Putting the Fire Out

ATHENS – Six weeks into the 2013 college football season, Georgia fans are not satisfied with their defense.

And that's understandable.

The Bulldogs have struggled to keep opponents, good opponents, out of the end zone. Clemson, LSU, South Carolina and Tennessee all scored more than 30 points against the Bulldogs – with a tip of the cap to special teams miscues along the way.

Still, the problem with Georgia's defense isn't necessarily stopping the other team from scoring. The problem is getting off the field. The Bulldogs rank dead last in third down conversions on defense in the SEC.

That's the real problem.

Its something I expect to get better over time, no doubt.

Still, allowing opponents to convert on 44% of third downs and 60% of fourth down chances is no way to play a game. Eventually first downs lead to touchdowns. If the defense was forcing turnovers, which it is not, this would be less of a concern.

I should point out that Georgia's defense has gotten off the field at critical times – game-winning stops, in fact. That's happened three times this season.

++ The goal-line stand against South Carolina came on third, and fourth down.
++ After allowing ten third down conversions to Zach Mettenberger and LSU, Georgia walks on the field a winner by stopping them on the last drive of the game.
++ Tennessee's Pig Howard turns the ball over in overtime, setting up the Bulldog win.

"We really should have gotten off the field the play before," Grantham said after the win over the Vols.

Against the Vols the problem wasn't third down as much as it was fourth (even though it should be noted that the Vols scored on a third down play that was a questionable on-field ruling that stood up to the replay test). The Vols converted all three fourth down attempts in Knoxville.

"I don't think we did a very good job of (adjusting)," Grantham admitted of the game against Tennessee.

Tennessee had ten points and less than 200 yards of offense before the Vols blocked a punt for a touchdown. The Big Orange then scored touchdowns on consecutive drives.

That's about youth. That's about developing mental toughness.

In those drives Tennessee converted five of eight do-or-die moments on third or fourth down. The three times the Vols didn't convert on third down they converted on fourth down.

"To be a very good team, you have to be able to put the fire out when the other team has momentum," Grantham said.

Twice this season Georgia has had 17-3 leads vanish. That can't continue. It's time for the defense to start putting the fire out.

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