Former Georgia quarterback D.J. Shockley tells us what the Georgia Bulldogs (8-3, 5-3 SEC) must do to get past Georgia Tech (3-8, 1-7 ACC) on Saturday as the Clean Old-Fashioned Hate rivalry is renewed for the 110th time.
1. Continued defensive success. Watching this Georgia defense over the past few games has given me new optimism about what the future can hold on the defensive side of the ball. Yes, I know the likes of Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd will probably both be gone next season, but there is still hope for a defense that has risen to the tops of college football statistically. The effort and intensity has been obvious as I see numerous helmets attacking whoever has the football on every play. Georgia is second in the country against the pass (151 ypg), 11th in the country on third down (31 percent) and ninth in total defense (300 ypg). I’m not sure if the speculation a month ago about Jeremy Pruitt possibly being gone has led to the up-tick in success on defense but the unit certainly has played better all around since then. Having seen the triple option last week versus Georgia Southern should yield an awareness of what is to come against a Georgia Tech team that does much of the same. I expect Georgia to finish the regular season on a high note because of its defense.
2. Embrace a truly meaningful rivalry. It’s true, Georgia does have many rivalry games every year and some people say some mean more than others. But for me Georgia Tech is at the top of the list. There is always the argument of “Who Runs This State,” and for this Bulldog the answer is easy. WE DO! This is a game where the majority of the players involved know each other or have played with with or against each other in high school. Major bragging rights are on the line for the players and fans in Georgia. My senior year as we were about to leave the locker room for the game when Coach Mark Richt said something to the senior class that resonates with me still to this day. He said, “don’t be the senior class that loses to Tech.” It made me realize that this game will have an impact on my life going forward. Let’s just say along with my teammates that made the game that much more worth it. I love this rivalry and what it means for the next 364 days. Georgia’s seniors I’m sure understand the magnitude of a win and it will impact their legacy.
3. Be aggressive on offense. Last week I spoke about Georgia’s offense having to be more efficient to help the defense and this week is no different. Georgia Tech brings in an offense without a lot of its key players, but it’s still an extremely tough offense to defend. Georgia has to use what has been successful in the last two games to move the ball such as the Wild Dog formation. But the Bulldogs must also get the ball into the hands of receiver Malcolm Mitchell. This has been a unit that has underachieved at times this season. But against the 45th-ranked defense in the country, Georgia must take advantage of what should be some favorable matchups. That will be getting the ball out on the perimeter to players like Mitchell and Isaiah Mckenzie and Terry Godwin. Gettin them matched up against linebackers such as Brant Mitchell these are situations that favor Georgia. Aggressive play-calling is something I hope and expect to see. Take some shots down the field on first down regardless of coverage. Take a five-step drop and let it fly to your play-makers. Plays like this not only have a chance to succeed but keep defense honest and off balance as well. You have to let it all hang out against your rival.
D.J. Shockley played quarterback for Georgia from 2002-05 and led the Bulldogs to the SEC championship in 2005. After a stint in the NFL, Shockley now provides football analysis and commentary for WSB-TV on “SportsZone” (Fridays, 11:15 p.m.) and “Bulldogs GameDay” (Saturdays, 10 p.m.) and on CW69 for “Falcons Playback” (Mondays, 6 p.m.) and “Rise up Weekly” (Saturdays at 11 p.m.). He’ll also be providing analysis for DawgNation.com this fall.