STATS THAT MATTER: A look back at what decided the game between Georgia and Texas A&M

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STATS THAT MATTER: A look back at what decided the game between Georgia and Texas A&M

UGA linebacker Jermaine Johnson (11) leads the way for the Dawgs' defense on this play during the second quarter of the Texas A&M game on Saturday, November 23, 2019
UGA linebacker Jermaine Johnson (11) leads the way for the Dawgs’ defense on this play during the second quarter of the Texas A&M game on Saturday, November 23, 2019

ATHENS, GA.– Even when a football team’s offense isn’t hitting on all cylinders, if that said team’s defense is preventing the other team from scoring, the final result will usually be victory.

Such has been the case with the Georgia Bulldogs most of this 2019 season. While Georgia’s offense — thought to be the team’s strength back in the preseason speculation — has run hot and cold throughout the 11 games to date, the Bulldogs’ defense has gone far beyond expectations.

And that trend continued in Saturday’s battle with an upset-minded Texas A&M team, which came to Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium for the first time since the Aggies joined the SEC in 2012. Fourth-ranked Georgia twice built leads of 13 points but due to an offensive unit that could tally just one touchdown on the night, the Bulldogs couldn’t put the Aggies away until the game’s final minutes in a 19-13 triumph over A&M.

But thanks to four field goals by All-America senior place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, who became the program’s all-time career scorer with now a total of 418 points, and an SEC-leading defense that limited the Aggies to also one touchdown and two field goals Georgia climbed to 10-1 and ended conference play with a 7-1 mark. Before the Bulldogs play in their third consecutive SEC Championship Game on December 7 against top-ranked LSU, they will put the cap on the regular season this coming Saturday against state rival Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

And again, in those games, Georgia will be led by a defense that hasn’t given up more than 20 points all season (South Carolina got those 20) and has held its other 10 opponents’ scores in the teens or less. Texas A&M was averaging 34.0 points per game coming to Athens. The Aggies got 13 points against the Bulldogs!

These weekly Stats That Matter reflect how Georgia’s defense controlled this game:

PLAYS OF 20 PLUS YARDS , OFFENSE AND DEFENSE

Although going just 11-of-23 for 163 yards in the passing game, including a 16-yard pass to George Pickens for the Bulldogs’ lone touchdown, Jake Fromm completed a 41-yard strike to Pickens, a 27-yard pass to Tyler Simmons, a 22-yard toss to Kearis Jackson and a 20-yard pass to D’Andre Swift. Swift, in going over the 100-yard rushing mark again with 103 yards on 19 carries, had a 23-yard burst from scrimmage. Aggies quarterback Kellen Mond completed passes for 23, 24, 20 and 23 yards, but rushing? … the Aggies didn’t have any rushing yards. A team that ran for 300-plus yards in the win over South Carolina the previous Saturday was shut down for a minus-1 yard by the smothering Bulldog defense.

UNTIMELY MISTAKES

A really clean game for the Bulldogs in this area as they were assessed for just two penalties for 30 yards … a pass interference call on outside linebacker Walter Grant and an illegal block by receiver George Pickens.

SPECIAL TEAMS WINS VS. MISCUES

In addition to Blankenship’s field goals of 41, 49, 37 and 31 yards, punter Jake Camarda averaged 44.7 yards on six punts while backing the Aggies up three times inside their own 20-yard line. Brian Herrien had a 41-yard kickoff return and Dominick Blaylock returned one punt for 18 yards. Blankenship also booted four kickoffs out of the end zone.

MISSED TACKLES

The Bulldogs were all over the A&M ball carriers, putting them on the ground with initial hits. You don’t check an offense to minus yards rushing by missing tackles. The talented Aggie receiver corps did pull away from the Georgia defensive backs on several occasions after receptions.

UGA safety Richard LeCounte (2) force and recovered a fumble during the third quarter of the Texas A&M game, Saturday, November 23, 2019
UGA safety Richard LeCounte (2) force and recovered a fumble during the third quarter of the Texas A&M game, Saturday, November 23, 2019

TURNOVERS (GAINED/LOST)

Only one turnover in the game as Georgia safety Richard LeCounte forced an Aggie fumble in the third quarter and recovered the ball himself.

RED ZONE (OFFENSE, DEFENSE)

An identical showing here as both teams went 3-for-3 scoring inside the red zone, the Bulldogs and Aggies tallying one touchdown and two field goals when moving inside the other’s 20-yard line.

THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS

And both the Georgia and Texas A&M offenses had their troubles here … the Bulldogs converting only five of their 15 third-down opportunities and the Aggies going an even worse 4-of-15 against the Georgia defense. And the Bulldogs stoned A&M when it once attempted to make a yard on a fourth down.

RUN, PASS ATTEMPTS (TOTAL PLAYS)Georgia, due to a faulty snap and two sacks of Fromm, netted just 97 yards rushing on 36 carries while Fromm attempted the 23 passes, completing 11 for 163 yards. That’s just 260 total yards on 59 plays. The Aggies had 275 yards passing on Mond’s 25-of 42 showing but the minus 1-yard rushing on 20 attempts. So, A&M compiled 274 total yards on 62 plays.

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Murray Poole is a 1965 graduate of the University of Georgia Journalism School. He served as sports editor of The Brunswick News for 40 years and has written for Bulldawg Illustrated the past 16 years. He has covered the Georgia Bulldogs for 53 years.