ATHENS — Georgia held Tennessee to just 11 first downs and 143 yards passing, but Kirby Smart and his defensive players exited Sanford Stadium irritated by a couple of “chunk” plays.
The No. 2-ranked Bulldogs won the game, 38-12, but not before some tense moments in the third quarter and the start of the fourth, when the Vols scored back-to-back touchdowns.
Outsiders might look at the scoreboard and say the ends justify the means, but Smart’s defense sets high goals for themselves, and they don’t mind being critical of one another.
“I feel like there’s things we still have to get better on,” said Georgia senior D’Andre Walker, who recorded his fourth sack of the season. “I feel like we did a lot better in the run, but there were a lot of coverages that were busted, and we’ve got to keep getting better.”
Walker was flagged 15 yards for a late hit, but Smart explained it was a case of Walker not realizing the ball carrier was down.
“Why are we providing them a spark? It wasn’t anything they did to provide a spark,” Smart said. “We did it – a bust in the coverage, a bust in the coverage and a penalty. Those are the kind of things we have to clean up.”
Georgia ranks 12th in the nation in total defense (292.3 yards per game allowed), seventh in scoring defense (13.3 points per game), 32nd in rush defense (118.8 yards allowed per game) and 18th in pass efficiency defense.
The Bulldogs allowed just three pass plays of 20 yards or more through the first four games, but Tennessee connected on touchdown passes of 37 yards and 35 yards on Saturday.
The Vols first touchdown came when receiver Josh Palmer wound up matched up against Georgia linebacker Juwan Taylor, and safety J.R. Reed was late rotating over.
“Just a lack of communication, I have to do better job lining our guys up,” said Reed, who led the Bulldogs with six tackles. “We have to eliminate explosive plays due to a lack of communication.”
Inside linebacker Monty Rice, who returned to action after missing the Missouri game with a sprained knee, said Georgia’s defense needs to close out games better.
“We had a few busts in the second half that led to points on touchdowns, and giving them extra downs,” Rice said, “so I think we can finish better.”
Georgia football OLB D’Andre Walker
Georgia football ILB Monty Rice
Georgia football safety Richard LeCounte
Georgia football safety J.R. Reed