KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Jeremy Pruitt posed the question, without saying he knew the answer. That may be because there isn’t one.
“When you go back and look at the game, there’s a point there when there’s two minutes left in the half, they’ve scored three points. From that point to the end of the game, what caused it?” Pruitt, Georgia’s defensive coordinator, said of his unit. “What caused us to hold them to three points the first 27 minutes of the game? And how did they score 35 points the rest of the game? That’s the things that we’ve gotta figure out.”
Pruitt and his unit will point to several things, but one issue was particularly glaring.
There’s no official stat for missed tackles, but Georgia will chart it on Sunday when it watches film. The number figures to be vast. And it happened at critical times, helping Tennessee continue several of its scoring drives in a 38-31 win over the visiting Bulldogs.
“One thing that we’ve done is we’ve tackled well. Then tonight we didn’t,” Pruitt said. “The bottom line is you’ve gotta finish on good players. They’ve got some good skill players on offense, we’ve gotta be able to finish.”
Georgia’s two inside linebackers – senior Jake Ganus and junior Tim Kimbrough – actually had good games, recording 13 and 12 tackles, respectively. Georgia’s defense up the middle was good.
It was everywhere else that was a problem, especially on the outside, and especially in the secondary. Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs ran for 118 yards on 18 carries. And tailback Jalen Hurd, after being held to 22 yards on 11 carries in the first half, had 58 on 10 carries in the second half.
As far as technical corrections to the tackling problem, the term that Pruitt and Ganus threw around often was to “bring your feet,” which the players didn’t do enough often.
“They got big backs. Quarterback’s slippery. He’s tough to tackle,” Ganus said. “But we’ve just gotta bring our feet. As the game goes on, you get more tired, your body gets more sore, so that’s when you’ve really gotta focus on tackling. I don’t think we did a good job of that.”
It wasn’t the only problem. Dobbs threw for 312 yards, and actually could have amassed more if not for missing some open receivers early in the game.
“We gave them a couple of easy throws and that’s on me,” Pruitt said. “That’s one thing that we’ve not been doing. We did it last week and we’ve done it again this week, is give guys easy throws. And I’ve gotta do a better job of getting the guys ready to execute a gameplan.”
But the tackling was the most glaring issue. Most of the time it was missed tackles in one-on-one situations, but as Pruitt pointed out, better gang tackling would help solve the problem too.
But ultimately Pruitt came back to the same thing he cited after last week’s 38-10 loss to Alabama: Youth. Georgia started a freshman, two sophomores and a junior in the secondary on Saturday.
“We’ve really got a young, inexperienced defensive football team,” Pruitt said. “The guys are working really hard. We’ve just gotta get them to come on a little faster.”