ATHENS — Georgia’s ability to handle a physical LSU football team is the storyline that will not go away.
“Mano a mano, at the end of the day, that’s what you really want,” Bulldogs senior linebacker Natrez Patrick said following Tuesday’s practice.
Indeed, it’s a game of one-on-one battles, each team straining to carry out assignments.
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Georgia coach Kirby Smart has challenged his defense to respond, and Patrick loves it.
“I like pressure, I feel like this defense likes pressure, and I can’t wait,” Patrick said. “I’m excited to see how guys react, see how guys respond to the pressure, see how guys respond to this big stage of play.
“We’re expecting a physical, downhill game.”
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Florida was able to sustain LSU’s physical punch, Gators coach Dan Mullen saying after a 27-19 win that the Tigers “just ran the ball down our throat … there’s a lot of times we didn’t control the line of scrimmage.”
Georgia could be down three defensive linemen when it travels to Baton Rouge, including run-stopping junior end David Marshall who has a foot injury.
Patrick, also known for his physical nature of play and ability to stop the run, said the Bulldogs are aware of what it will take to stop the Tigers on offense.
“It will definitely be a great test for us, and a great test for our defense, and one that we’re going to have to bring our best game,” Patrick said. “We’re going to have to play our best game in this game.”
The No. 2-ranked Bulldogs (6-0, 4-0 SEC) may have caught a break getting a day game against LSU in storied “Death Valley,” the game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. (TV: CBS, Radio: WSB 750 AM, 95.5 FM).
Patrick indicated the Georgia players are more focused on themselves than any of the peripherals at No. 13-ranked LSU (5-1, 2-1).
There’s more to Saturday’s game for the Bulldogs than just the scoreboard.
“We don’t judge the game based off scoreboard, or based off points, or first downs — we judge the game based off how we feel physically after the game,” Patrick said. “If we feel we physically imposed our will on the other team, and if we feel we physically dominated the other team, that’s when we feel like we’ve had a good game.
“Anything less is unacceptable, anything less is not the standard.”
Indeed, Georgia players left a 43-29 win at Missouri saying they felt they had not met the standard because they had allowed four rushing touchdowns.
Patrick said one exciting thing about the Bulldogs is they know they can play better than they have shown.
“There’s been a couple games where we felt we could have played better, but that’s showing the ceiling that we feel there’s still room to grow,” Patrick said. “I feel it’s a positive thing that we’re still working, that we haven’t hit that top, guys know there’s still room for improvement.
“(LSU) has a big group of physical guys, we just have to come with it.”