ATHENS – Nick Chubb is a member of the offense, perhaps the best member of Georgia’s offense, and even he knows the emerging narrative for his team: It will be carried by its potentially great defense.
And Chubb has no problem if that turs out to be true.
“That’s how you win games. Defense,” Chubb said.
It could win Georgia a lot of games this season. While it was an all-around team effort in Saturday’s 31-3 thrashing of No. 17 Mississippi State, the Georgia defense shut down an offense that came in putting up a lot of yards and points.
Thus came the latest evidence that Georgia’s defense, which had already stymied Notre Dame and two lower-tier opponents, is among the best in the SEC and the nation.
So now begins the “ignore the praise” portion of the season.
“As long as they don’t start believing all the things that y’all say about them, they’ll be OK,” head coach Kirby Smart said of his defense.
Our defense is capable of being one of the best in the country,” sophomore safety J.R. Reed said. “But as a defense, in order to stay (that way) we can’t read the headlines, we can’t let those guys blow up our heads. We’ve got to keep going, keep our head down, pounding.”
What was so encouraging for Georgia about this game was that it wasn’t just the front seven, dominant in the three previous games, that carried the game. The secondary came through, with its first two interceptions of the game, and making a number of other plays.
Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who had 180 passing yards last week against LSU, was held to just 83 by Georgia.
“This really helps us put our secondary on the map, and our defense on the map,” Reed said.
Georgia’s defensive strategy was essentially as it was against Notre Dame: Keep the dual-threat quarterback in the pocket, stop him from making big plays with his feet. And just like the Notre Dame game, it worked.
“It was pretty similar,” senior outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter said. “We did a couple different things, but at the end of the day it was keep the quarterback in the pocket and make him beat us with his arm. That’s what we did. We did a good job, and we just played football.”
It’s not altogether shocking that Georgia’s defense is good. It returned all but one starter off last year’s team, which ranked 16th nationally in least yards allowed. The returning players have made the leap, with inside linebacker Roquan Smith emerging as a force.
But one area of weakness from last year is being shored up: Red zone defense, which Georgia ranked very low in last year. Mississippi State never got in the end zone on Saturday.
“That was big. Wish they wouldn’t have gotten three. But we were glad we were able to hold them out of the end zone,” senior outside linebacker Davin Bellamy said. “Our red zone defense was not good last year. That’s been a point of emphasis all season.”
Another measuring stick point: Last year in the fourth game Ole Miss routed Georgia, 45-17 and humbled Bellamy’s unit. This year the fourth game was against another SEC team from the same state. But a different story.
“Last year we kind of put out a piss-poor performance against the SEC West,” Bellamy said. “And I think we really came out here and made a statement that we’re a team to be reckoned with.”