After Georgia hands Tennessee a 43-14 loss in Knoxville at Neyland Stadium, Head Coach Kirby Smart talks about the game and the win.
Kirby gives his thoughts on a number of players including Jake Fromm, Lawrence Cager, Azeez Ojulari, Brian Herrien, Julian Rochester, and Tae Crowder. Coach Smart also updates the status of Jordan Davis who left the game in the first half with an apparent lower-leg injury.
Kirby’s Opening Statement:
“You know, I thought our kids played really hard tonight. We didn’t start the way you’d like to, at least not defensively, but offensively, I thought Jake and them did a really good job. I thought Coley called a really nice game, changed things up, did some good things with Jake, had a good play, and executed the plan. We played physical. I still think we’ve got a lot of areas to improved on, some stupid, undisciplined penalties. I was proud of our fans tonight for coming and showing up. I saw a lot of them at the finish and defensively, I thought our guys fought through some tough times. That’s the first road game. Where a lot of people will think about Vanderbilt, it just wasn’t that kind of atmosphere. When you are resilient on the road and you play hard and you keep coming back and you play a lot of players and you’re able to run for 238 yards and they rush for 70, it helps you. We’ve got a big, physical football team. We’ve got to keep getting better. We’ve got to get rid of some of the errors.”
Time of Possession:
“Well I felt like we were wearing them down, but we were wearing them down in a better style than just having to run the ball all the time. Jake was doing a good job mixing it up. Thought Coley did a good job mixing up the calls, because they were playing quite a bit of split-safety coverage, which that’s what they do. You usually have good box looks but we were able to throw the ball, be efficient with it. We gave up some explosive on defense and bounced back from that. That was tough on them. They made a really good play call against a really good defense. I was proud of those guys.”
On Tennessee’s freshman quarterback Brian Maurer:
“Well, I think he played really well. I thought Jim (Chaney) did a really nice job putting a plan together for a young quarterback. Jim has had a lot of experience dealing with that. He’s had young quarterbacks it seems like forever, but he did a nice job getting the ball out of his hands, mixing things up. He’s got a good receiving corps. Their receiving corps is extremely physical and big and they got good yards after the catch to help the quarterback out. I thought we changed things up at the half. We at least executed better. We had some self-inflicted wounds. David Marshall’s penalty was huge because it gave them a first down and probably a touchdown on that drive and their missed field goal was huge because it helped us with momentum there right at the end of the half is when we started to bounce back.”
On Georgia’s ability to pass the ball:
“No. We didn’t make a decision to pass it more. That was not the decision. The decision was to be able to mix it up and try to do a good job of keeping people off balance. That’s perimeter runs, screens, play-action pass, a little bit of everything. So it wasn’t like we came in and said throw the ball more. We just know that we’ve got to be able to score points and we’ve got to be able to protect the quarterback. We know that we can run the ball, we’ve just got to be able to do it.”
What was your message to the team at half-time?
“We just went over what they had done. We got over what they did in the first half; a lot of times teams repeat plays and we were better prepared for them. Some of them were ones we hadn’t seen, and we were able to execute at a little bit higher rate.”
On Jake Fromm spreading the ball around to nine different receivers:
“I think Jake has confidence in all our wideouts. All our wideouts are doing a really good job and a lot of guys caught balls. Jake spreads the wealth and when guys catch the ball you’re talking about D’Andre Swift, James Cook, Matt Landers … we’ve got a lot of guys who catch the ball that are hard to tackle. When you spread the ball around it makes you a more efficient team and Jake did a nice job of that. “
“Cager is playing well, too. He’s got to continue to lead and help us grow; he’s done a good job of that.”
On the defense’s ability to pressure and affect the quarterback:
“There was no plan, you want and see what they do. You don’t go out there and try to blitz every down, because what are they going to do? They’re going to get the ball out of his hand. So, we tried to mix it up. There were a lot of times where we had pressure and he threw the ball before we could get there. They had a nice plan to get the ball out of his hands before we got there, quickly, and they executed that well. We didn’t get pressure on one of their max protections, they protected seven guys and we had four guys rushing; those are not good odds you’re going to get there on the double move that they hit for the big touchdown. It was a good play call into a good defense. We’ll continue to work on it. I thought our kids got better pressure in the second half; we play a lot of guys defensive and try to wear people down.”
“Azeez is a great leader on our team. He was captain for this game. To do that as a freshman is pretty special. He leads the practice. He plays the right way. He’s everything you want in a student-athlete. And he’s a credit to his family. They’ve done a great job with him.”
