It seems like every time a Georgia football player meets with the media that their mind isn’t waning in the past but it’s focused on the future.
They’re coached up to avoid questions that involve revealing too much and ones that involved games that have passed. It isn’t just a tactic that Smart instills in them to bug beat writers and media members, but it’s to make them have a short memory.
Well, it’s been more than a week since Alabama put up 564 yards on the nation’s best overall defense, and that unit has had time to apply salt to their wounds.
During the bye week, Georgia’s defense focused on improving on those mistakes made in the Alabama game and spent time working on future opponents.
“Alabama has a lot of great weapons on offense, but we need to play our assignments correctly and composed, even when things aren’t going well or how they should,” said sophomore Lewis Cine on Monday. “Next time we play another team like Alabama, we will play to our standard and not allow certain plays to go by and capitalize on opportunities.”
It wasn’t just one part of Georgia’s defense that got gashed against Alabama. Crimson Tide running back Najee Harris rushed for 152 yards and a touchdown against Georgia’s front seven; while quarterback Mac Jones threw for 417 yards and four touchdowns, with several of them being explosive plays. It was a lot more evident that Georgia’s secondary looked worse with the big chunk plays given up, but the defensive line didn’t look great all night.
“First of all, it’s in the past and we did corrections the Monday after the game. We have been past it since then,” Smart said on Tuesday in reference to Georgia’s secondary issues against Alabama. “The most important thing is we don’t continue to give them up. When you play the style of defense we play, you play how you have to play to stop Alabama. Is it easier to hand the ball off to Najee [Harris] or is it harder to throw and catch it? You have to be able to stop the run and to do that you have to be able to play some man-to-man, and it’s tough because they have some good guys out there.
Some of those plays were explosives because of miscommunication. Some of them were guys got beat. You are going to get beat. There is nothing shameful about getting beat in a one-on-one situation against a great athlete. But, you can’t give out things. You can’t give up a will-route when you’ve got a guy manned. He didn’t beat us, we just didn’t have discipline. You can slip down, fall down. He didn’t beat us, we just fell down. Some of them were scheme, and some of them were some really good plays they ran getting their guys in one-on-one situations. It was a combination of both. We can’t suffer from either and be a good team.”
This week the team has been preparing for their matchup with the Kentucky Wildcats, which has an offense that has been struggling to find its identity as of late.
Despite the Wildcats only scoring 10 points against Missouri this past Saturday, Smart knows that his defense is in for fight against an offense that is looking to embarrass Georgia’s defense once again.
“I definitely think that you have to stop the run when you play Kentucky, first and foremost. I’m sure they’re over there searching for ways to increase the passing game and do a good job because they can’t be one-dimensional,” Smart said. “They know that. They’ve got good football coaches. They’re looking for things that complement what they do, and they’ve been successful doing it. They weren’t successful in their last game doing it, but they’ve been successful before.”
The Wildcats are having a crisis at quarterback right now with senior Terry Wilson, who’s been playing very inconsistent this season. Former Auburn quarterback Joey Gatewood hasn’t played many meaningful snaps during his college career, but the Bulldogs could see him on Saturday if Wilson fails to execute Kentucky’s gameplan. Georgia’s defense has to be ready for anything that’s thrown their way on Saturday.
“They had great success two years ago against us throwing the ball, especially late in the game, and it was with Terry Wilson,” Smart said. “So, with us, we’ve got to worry about us. We’ve got to go out and play a good football game. We’ve got to out-execute them. We’ve got to have our guys mentally and physically ready to play because I know the coaches on Kentucky’s staff. They do a really good job, and they’ll have their team ready to play.”
The Wildcats rank ninth in the SEC in total points per game (24.4), No. 13 in total yards per game (307.8) and last in passing yards per game (124.0). Although, the Wildcats rank second in total rushing yards per game as they average 183.8 a contest. As Smart said, it will truly be a test to see if the Wildcats can mix it up and confuse Georgia’s defense.
Senior defensive lineman Malik Herring thinks that Kentucky’s run-offense might be one of the top attacks they’ve seen behind Alabama.
“Really just try and stop the run,” Herring said on Tuesday when asked how the defense has been preparing for Kentucky’s offense. “That’s what we preach every game, every day, just stop the run. With the quarterbacks, just have good contain and make sure we keep them in the box.”
Herring said that the team has a lot of success coming off of bye weeks because of the team’s preparation.
“I feel like why we’re so successful after the bye week is all the preparation during the bye weeks,” Herring said. “We just go hard and focus on each other like camp practices. I definitely have seen that this past week.”