Dawgs' D tries to recover

ATHENS – Second-gessing game plans and play calling is easy, Georgia head coach Mark Richt and defensive coordinator Willie Martinez say, and they should know.

They've been doing all week, ever since the Bulldogs gave up more that 50 points in Sanford Stadium for just the second time ever.

"We just didn't have many good answers for Tennessee," Richt said. "I think we'd do some things differently if we played them again, but it doesn't look like we'll get a chance to do that this year.

"If we're going to win, we have to play better defense than that."

Martinez, Georgia's second-year coordinator, knows that. He acknowledged he has "beat myself up" some this week.

"We could have play-called a little bit better," he said. "You always can be a great Monday quarterback and sit back on your couch and (say) I could have done this and could have done that, but like we told our guys, there have been plenty of times we've made bad calls and you guys have made plays. We liked our plan."

The problem was the execution, Martinez said.

The Bulldogs missed a season-high 13 tackles and achieved only one of the 13 goals they set out before each game. Prior to the Tennessee game, Georgia had achieved at least eight of those goals in every game this year.

Even the Volunteers noticed how often Georgia's players were out of position.

"They were bickering between each other, arguing and cussing each other out because they were having breakdowns here and breakdowns there," Tennessee offensive tackle Arron Sears said. "All that did was motivate us to keep pushing and keep fighting."

The defensive failings continued a troubling trend for Georgia. In three of its last four games against top 15 teams, the Bulldog defense has been manhandled.

In last year's Auburn and West Virginia games and this year's Tennessee game, the Bulldogs gave up an average of 40 points and 464 yards of offense. In the first 60 games of the Richt era, Georgia gave up 30 or more points just once.

Naturally, Martinez, who took over last year from Brian VanGorder, has become the target for some fans' frustrations, but Georgia's defensive game plan is no different now than it has ever been under Richt, senior linebacker Tony Taylor said.

"It's two different men running the same system," he said. "I feel like everything's fine, and we just have to get better. There's never a bad game plan, only poor execution. If anything, put the blame on the defense as a whole."'

None of Georgia's coaches are blaming the struggles on lack of effort -- the team had fewer "loafs" than in any game this season, Martinez said – or on a drop in talent.

However, there is something specific the team is missing this year, defensive line coach Rodney Garner said.

"I don't know if we've got a guy who has set himself to be known as a big hit guy," Garner said. "We've been spoiled with having Thomas Davis, Greg Blue, Kendrell Bell, those guys who make these unbelievable hits and just splatter people and probably intimidate some people when the opponent watches it."

There won't be any mass changes in personnel this week.

"There is no need to make drastic changes like that," starting safety Tra Battle said. "It's part of the game of football, you win some you lose some. I don't think that we can blame it on individuals."

Still, Richt and Martinez both laid a share of the blame on Battle's secondary, a group that had to replace All-SEC cornerbacks DeMario Minter and Tim Jennings and All-American safety Greg Blue. Georgia's lack of experience in the secondary "showed and that was a big difference in the ballgame," said Martinez, who recalled one play on which a simple Ainge pump fake got three of his four secondary members out of position.

Taylor does expect at least one difference in this week's defense but only in terms of attitude.

"I wouldn't say we'll be mad," he said, "but I think everybody will have a different focus going into each and every game because you don't ever want something like that to happen to you."

Vs. The Big Boys

Georgia's defensive performance against the last four top 15 teams the Bulldogs have faced

Team Date Points Yards

Tennessee Oct. 7, 2006 51 383

West Virginia Jan. 2, 2006 38 502

LSU Dec. 3, 2005 14 230

Auburn Nov. 12, 2005 31 506

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