Being balanced on offense:
“You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to win, you know what I mean? If that game is whatever, 40-40, then it might not be that way, we might have to throw it. You want to keep people off balance. To protect the quarterback, you have to run the ball, you cannot drop back and pass it every play; That’s what hurt them. When you can’t run the ball, it eventually wears you down because people keep rushing at you, rushing at you and eventually gets to your quarterback. The run game protects your quarterback.”
“I thought all of our guys hard. You can’t not mention Zamir White. You can’t not mention Brian, and Swift as well. Those guys, they fight for their carries.”
Holding Tennessee to 70-yards rushing:
“I don’t know if I’d say that. I mean our offense runs the ball successfully on us. We pride ourselves on stopping the run, but I think that they felt like they had to score points; so, they wanted to throw the ball. A little bit of it is what is your perception of the other team’s defense and offense. They probably felt like they had to score 30 points to have a chance. It’s hard to do that if you’re just running the ball or can’t run the ball.”
Update on Jordan Davis’ injury:
I don’t. Sprained ankle but felt like it wasn’t as bad as some of those other guys.
What does it say about the team coming from behind the past two games, overcoming and battle adversity?
“It tells me we need to start better. I don’t know that I’m concerned but when you start a game you’re going to get new plays and new scripts. We started pretty well offensively. We didn’t start very well on defense. We started really well defensively last time but we didn’t start really well offensively. We just have to put that together. They punched us in the face with the big play and we responded. That’s what you’re looking for in your team. It’s the first time some of our defensive players have taken that punch.”
Appreciating a win over an SEC East Division Rival like Tennessee, does it mean more?
“I mean, I enjoy every win. They’re hard to come by, guys. There’s a lot that goes into these games, especially this one. There’s two weeks with so many ties from our program to their program and vice versa. I’m happy for those kids in the locker room that bust their tails. Other than that, every team is a rival we play.”
“It felt the same way. He’s very confident especially when he plays these types of games, that’s similar to playing our defense. He sees that every day. There are similarities. He’s very intelligent. He sees a lot of the same things he’s seen from us. That helps us.”
On the offense and red zone performance:
Our offense was doing a good job moving it. We just couldn’t get touchdowns and kept kicking field goals. Eventually, you’re going to play a really good team and you need touchdowns, not field goals.”
On Julian Rochester’s first time being able to play this season and his performance:
“Awesome. I’m proud of him. We needed him. We didn’t have Jordan (Davis); so, we needed him.”
Is there any concern with the secondary”
“It worries me the tackling, that’s what bothers me when they throw and catch the ball, with some of the things we’re playing they’re going to throw and catch the ball because we’re really aggressive. But we have to tackle them when they catch it, we’ve got to get them down right then, we’ve got to force the turnover, we’ve got to pick the ball off when they throw one to us and get an interception. There’s a lot of things we’ve got to do better from that perspective. We’re really down one player in the secondary and we hope to get him back soon, but at the end of the day we have to do a better job getting some balls defended and knocked down but we put a lot of pressure on our secondary.”
On the defensive red zone stop at the end of the game:
“It’s great to see a red zone stop. We really pride ourselves on the red zone. I don’t how we did in the red zone tonight. I know one of the scores was outside the red zone, but I certainly feel like we put a lot of effort and work into that area. And to finish like that with those kids it was great. Those guys practice just as hard as everybody else. They don’t always get an opportunity and there’s some good young players in that group that got to go in and play. I was happy they finished the way they did.”
What are your thoughts on Tae Crowder and the scoop and score defensive play in the fourth quarter?
“It’s awesome. I’ve known Tae (Crowder) since the 8th grade. He was a receiver. He got a scholarship super late and came to be a running back. Was going to go to Georgia Southern and then ends up at Georgia. I can still remember the first time we practiced I thought this kid’s a good athlete and he’s not going to play running back here. And didn’t know if he’d ever play linebacker. The first couple of times he played, he didn’t like contact. He wouldn’t in to all that. He’s come so far. He’s such a great story in college football of perseverance, sticking it out, and staying. Look and see what he’s done. Pretty awesome when you think about that. I know his best buddy Roquan (Smith) and roommate was probably watching him tonight and is proud of him. Told him he was probably the slowest guy on the field by the time he got to the end zone. He looked like a turtle finishing.”
Is Crowder’s play a definition of “havoc?”
“Yeah. That play, in particular, was a great call by Dan Lanning. There was a situation where there was actually a whistle blown or something stopped the play, but he changed the call. And it was a great call against what they had. Everybody executed it. The quarterback didn’t see the corner coming. It was a scoop and score. It was what havoc is. It’s what we are trying to create.”