JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Someone asked Georgia safety J.R. Reed to explain his post-touchdown celebration on Saturday.
“Which one?” Reed answered. Then he grinned.
There was the “eat greedy” act, a Georgia defensive backs thing, which Reed did after his sack, scoop and score to punctuate Georgia’s 42-7 rout of Florida. Then Reed went to the sideline and was put on his teammates’ shoulders, wearing the shoulder spikes, and waved to the roaring sea of Georgia fans.
“I guess you could call that a savage moment,” Reed said.
The Georgia defense had another dominating performance on Saturday, and after a midseason lull it reintroduced another part of its repertoire: A pass rush.
And it was quite a rush. Georgia had a season-high 5 sacks after coming into the game with only 10. It was truly a committee effort: Eight different players were credited with at least a half-sack, and only two (Lorenzo Carter and Julian Rochester) were credited with a full sack.
“We heard y’all saying we hadn’t had a sack in two games. We wanted to come out there and show guys we could still get after them, you know?” outside linebacker Davin Bellamy said, smiling.
Then he turned serious and added: “But really, our coaches, they let us off the hook this game and told us, ‘Go get them.’ ”
The general pass rush strategy this season, Bellamy said, has been to keep the quarterback in the pocket and then close the pocket in on them. It may be a conservative strategy but it’s largely worked for the overall defense, though the sack and pressure numbers have suffered.
This time, as Bellamy said, the coaches told Bellamy, Carter and the edge rushers – the so-called “Woflpack” – to get off the leash.
“Our coaches really wanted us to go get after them,” Bellamy said. “Retrace, just go get and get him. And you saw it. We were just really hitting him from everywhere.”
Reed’s play was Georgia’s first defensive touchdown of the year, and it came on a defensive back blitz. He sacked and stripped Feleipe Franks, then picked up the ball and went 3 yards into the end zone, making it 35-0 in the third quarter.
There seemed to also be a bit more of those blitzes in this game, as defensive coordinator Mel Tucker dialed up a few well-timed ones.
“We’ve got to hold some things. We can’t show everyone our full hand,” Reed said. “So we brought some new things in on this game, just like they brought some new things on their offense this game. So it’s not really holding anything back, it’s putting new wrinkles in.”
Coach Kirby Smart again downplayed the sack number, saying the media was more concerned with that, and that he’s more concerned with disruptions, as in affecting the quarterback. But Smart acknowledged earlier this week that the Bulldogs needed to get better at those disruptions. That number should improve this week, too, when Georgia watches the film, as shown by Florida’s anemic passing numbers (66 yards on 10 completions).
“That’s not like a magical we put a bunch of stuff in a jar and did it,” Smart said. “We worked hard on it and tried to improve on it.”
If there was a magical difference, according to Carter, it was something inside the players.
“We were just hungry,” Carter said. “We knew we had to get pressure on them. And we hadn’t been getting pressures the last couple games, so we put a lot of emphasis on that and came out and executed what we did in practice.”