Through the first three games of the season, Georgia looked like one of if not the best defense in the country. Then, the Bulldogs played Alabama and the narrative quickly shifted.
The Crimson Tide had an all-time day against Kirby Smart and his defense, as they rolled up 564 yards. That’s the most given up since Smart took over as Georgia’s head coach prior to the start of the 2016 season.
“Alabama had a good team They had a good game plan to go against what we had on defense,” linebacker Nakobe Dean said.
The Bulldogs held in well for the first 40 minutes of the game, as Alabama had just 20 points and had helped stake Georgia to a 24-20 lead. It sacked Mac Jones three times and intercepted him on the game’s opening play.
But over the final 20 minutes, the Alabama offense had the ball four times. Those drives went touchdown, touchdown, touchdown and end of game. Georgia failed to register a sack on any of those final drives.
Part of the reason for the success has to be attributed to the Alabama offense. The Crimson Tide are perhaps the only team in the country that can say they’ve recruited as well as Georgia has in recent seasons.
The likes of Jaylen Waddle, Devonta Smith and Najee Harris made that apparent on Saturday.
“They have a talented offensive line- every one of those offensive linemen will be in the NFL one day- and they have really good skill players,” Smart said.
But Smart is also quick to point out that the Georgia defense is also full of talented players. So what happened on Saturday night and how much of that can be corrected going forward?
“We probably lost more 50-50 balls- and what I call 50-50 balls is not just fades and touchdown passes, it’s situational third down where can we get a ball out- we’ve probably lost more of those than we have in a long time,” Smart said. “We had tight coverage a lot of times against Alabama, we just didn’t get the ball out. You have to give them credit for that.”
To Smart’s point, both Waddle and Smith finished with over 160 yards receiving. Jones meanwhile threw for 417 yards and four touchdowns. Neither Joe Burrow or Tua Tagovailo put up those kind of numbers against the Georgia defense.
So should Georgia be worried going forward? Especially with a talented passing attack like Florida looming? And the possibility of playing Alabama a second time?
“It doesn’t cause alarm for me because I know that we have good players. We have kids that care,” Smart said It bothers them. We have to do a good job as coaches to try to help them in other ways.”
One of those players is Dean. He’s improved as a sophomore and he’s the team’s third-leading tackler through four games. He also picked up a sack on Saturday, Georgia’s last one of the game to stop an Alabama drive in the second half.
— GEORGIA HEROES (@GeorgiaHeroes) October 18, 2020
“They just out-executed us. We just have to come back and look at the things we have to work on and fix them,” Dean said. “Because we definitely can compete with them. We just gotta come back this week, fix it and know what we gotta do and work on it.”
Georgia outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari echoed Dean’s point, as he focused on the more intricate areas of playing defense.
And he believes that Georgia can right some of those wrongs.
“A lot of stuff is correctable. We gotta communicate better,” Ojulari said. “We gotta do a lot of stuff better. Run to the ball. A lot of the little things we gotta do better to just help ourselves become a better defense and just play as one.”
On the opening play of the game for Alabama, Ojulari was able to get pressure on Jones and hit him as the Alabama quarterback released the ball. Ojulari’s hit affected the pass and the ball fell into LeCounte’s outstretched arms for an interception.
Smart did add that he thought the coaching staff could provide the defense more help from a schematic standpoint. The Bulldogs rely heavily on playing man-to-man in the secondary.
The Georgia head coach — who is also a former starting safety for the Bulldogs — knows the risks of putting his corners out on an island. Sometimes, they get beat for touchdowns, like they did against Alabama.
Smart understands that is going to happen sometimes. The bigger concern, when it comes to the secondary, is when there is a bust or a breakdown in communication.
“That, to me, is a problem—not when I’m pressing a guy and I’ve got this guy and I get beat. That’s going to happen from time to time, and you accept that, and you’ve got to win more than you lose. We’ve got to hit some of those. We’ve got to score some of those to make big plays.
“Our DBs are fine. They understand they go against good players every day in practice. They get right back out there and compete.”
Georgia won’t see a passing attack like Alabama’s the next time they return to the field, as Kentucky has the worst passing offense in the SEC.
But to get where the Bulldogs want to go, they’re probably going to see a potent passing attack again. And they’ll have to show that they’ve improved before it can be declared that Georgia’s defense has the upper hand against an elite offense.
Georgia outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari talks UGA defense
More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation
- Georgia coach Kirby Smart puts quarterback Stetson Bennett under the microscope
- WATCH: Georgia coach Kirby Smart addresses quarterback situation with JT Daniels, Stetson Bennett
- Georgia football injury update: Tailback Kenny McIntosh, cornerback DJ Daniel, receiver Matt Landers
- COVID-19 concerns cited in cancellation of 2021 All-American Bowl
- Schedule change ends up benefitting Georgia football after Alabama loss
- Georgia football stock report: Some ups amid 41-24 loss at Alabama
- Georgia playmaker James Cook heating up; mind-blowing numbers from Alabama loss
- Jermaine Burton performance against Alabama serves as perfect metaphor for Georgia football offense
- Georgia football podcast: Picking up the pieces after another disappointing loss to Alabama
- Georgia football winners and losers following 41-24 defeat to Alabama
- Georgia rookies D’Andre Swift, Tae Crowder shine in Week 6 of NFL season