prolific scoring Bulldog offensive unit, 7th-ranked Georgia is still 4-1 overall, 3-0 in the SEC going into the high noon game Saturday against unbeaten and 25th-ranked Missouri.
Like I mentioned, starting this Saturday against Tiger quarterback James Franklin and his merry band of tall receivers (6-6, 6-5, 6-4), Grantham’s unit must begin carrying out its part of the bargain. And I think the Georgia defense has shown bits of improvement with each outing but, still, there have been too many breakdowns at inopportune moments − especially on third downs and in the Tennessee game, fourth downs − which has put the load on the offense’s shoulders to pull the last two games against the Vols and LSU out of the fire in the final moments.
Where, I ask, have the great Bulldog defenses gone in recent years? And before I point out some of the best-ever Georgia stop-em gangs, the ones who simply wouldn’t allow the opposition to score much, I should preface this by saying were these same Bulldog defenses playing this day and time − in an era with all these spread, fast-paced, no-huddle offenses blinking the scoreboard like a pinball machine − I don’t think they would be able to post the same points-against averages.
Still, let’s take nothing away from these great UGA defenses I’m listing here. They took great pride in stopping people and, just maybe, over these next few seasons, these young Bulldog defenders will grow fangs and have the Bulldawg Nation heaping praise, rather than criticism, on their collective heads.
Georgia has led the Southeastern Conference in scoring defense six times. The best of the bunch came in 1981 when Bill Lewis’s unit allowed a measly 8.9 points per game in helping the Bulldogs to a 10-2 record and a second straight SEC crown. Georgia, featuring such stalwarts as Freddie Gilbert, Tommy Thurson, Jimmy Payne, Eddie “Meat Cleaver” Weaver, Nate Taylor, Dale Carver, Tim Crowe, Ronnie Harris, Tim Bobo, Steve Kelly and Dale Williams, posted three shutouts that season.
Next best was the 1968 Georgia defense that allowed 9.8 points per contest and that figure not only led the SEC but the entire nation in points-allowed average that season. Of course, the ’68 Dogs also won the SEC and went 8-1-2 overall with the only loss being to Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. All-Americans Jake Scott and Bill Stanfill headed that great Bulldog defense and got plenty of help from the likes of Billy Payne, Terry Osbolt, Steve Greer, Lee Daniel, David McKnight, Happy Dicks, Ronnie Huggins, Penny Pennington and Mark Stewart.
Other Georgia teams to lead the SEC in scoring defense were 1967 (10.5 avg.), 1976 (10.7), 1982 (12.1), and 2002 (15.1).
What most of those teams had in common is that the defensive coordinator was the legendary and beloved Erk Russell. Brian VanGorder was the chief of the 2002 defense when the Bulldogs of Mark Richt captured their first SEC crown in 20 years and he also tutored Georgia’s 2003 defense that surrendered just 14.5 points a game over 14 outings.
Another powerful defensive unit was the Bulldogs of 1959, when Georgia won the SEC title for the first time since 1948 and allowed a measly 8.1 points per game, with three shutouts. Ringleaders for that unit were the likes of Pat Dye, Jimmy Vickers and Charley Britt and can’t believe that figure didn’t lead the SEC then.
So, most assuredly, great defense has been played at the University of Georgia down through the years and let’s all hope and pray it can be played at a high level again very soon … like starting this Saturday against a Missouri team that’s surely coming in with the confidence it can light up the Sanford Stadium scoreboard against these young Bulldog defenders.