Georgia’s defense is currently ranked No. 29 in the country in total defense following the 31-24 win over Mississippi State, which looks a little out of place compared to where they’ve been ranked earlier in the year.
The home Bulldogs were a 26-point favorite, although the Maroon Bulldogs played arguably their best game of the season as they kept it close throughout the entire contest. This was the first game in a long time that Georgia’s offense overshadowed the defense. Despite only running the ball for eight yards, Georgia redshirt sophomore quarterback JT Daniels threw for 401 yards and four touchdowns in his debut on Saturday night.
Defensively, Georgia looked lost at times to where they kept leaving receivers open across the middle, especially mirroring what the secondary did against Florida.
Mississippi State freshman quarterback Will Rogers gashed Georgia’s defense as he completed 41 of 52 passes for 336 yards and one touchdown. That was expected as first-year Bulldogs’ head coach Mike Leach is known for his aerial assault type of offense. That was the second-highest number of passing yards MSU has thrown for all-season after quarterback K.J. Costello threw for just over 600 yards in the opener against LSU.
Still, that number is ridiculously high for a team that’s supposed to have one of the best defenses in the nation.
Even though Georgia is missing Jordan Davis and Richard LeCounte, the Bulldogs still have a ton of talent behind them on the depth chart at their respective positions. The pass rush was non-existent until later on in the game as Georgia ended up with two sacks. Although, this was the first game all season that the Bulldogs didn’t have a turnover or a quarterback pressure. MSU’s offensive line was able to keep Georgia defenders at bay and contained them for most of the game.
Fifth-year head coach Kirby Smart said that it was hard to prepare for what Mississippi State was going to bring, especially because it’s a new style of offense in the SEC.
“It’s tough being patient, because we told ourselves, and every team we talked to said the same thing: you’ve got to be patient, you’ve got to be patient, you’ve got to be patient,” said Smart in his postgame press conference. “You’re counting on them a little bit to mess it up, and I told y’all all week, it’s very similar to the Georgia Tech triple option. If you’re in third-and-one or third-and-two every third down, you’re not going to win. You’ve got to get them off schedule.”
Rogers only averaged 8.2 yards per attempt, although it was apparent that Georgia’s defense couldn’t contain those quick passes. It was eerily similar to what Florida did against the Bulldogs a few weeks ago when Kyle Trask kept completing short passes over the middle. According to Smart, MSU deserves a lot of credit for their gameplan.
“We didn’t play anything different than anybody else that plays them,” said Smart. “It’s crazy. You go watch the tape, and every team that plays them plays the same stuff. We probably got as good or better players than the teams that played them well. The difference? They didn’t drop balls, they didn’t fumble, they didn’t throw an interception. They have a ton of interceptions. Will Rogers played really well and was really accurate. It forced us to be really patient.”
Georgia sophomore safety Lewis Cine said the defense came ready to play because of the preparation they received during last week’s practices.
“Our defensive coordinator usually says, ‘Don’t bite the cheese, because most likely there’s something behind you coming,” said Cine. “The type of offense they have is, they’ll show you something so you can bite it, and have something come from behind you. The goal was to have them throw it in front of us, so we could just rally to it.”
Cine maybe right about the game plan being execute against MSU, but they will have to regroup and now focus on South Carolina. The Gamecocks have the conference’s leading rusher in their backfield and the ground attack will challenge Georgia’s defensive front. Still, the Bulldogs remain confident heading into next Saturday.
“We just had to keep our composure and stay patient,” said sophomore inside linebacker Nakobe Dean. “That’s what changed the most (in the second half). We knew we had to execute better, and that rests on the shoulders of the linebackers and leaders of the defense.”