Kliff Kingsbury had a rather large presence on Saturday’s media day ahead of the 2022 National Championship Game. Alabama quarterback Bryce Young recounted a story about how the current Arizona Cardinals coach was the first college coach to offer Young a scholarship when Kingsbury was the head coach at Texas Tech.
Young was in eighth grade at the time. Now he’s prepping to lead the Crimson Tide to another national title after a Heisman Trophy-winning season.
But the Georgia defense also brought up Kingsbury and his current quarterback with the Arizona Cardinals, Kyler Murray.
That is who the Georgia defense compared Young to on Saturday.
“He’s slippery. And I forgot, we were watching, I think ‘Hard Knocks’ with the Colts, and they were talking about the gingerbread man and how Kyler Murray was running around like a gingerbread man,” defensive tackle Jordan Davis said. “That’s what we’ve been calling him all week. Just seeing him run around our defense in the SEC Championship game, you have to tighten up.”
Young could do no wrong against the Georgia defense when the two teams met in December. He threw for 421 yards, scrambled for another 40 on his way to accounting for four touchdowns.
It was a stunning performance, especially considering how stingy the Georgia defense had been all season. The 24 points Alabama scored in the second quarter was more than Georgia gave up in the entire month of October.
The Georgia defense had a bounce-back effort against Michigan, as the starting defense held the Wolverines to just 3 points while forcing three turnovers as well. But the group knows it will need to be sharper this time around against Young.
“They did a lot of things good, they were able to execute in places we weren’t. He was able to extend plays. We had zero sets that game which was really uncharacteristic of us,” linebacker Nakobe Dean said. “They were able to execute at a higher level than we were that day.”
The loss against Alabama is the only time this year Georgia hasn’t taken down an opposing quarterback. The Bulldogs finished with 4.0 sacks in their win against Michigan
Part of that can be attributed to the elusiveness of Young, who seemed to dive, dip duck and dodge Georgia defenders like he was playing a game of dodgeball.
“We’ve faced pretty elusive guys,” Dean said. “I feel that he’s one of the best ones as far as sitting in that pocket and staying calm. I feel like he does that better than anybody. He’s busy, just sit there, be calm and being able to extend plays and make plays.
“Just his ability to do that also just makes it tougher for the front seven to get aggressive. We’ve been kind of working on that and basically trying to make it a different outcome than the last time where we had no sacks, very uncharacteristic of us.”
Davis added that Georgia had the defense trying to track down receivers in drills in an effort to mimic Young’s abilities.
The mammoth defensive tackle shared there’s been a bigger emphasis on conditioning going into this game. Davis told reporters he was actually going to go for a run following his press conference.
The Bulldogs have had plenty of time to diagnosis everything that Young did from the first rodeo between the two sides. Young himself acknowledged it will be a challenge getting the best of this talented defense for a second time around.
There’s mutual respect between the two sides, with each appreciating what the other does well. It is the national championship game after all, and a matchup between the country’s best individual player and the best unit in the sport seems like a fitting way to determine the champion of college football.
“It’s definitely about pushing yourself to the next level,” Davis said. “You just want to do the things – this is for all the glory. So, if you’re not pushing yourself to the absolute limit, then it’s like what are you here for.”
Nakobe Dean on the Georgia defensive gameplan: ‘Be elite and have complete dominance’
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