ATHENS — Georgia football inside linebacker Natrez Patrick says he has all the motivation he needs to seize the moment.
“This game is going to come down to the (defensive) front seven,” Patrick said, sharing that the team that has rushed for the most yardage in the Georgia-Florida game has emerged victorious the past 12 years.
“That explains it all … we’re about to see how our team responds, how our young guys respond and how our leaders respond.”
The No. 7-ranked Bulldogs (6-1, 4-1 SEC) have their season goals on the line against the No. 9-ranked Gators (6-1, 4-1) in the 3:30 p.m. game on Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla., (TV: CBS, Radio: WSB 750 AM, 95.5 FM).
Georgia’s front seven was somewhat exposed in the Bulldogs’ last outing, a 36-16 loss at LSU, even after coach Kirby Smart tried to warn his defensive line and linebackers that they would be tested.
The Bayou Bengals rushed for 275 yards, LSU trampling a proud Georgia defense that once ranked atop the SEC with 475 total yards in Tiger Stadium.
Patrick was right there in the middle of it, but he was unable to turn back LSU, and Smart saw to it the defense worked on tackling during the bye week.
The objective, Patrick said, is to “tackle bigger,” that is, not get knocked backwards and drug by ball carriers.
Florida enters the game averaging 197.2 yards rushing per game and more than 5 yards per carry.
“I feel like this is a team that’s going to try to run the ball, a team that’s going to try to overpower you, out-strength you, and out-man you,” Patrick said, “and that’s something the defense can’t go for.
“At the end of the day guys have their assignments, DBs cover, linebackers tackle, defensive linemen keep lineman off linebackers. It comes down to reading your keys and being where you’re supposed to be.”
Smart said much of the same last week, making no attempt to hide Georgia’s intention to improve tackling and deter the run game.
“You’ve got to be able to tackle and knock-back tackle, and create advantageous down-and-distance situations, and that will be the key to this game,” Smart said. “Can we cover them outside, and can we tackle their backs.”
Georgia football LB Natrez Patrick