Secondary looking for even more picks

ATHENS — In defense of D.J. Shockley, DeMario Minter was asking for it.

During No. 9 Georgia's weekly news conference, Minter approached Shockley and mimiced the reporters surrounding Shockley by thrusting a set of plastic utensils in the quarterback's face and posing this question:

"What did you think when DeMario Minter dropped that interception?"

"Rock hands," Shockley quickly replied.

It was a harsh response, but Minter is getting used to the ribbing.

The senior cornerback hasn't intercepted a pass in his collegiate career, and Saturday's game against Boise State didn't change that or help stop the grief he gets from his teammates on a regular basis. While the Bulldogs intercepted four passes and recovered two fumbles, Minter dropped a Jared Zabransky pass that would have resulted in a Georgia touchdown.

"I just dropped it," Minter said. "I looked it right in. I don't know. I just dropped it. I've dreamed about it. I'm still having nightmares.

"I was happy for everybody else, but I wanted one."

He'll get plenty more chances Saturday when Steve Spurrier's pass-heavy South Carolina (1-0) offense comes to Sanford Stadium for a 5:30 p.m. game against the Bulldogs (1-0).

"It's going to be a great opportunity for us to make more plays," safety Greg Blue said.

The Bulldogs and Toledo are tied for the national lead in turnover margin at plus-five. (Georgia Tech and Michigan are tied for second at plus-four.)

"If there's one stat I'd like to continue with, it's that one," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "If we do that, we'll be in pretty good shape."

The Bulldogs' interception total against the Broncos nearly matched their total from last season, when they had five in 12 games. That was the fewest in records going back to 1948. (The team record for most in a season is 35, set in 1982.)

Last year's pitiful number prompted Georgia's defensive coaches to make turnovers a point of emphasis during fall camp. The players heard about it every day, several said.

Safety Tra Battle, a graduate of Mary Persons High School who got his first career interception against Boise State, said the constant harping triggers an ingrained response.

"As a child, your mother tells you over and over, ‘Do this, don't do that,'" he said. "When the coaches keep saying something repeatedly, it kind of makes it a priority to do that."

Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez has adapted one of the Bulldogs' team slogans -- G.A.T.A., Get After Their (butts) -- to G.T.B.B -- Get The Ball Back.

"We're not going to have T-shirts," Battle said, "that's just the motto."

Maybe Minter needs a motto, something like P.L.J.O. -- Please Lord Just One. He vividly remembers his last interception. It came in his final game at Stephenson High School, when he picked off a pass in a state playoff game against Lakeside, he said.

Until he gets another one, he can expect to keep hearing it from his teammates.

"It is quite awful," Shockley said. "A lot of guys say, ‘Man, how can you be a starting corner for the last two or three year and haven't had a pick?' They really bash him about it. It's real funny."

Although Minter is one of Shockley's closest friends on the team, Shockley has never considered throwing Minter a few easy picks in practice just to make him feel better.

"If he gets one off me," the quarterback said, "I'd never hear the end of it."

With one more interception, Tra Battle, Greg Blue, Dannell Ellerbe or Tony Taylor could match last year's team leader, Tim Jennings, who picked off just two passes last year. That marked the fewest interceptions by a Bulldog in a season since Jeff Lewis had two in 1977. Here's a list of the best single-season interception totals in school history:

12 -- Terry Hoage, 1982
10 -- Ben Smith, 1989
10 -- Jake Scott, 1968
8 -- Jeff Hipp, 1980
7 -- Buck Swindle, 1969
6 -- Tim Wansley, 2000
6 -- Kirby Smart, 1997
6 -- Carlos Yancey, 1994
6 -- Jeff Hipp, 1979
6 -- Claude Hipps, 1951
6 -- Buzy Rosenberg, 1970
6 -- Jake Scott, 1967

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