The Way 'We' Play Defense

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Following a somewhat sketchy performance to open the game, Georgia’s defense allowed just one score in the second half as the Bulldogs defeated Kentucky 63-31.

After a first quarter where 17th-ranked Georgia outscored the Wildcats 21-0, the Bulldogs’ defense allowed Kentucky’s offense to score 24 points before halftime to cut the deficit to 11 points. The second half was a completely different story, however, as Georgia outscored Kentucky 28-7, and the Wildcats’ only scoring drive came with just over three minutes to go as Patrick Towles found Javess Blue through the air for a nine-yard touchdown.

Georgia head coach Mark Richt had a message for his team long before the defense’s second quarter struggles, though.

“The message before the game was ‘we’ve got to come out and start the second half with energy’ and he let us know that it’s a new half and we’ve got to start off strong and finish strong,” freshman outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter said.

When Georgia entered its locker room at halftime the message was less of a message and more of a challenge – a challenge to simplify everything.

“Really it was just about playing defense the way we play defense and not trying to do anything extra – just do what we have to do,” Carter said. “We had to just get our mind right. It was just coming in here, regrouping (and) just talking about what we did wrong and fixing our mistakes.”

To find a defensive player in the post-game interviews following Georgia’s conference win over Kentucky on Saturday would be no easy feat. For the first few minutes the media room was filled with all offensive players (and of course the human joystick, Isaiah McKenzie). That shouldn’t be a surprise when said offense finishes the game with 559 yards and 63 points.

It’s easy for the defense to get overshadowed in wins like these. The defense’s halftime adjustment was undeniably a factor on Saturday afternoon.

“It was big,” inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera said. “We still gave up too many points that we didn’t want to give up. We didn’t respond well sometimes, like when they started driving the ball we didn’t stop them like we were supposed to.”

Georgia’s defense allowed 353 yards of total offense in its road victory over Kentucky. Last week at Florida, Georgia allowed 418 yards on the ground alone as the Gators left Jacksonville with a 38-20 win.

It’s safe to say Georgia had no plans of letting that happen again, allowing Kentucky to run for just 214 yards – considerably less than Florida.

“We had a major point to prove,” Carter said. “We couldn’t let anybody run the ball on us like that again so we just had to go out there and play defense.”

Though Kentucky’s offense was at a standstill for the majority of the second half, Richt never seemed to let up on his defense. It’s one thing to get yelled at by your position coach, but it’s another thing to have Mark Richt screaming in your face.

“It’s big when the head ball man comes up to you and challenges the defense so we had to respond,” Carter said.

Richt said he and his team talked a lot about starting the second half with energy in the days leading up to the Lexington trip. One way to avoid a slow start in the second half is to stay loose at halftime. From sprints to stretching, it’s evident what staying active at the half did for Georgia’s defense.

“The way we came out in the second half is maybe more impressive than how we came out in the first so I’m just real proud of the team and what they did today and the coaches and everybody involved,” Richt said. “It’s a good day.”

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