ATHENS — Georgia’s defense was 5 minutes and 41 seconds away from its first shutout since 2014 on Saturday. Then Appalachian State quarterback Taylor Lamb scrambled 20 yards into the end zone on third down.
That came against Georgia’s reserves, so the first-team defense could at least claim a shutout, and that it had things under control.
After review of the film, however, the first-stringers found a significant need to improve in a few areas, especially with a tougher opponent this week.
“We could tackle a little better and really do our assignments better,” sophomore safety J.R. Reed said. “Those things might not show up in the game but when you go back on film we could really execute our assignments. Some of the big plays that we gave up were blown assignments.”
While the Georgia starters held App State to 190 total yards in the first half Saturday, missed opportunities in knowing assignments gave App State more room to maneuver than the Georgia defense really wanted.
“I thought we could have been better,” senior outside linebacker Davin Bellamy said. “There were a couple of assignments where I didn’t do my job and also some others, so of course we could have played well but how the defense has been playing in practice and also with all the guys coming back, I felt like it was kind of expected, we just need to go out there and do our jobs.”
Looking ahead to Notre Dame this weekend, knowing the defensive role and assignment for the majority of the Georgia starters on defense will be more of a challenge. Coach Kirby Smart said Notre Dame brings a faster offensive scheme than what App State brought.
“We are going to find a lot more about our defense because the backs are going to be bigger and faster and the quarterback is going to be bigger and faster,” Smart said. “The last team tried to slow things down and not go fast. [Notre Dame] is going to go fast, that’s what they do, they are going to go tempo.”
This faster pace puts even more emphasis on executing assignments, according to Reed, who Smart said was a “bright spot” for the defense against App State with a 9-yard sack in the first quarter.
In fact, Reed would rather see Georgia pushed at a faster tempo. He says it’s what he’s used to and comfortable with.
“Personally, I like a quicker pace on defense during the game,” Reed said. “That’s what I came from at Tulsa so I am used to playing at a quick pace. As a defense we have to do our assignments better and get lined up and get after those guys.”
Three Notre Dame offensive players rushed more than 100 yards last week against Temple. One of those players was quarterback Brandon Wimbush, who the Georgia defense is planning to keep a close eye on.
“We can’t let that guy get out of the pocket,” Reed said about Wimbush. “We have to really contain him. We have to keep him under those yardage and keep him in the pocket, keep him from throwing that ball, and don’t let him break it and run.”
Notre Dame’s offense as a whole rushed for 422 yards against a lackluster Temple defense. It didn’t take long for the Fighting Irish to put up their first touchdown of the day. Only 33 seconds elapsed before Josh Adams rushed in from 37 yards out, the program’s quickest season-opening touchdown in 24 years.
Notre Dame also went 6-for-6 in the red zone, a place that plagued the Georgia defense in 2016. Aware of this, Smart calls his defense to meet the challenge of the Notre Dame offense.
“Our defensive line needs to step up,” Smart said. “They need to play well because they are going up against some big, physical guys.”