Commentary

Defense proves it can get to QB

Grantham's unit produces four sacks, allowing him to lay a hit on naysayers

Updated: September 24, 2011, 6:55 PM ET
By David Ching | DawgNation

OXFORD, Miss. -- Todd Grantham's Georgia defense put a quick end to the talking point that it had accounted for only one sack in the Bulldogs' first three games.

Georgia halted each of Ole Miss' first two drives on Saturday with sacks -- the beginning of a four-sack outing -- helping the Bulldogs build a double-digit lead in the first quarter en route to a 27-13 win.

[+] EnlargeJarvis Jones
AP Photo/Rogelio V. SolisSophomore linebacker Jarvis Jones had one of Georgia's four sacks.
"People that thought we couldn't rush the passer really don't know what they're talking about," said Grantham, who became Georgia's defensive coordinator after a stint coaching NFL sack master DeMarcus Ware on the Dallas Cowboys' defensive line. "I've coached pass rush for a long time, and I've had a guy lead the NFL in sacks, and we led the NFL in sacks, so I know about pass rush. Those guys are fine.

"The first couple games, it was more of the guy had a choice, 'I can either get hit because there's a guy running free at me, or I can get rid of the ball.' In this game, there was a little more coverage, and the guy had to hold the ball, and then the rush got there. People that say we don't know anything about pass rush, they're just trying to create a story or something."

Ole Miss drove to Georgia's 37-yard line on the game's opening drive before outside linebackers Cornelius Washington and Jarvis Jones broke through the line of scrimmage to sack Rebels quarterback Zack Stoudt for a 10-yard loss, pushing Ole Miss out of field-goal range.

On the next possession, Jones and DeAngelo Tyson brought a quick end to an Ole Miss three-and-out by sacking Stoudt at the Ole Miss 5 for a 13-yard loss.

The sacks were only one element in a game controlled by Georgia's defense. The Bulldogs outgained Ole Miss 475 yards to 183, picked up 25 first downs to Ole Miss' eight, and held the Rebels to 3-for-14 on third-down conversions.

Ole Miss' one big offensive play was a 38-yard reverse pass touchdown from Randall Mackey to Donte Moncrief.

"If you look at it, they really didn't get anything except on gadget plays," Grantham said. "It was all gadget plays. The physical football stuff, we did a good job, but we've got to be ready for that other stuff because what happens is an offense is going to have tools in the shed, and if they aren't working, they're going to go get another tool."

Sloppy special teams

Two weeks after surrendering a 68-yard touchdown on a fake punt against South Carolina, Georgia again made some costly special teams errors against Ole Miss.

"We regressed in the special teams," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "In the special teams area, we've got to shore it up."

The Bulldogs fell victim to a reverse on an Ole Miss punt return late in the second quarter, allowing Nikolas Brassell to reverse field off a pitch from Jeff Scott and go 81 yards for a touchdown that cut Georgia's halftime lead to 24-13.

The Rebels took a second punt all the way back in the fourth quarter, but officials called the play back on a block-in-the-back penalty.

Georgia also allowed the Rebels to recover an onside kick in the second quarter after Ole Miss' offense scored its lone touchdown.

To top it all off, Georgia's typically reliable kicker Blair Walsh was 2-for-5 on field-goal tries, hitting from 36 and 43 yards but missing from 35, 48 and 48 yards.

"They were all different," said Walsh, who missed right twice and left once. "I just wasn't making it."

Lineup changes

After starting at linebacker last week, safety Shawn Williams returned to his traditional starting spot in Georgia's secondary.

Grantham said the 220-pound Williams was a better fit at linebacker against Coastal Carolina's offense last week than he was Saturday against a much bigger Ole Miss offensive front. This week, Mike Gilliard and true freshman Amarlo Herrera manned the inside linebacker spots.

"Last week, it was more of a nickel, spread you out, move in space kind of game. This week it was more of a mash you, maul you," Grantham said. "Their offensive line is so huge, and when you play a game like that, your safeties end up playing linebacker a lot anyway, with the reads and stuff. So by letting him play safety, it allowed us to play a bigger guy at safety and it allowed us to play a bigger guy inside, and size matters, I don't care what people say."

The Bulldogs played without cornerbacks Damain Swann and Chris Sanders, offensive guard Chris Burnette and receiver Rantavious Wooten. Wooten did not make the trip after suffering a concussion in a car wreck earlier in the week.

Returning from an ankle injury suffered in the opener against Boise State, Kenarious Gates took Burnette's spot in the starting lineup at left guard.

Extra points

Freshman receiver Chris Conley made his debut on Saturday, becoming the 15th member of Georgia's 2011 signing class to have played this season. ... Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray's 69-yard pass to Malcolm Mitchell in the second quarter was the longest completion of his career. ... Georgia punter Drew Butler averaged 55.2 yards over four punts, tying for the third-best single-game average in school history.

David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at davidchingespn@gmail.com.