Dawgs' D: Corner Turned

ATHENS – Georgia's coaches talk about Rennie Curran's quickness and sure tackling and instinct for the game of the football.

What Curran talks about is his attitude, and that may be the biggest difference between a Bulldogs' defense that was flattened by Tennessee and the one that has sacked and intercepted its last four opposing quarterbacks – Heisman Trophy contenders Tim Tebow and Andre Woodson included - a combined 24 times (17 sacks, seven interceptions).

Football may be the ultimate team sport, but it's all coming down to a shared selfishness for the No. 6 Bulldogs (9-2), who play Georgia Tech (7-4) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

In high school "I always felt like I had to be the one to make the play," Curran said, "and that's the kind of mentality I've taken over here now."

Senior safety Kelin Johnson - who has three interceptions in the last two weeks, including one he took out of the hands of teammate Bryan Evans - commends that approach.

Curran "is absolutely right," Johnson said. "You want to be that guy making plays, being the guy who is out there being the leader for your team. He is absolutely correct. You can't put it in any other fashion than that. You have to be selfish. You have to want it. If you've got everybody on the team thinking that, the offense is not going to get anything."

Georgia is third in the SEC in scoring defense (21.4 points allowed per game) and total defense (325.5 yards allowed per game). The Bulldogs have had 29 tackles-for-loss in their last four games.

Georgia's coaches still preach playing assignments and keeping containment, and all those other coaching catch phrases.

"You want everybody to get in on the play, but you want everybody to handle their responsibility first," head coach Mark Richt said. "We can't just fly to the ball recklessly. We have to play our gap responsibility and then fly to the ball fast enough that you hopefully get there."

But it was just last week that defensive end Jeremy Lomax credited the best game of his career to the fact that he forgot about all that for a minute and went out and tried to make plays.

"Lately, we are just making a bunch of plays because I think guys are taking care of their own business, doing their own job and doing their part, but you need playmaking," defensive coordinator Willie Martinez. "I think everybody wants to be the guy, and certainly doesn't want to be the guy who makes the mistake. They're more aggressive. Obviously, we're making a lot more plays, and that's why we've been successful."

When Georgia coaches grade game film, they keep track of "loafs" – any plays on which a player isn't going full speed. Those players then are disciplined, but Martinez can't remember having to do that in the last month, he said.

"There were a couple times (against Auburn) we didn't want to be off the field," Johnson said. "We didn't want the offense to be on the field. We wanted to be the representation of the Georgia team. We didn't want the offense scoring all the points saying it's over."

That's not selfishness, sophomore cornerback Asher Allen said.

"That's healthy competition right there," Allen said. "That's the competition you want on the field. If you have all 11 people doing that, you're going to have a great defense."

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