ATHENS – The surest sign of a bad day for Georgia’s defense is Jeremy Pruitt coming out to meet the media.
Pruitt has been media-shy at times during his two-season tenure as defensive coordinator, but to his credit stays after losses to answer questions about what went wrong with his unit. After Saturday’s 38-10 loss to Alabama, Pruitt’s alma mater, he said there were “a lot of lessons to be learned” from the loss, starting with one.
“You don’t win football games based off of emotion. You win football games based off of execution,” Pruitt said. “And Alabama out-executed us tonight. That’s plain and simple.”
Pruitt said that didn’t mean they weren’t relying on emotion. Rather, he pointed to the team’s many young players – one freshman and four sophomores started for Georgia’s defense, and more came off the bench.
“This is the first time that they got to play in a game of this magnitude,” Pruitt said. “We try to coach them that they’re all the same. You treat each and every opponent the same. But you’re talking about a lot of 18- and 19-year old kids, and we’ve gotta do a better job of where they reign in their emotions, and where they execute. Because at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about.”
Alabama put up 24 points and 379 yards on Georgia’s defense. (Two other touchdowns came via a blocked punt and an interception.) The surprise was that much of it came through the air, which had been the Crimson Tide’s biggest concern entering Saturday.
Quarterback Jake Coker, who Pruitt recruited to Florida State four years ago, completed 11-of-16 pass attempts for 190 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Alabama utilized play-action and good routes to beat Georgia’s secondary, and the Bulldogs also didn’t get much pressure on Coker. The result was a lot of open receivers.
“I feel like he just made some good moves in the pocket,” Georgia outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “I never felt like we were getting in his face at the times we needed to get there. I’ll give him his credit, he made some pretty great plays at some crucial moments.”
Georgia hadn’t given up big pass plays this year, but it did Saturday. The back-breaker being a 45-yard Coker touchdown pass to Calvin Ridley in the end zone, making it 24-3 late in the first half.
“Probably my fault,” Pruitt said. “They’re up there checking at the line, trying to kill a coverage, and go to another deal and we didn’t get it executed, and that’s something we’ve done since the first day I’ve been here.”
Coker made plays with his feet, moving around the pocket to create pass plays. He also rushed for 28 yards, including a touchdown.
It was actually a good start to the day for Georgia’s defense, which forced a fumble on Alabama’s first drive then a punt on the second. It was holding Alabama’s powerful run game in check. But four of the next five drives produced scores, three of them touchdowns, and it was sparked by Derrick Henry’s 30-yard touchdown run. From there Coker took over.
“That film session on Monday is gonna suck,” Jenkins said. “It’s not gonna be much fun to watch. But we need it to use it as a learning experience. I just feel like come Monday we’ll have more energy, and we’ll be more dangerous in the long run.”