Following a Razorbacks’ opening drive that resulted in 75 yards and a touchdown on 13 plays, Georgia’s defense had its backs to the wall. That, however, is when true competitors play their best football, which is what Georgia did in the first half of Saturday’s 45-32 win over Arkansas. Georgia needed those turnovers to fall back on, as the Razorbacks wouldn’t go away in the second half, scoring 26 points.
“If you took two second halves I don’t know if you’d be talking about how great we did,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “If you took the two first halves you’d say we were unbelievable. You’ve got to play a full 60 minutes and you’ve got to do what it takes to win. That’s really what it’s about. You’ve got to win and move on and we did that today.”
Georgia’s offense drove down the field for six points on just five plays to answer what looked to be an early statement for the Razorbacks in their opening series. The defense decided it might as well put some points on the board, too. In the first half Georgia’s defense turned two fumble recoveries and an interception into 14 points. Georgia finished with 21 total points off of turnovers.
Georgia’s nine penalties for a total of 101 yards didn’t do its defense’s seemingly spotless performance any favors in the second half, though.
“We certainly helped them, but they took advantage of them and you’ve got to give them credit,” Richt said.
Sophomore outside linebacker Leonard Floyd picked up the first loose ball at the Arkansas seven-yard line, which led to a Georgia touchdown drive that needed just one play. Floyd wasn’t shocked when the second half didn’t go as perfectly as planned. “We came out with the same intensity,” Floyd said. “We knew they weren’t going to back down and just let us beat them like that. We knew they were going to come out the second half and give us their best effort.”
Junior outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins forced the next fumble which freshman Dominick Sanders recovered and ran back for a 54-yard Georgia touchdown. Sanders’ defensive score marked the third of the season for Georgia’s defense.
“We just came in and knew that we had to go hard against a team like Arkansas,” Jenkins said. “If you don’t come in with the right mindset they will physically dominate you and make you wish you didn’t come to this game.”
While Georgia didn’t get physically dominated in the second half, Arkansas’ changes to its game plan had clearly taken a toll on the Bulldogs’ defense.
“We came out (and) we did what he had to do,” Sanders said. “We told ourselves we weren’t going to let each other down. Second half we didn’t let go, but we got back on track right away.”
Senior Damian Swann chipped in with a pick of his own late in the second quarter. With little time on the clock, Swann’s interception in the end zone eliminated Arkansas’ chances of scoring before the half.
“We knew we needed a play and he kind of tried to look me off,” Swann said. “As he looked me off I saw the tight end run an arrow route and it was my job to be over the top so that’s where I went.”
Richt may very well of hoped for more from his defense in the second half, but it’s just the way the game goes sometimes.
“It was a tale of two halves for sure, but I am as happy as I can be with that victory and knowing that we’ve got a little bit of time to get some guys healthy and get a good plan for the next game,” Richt said.