ATHENS — The only sack recorded by Georgia last Saturday came not from any of its chiseled and athletic outside linebackers. It came on a safety blitz by Dominick Sanders, who is somewhat generously listed at 6-foot and 187 pounds.
“I felt like Floyd when I came off,” Sanders said, smiling.
But Leonard Floyd hasn’t felt like Floyd in awhile. Neither have Jordan Jenkins or Lorenzo Carter, the other members of the edge rushing trio that was supposed to be the strength of Georgia’s defense this season. Instead they’ve combined for five sacks in six games, and as a team Georgia only has nine sacks, better than just two other SEC teams.
Jenkins has been held back the past few weeks with a groin strain, and is unlikely to play Saturday against Missouri. He still leads the team with three sacks and nine quarterback hurries. Floyd and Carter are the bigger disappointments, and it’s not that they’re coming close on sack chances: Floyd has only been credited with five QB hurries, and Carter has two. Davin Bellamy, another member of the quartet that nicknamed itself the “Wolf Pack,” also has two hurries.
Missouri would seem to offer up an opportunity, as it is allowing two sacks per game. But, especially with Jenkins likely out, Georgia coach Mark Richt appeared to be downplaying the chances of fixing the sack trend this Saturday.
“They get the ball out pretty quick. They don’t drop back and pat it a few times,” Richt said. “It’s quick screens, it’s bubbles, what people are calling run-pass option plays. They’ve got a good vertical passing game but even then they do a good job of getting rid of the ball.”
It’s not that Floyd, Jenkins and company haven’t been playing well, according to Richt. The key is to get teams into a “must-throw” mode, he said.
“A lot of that is you’ve just gotta get people into that passing mode, either by them being behind and feeling like they’ve gotta throw it more often, or getting them in third and long enough to where they feel like they have to throw the football. And that’s where you really can tee off and get some of these sacks.”
That may be true in the larger context, but Georgia has actually forced opponents into 95 third-down chances. (That’s compared to 62 third-downs for Georgia’s offense.) So it’s pretty clear that on what’s been a frustrating past two games for Georgia’s defense, and the season overall, the lack of the pass rush is the biggest disappointment.