Close Them Out

ATHENS - Pitching a non-conference shutout may be just what Georgia needed going into its next seven SEC games.

Georgia’s defenders found themselves near the end zone they were protecting on Saturday, with Troy having marched down near the goal line twice in the Bulldogs’ 66-0 win.

Both times the No. 13 Bulldogs sent the Trojans’ offense to the sideline with no points to preserve the shutout. Two red zone appearances for Troy resulted in zero successes. Jeremy Pruitt kept the instructions simple when Troy’s offense appeared threatening.

“He didn’t really say much,” freshman cornerback Rico Johnson said. “He just told us ‘hey, don’t let them score,’ and that’s what we did. We didn’t let them score.”

Even if it was an inferior opponent, it was the type of performance — not without flaws, but full of resolve to make up for mistakes — that Georgia needed entering a crucial stretch of the schedule.

While the effort may not have appeared perfect at times, the feat gives Georgia some confidence as it moves on to play seven consecutive SEC opponents, starting with Tennessee at home next week.

“That’s definitely a big thing,” outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “It’s definitely a confidence boost and it might be a thought for other teams to worry about, like ‘dang, they just shut them out,’ and it’s definitely something other teams might be thinking about. It just goes to show what we can do when we all click and when we show up.”

Apparently, when Georgia’s defense ‘clicks,’ it only allows 216 yards of total offense. That’s what happened in Saturday’s non-conference game at least. Jenkins finished the game with a team-high five tackles and one sack for a loss of nine yards.

“I feel pretty good about the game,” Jenkins said. “I was happy with the way everybody on the defense played today and I’m definitely glad we got a shutout because I haven’t had a shutout in a while. It’s definitely a good thing for us.”

The last shutout for Georgia’s defense came at Auburn in 2012 as the Bulldogs routed the Tigers 38-0.

While Auburn and Troy’s football teams differ in a few obvious ways, a shutout’s a shutout.

“You can’t ask for much more than that,” head coach Mark Richt said.

Troy’s first of two scoring opportunities came in the first quarter as the Trojans started the drive on their own 39-yard line. After marching 68 yards, Troy had the Georgia defense backed up to its own nine-yard line. With a chance to get on the board, Ryan Kay missed his 26-yard attempt.

Georgia’s defense put itself in that position, but fought its way out.

“One thing Coach Pruitt always tells us is it’s not too much what the other team does, (but) it’s about what we do,” Davin Bellamy said. “We have to perfect our craft and look at the little things, and when we don’t do the little things right that opens up gaps in the defense.”

Saturday’s win over Troy marked Bellamy’s first game as a Bulldog. Following a two-game suspension for the redshirt freshman as a result of charges for DUI and speeding, Bellamy is just glad to be back on the field. While Bellamy finished with four tackles (one for a loss of five yards), he only cared about one stat in the win.

“I just wanted to come out here and help the team in any way,” Bellamy said. “I wasn’t really thinking about stats or anything. I just wanted to come out here and help the team, so definitely seeing that big zero on the board with the amount of plays I got, I think I helped the team some way.”

Georgia’s 68 team tackles came from a combination of defenders. While Pruitt’s rotation may not be as deep in the next seven conference games, it’s depth Georgia could use.

“Now that we’ve got Bellamy back and some of the other guys healthy again, I feel like we might be rotating and stuff, keeping everybody fresh so they won’t be tired in the game and just to keep us all going 100 percent throughout the whole season,” Jenkins said.

Seven games is a long stretch.

“We want to continue to keep doing that because with our guys and the defense we’re running, we’re coming every play,” Johnson said. “You’re going to get tired and we’re going to need some backups.”

For now, however, Georgia’s on the winning side of a game. A conference-opening loss hurts, but the Bulldogs needed something to boost morale.

“A shutout is very big,” Johnson said. “Seeing that you blew a team out and they got zero – that’s good for your record, plus it’s good for your team, especially when you come off a loss like we did. That just builds us back up and gets us back rolling.”

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