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Tony Walsh / UGA Sports
Georgia middle linebacker Monty Rice steps up and makes stop on goal-line stand that preserved shutout, rush defense streak

Georgia defense tops SEC in every major category, leads nation in red zone

ATHENS — Missouri was driving in the final minutes for what would have seemed like an inconsequential touchdown, down 27-0 to Georgia.

But while the scoreboard said one thing, UGA linebacker Monty Rice was thinking about another: something defensive coordinator Dan Lanning had drilled into his players’ heads.

“Coach Lanning yells it all the time, ‘No one in our end zone!’ “ Rice said following the win on Saturday night. “He’s been yelling that since he’s become the coordinator.”

The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs have responded on defense, allowing just 8 offensive touchdowns in nine games, all of them via the pass game.

It’s a defense that leads the SEC and ranks in the Top 10 in the nation in all four major statistical categories: Total defense, scoring defense, rushing defensive and pass efficiency defense. The Bulldogs are also No. 1 in the nation in Red Zone defense.

In fact, Georgia is the only team in the Division I, II or III that has not allowed a rushing touchdown.

But there were the Missouri Tigers with a first-and-goal at the Bulldogs’ 4-yard line with about 6 minutes left.

“You never want them to run straight in and score on you,” Rice said, asked of the team’s mindset.

Dawson Downing gained 3 yards on first down, and it was second-and-goal at the 1, the Georgia defensive streak seemingly destined to finally come to an end.

But on second down, Rice shot in from the backside and dropped Dawson for a 3-yard loss, backing the Tigers up to the 4.

“A lot of guys up front knocked the ball back to free Monty up,” Smart said of the signature play in the defensive stand. “We had some guys inside who were getting blocked to kind of free him up and he made a nice play, too.”

Missouri threw two incomplete passes on the ensuing downs, preserving what would become Georgia’s third shutout of the season — the first time the Bulldogs have had that many in one season since 1981.

“You can’t say enough about the defensive staff and the game plan they put together, the buy in from the kids,” Smart said. “We preached all week how well these guys ran the ball on us last year, and I thought they ran the ball on us as good as anybody last year.

“The defensive players kind of hung their hats on that and they were all chomping at the bit at the end to make it tough to score. I thought they showed some competitive character there at the end with that stand.”

The Georgia defense will be challenged to hold the line at Auburn on Saturday when the teams meet at 3:30 p.m.

The Tigers rank second in the SEC and 20th in the nation with 219.3 yards per game on the ground.

Georgia football defense rankings

Scoring defense

No. 1 SEC, No. 2 nationally, 10.10 points per game

Rushing defense

No. 1 SEC, No. 4 nationally, 74.6 yards per game

Total defense

No. 1 SEC, No. 5 nationally, 260.3 yards per game

Pass efficiency defense

No. 1 SEC, No. 9 nationally, 107.95 rating

Red zone defense

No. 1 SEC, No. 1 nationally, .538

13 RedZone trips, 4 pass TD, 3 FG, 0 Rush TD

3rd down conversion defense

No. 1 SEC, No. 11 nationally, 29.6 percent

First down defense

No. 1 SEC, No. 6 nationally, 130 allowed

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