Georgia has an entire Rolodex of words, phrases, and other vernacular that they use to inspire and direct their players. It’s a collection of things; not all of them make sense initially. You’ll hear things that sound obscure to most, but they make sense to the Dawgs. Sayings like ‘eat off the floor,’ ‘one moment at a time,’ and the latest one—specifically tailored for this year’s Georgia-Florida game—’Mission. Team. Me.’
In addition to the sayings or phrases, there are also key words they like to constantly reiterate and emphasize: composure, resiliency, physicality, etc. And those ones make more sense, but it was that last one that made all the difference in this past weekend’s bout against the Florida Gators. It was all about physicality.
Coach Smart alluded to this physicality in his postgame presser after beating Florida, talking about the trenches—the most physical place in football, ‘We were able to control the line of scrimmage, which ultimately makes the difference in this conference.” He wholeheartedly believes that if you can control the line of scrimmage, you have the upper hand, and that’s what we saw happen on the field on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
When the offense had the ball in their hands, it reminded me of the Kentucky game. The O-line and Carson Beck definitely benefited from having a healthy Xavier Truss back in rotation, allowing no sacks and enabling Beck to throw for over 300 yards, similar to what he did versus Kentucky, a game in which the Bulldog offensive line did not allow a sack. The rushing totals were almost identical to Kentucky: against the Wildcats, Georgia ran for 173, and Florida 171.
What really took the cake was the performance from the Georgia defensive front. If it weren’t for a garbage-time fourth quarter run against what may have been Georgia’s second-string defense, the Gators would have been held to just 61 rushing yards on the day. But it wasn’t just the run defense that showed up. Above all, the pass rush was the key difference.
The Dawgs’ ability to affect the quarterback was a true exhibition of physicality. The four sacks and two forced fumbles were just one piece of the pie. The Georgia defense asserted its dominance last weekend for the first time in what feels like forever. It almost brought back memories of the 2021 Georgia defense, and if it weren’t for some poor fourth-quarter play from the second string, Florida could have been held to just seven points.
Georgia’s defense, the D-line especially, looked different, and that’s because, according to Coach Smart, it was. Smart said the defensive coaching staff implemented a ‘new wrinkle’ this week that helped to pressure the quarterback. One-fourth of all the quarterback sacks this season happened against Florida; the count is now up to 16.
In the past, Coach Smart has said that the defense prioritizes creating and planning pressure for opposing quarterbacks rather than just allowing his guys to pin their ears back and win one-on-one. Now I’m no coach, so I can’t tell you exactly what they did versus Florida, but I can definitely tell you that whatever it was, it worked.
One thing I’ve come to learn about this team is that they play their best when the lights are the brightest. In marquee matchups versus Kentucky and Florida and even in the fourth quarter of the Auburn game, the Dawgs showed up. Hopefully, we continue to see this type of overall performance from the team moving forward, especially as the ranked Missouri Tigers come to town to take their shot at the No. 1 team in the country this weekend.