No Finger Pointing

ATHENS – Fans may want to point fingers, but Mark Richt won't.

For three straight weeks, Georgia's defense has struggled to keep opponents out of the end zone, and with each passing game, the target on defensive coordinator Willie Martinez's chest seems to get a bit bigger. Still, after the Bulldogs surrendered 226 rushing yards to Kentucky in a 42-38 win Saturday, Richt said the fans who blame the effort on Martinez aren't watching the games.

"People don't get it," Richt said. "People think they know, but they don't. I'd love to say that if people really knew football, they'd know we'd been blitzing, they'd know we'd been playing zone, playing cover one, playing robber, fire zone. If they really knew football, they wouldn't be saying the things they say, but they don't."

That doesn't mean there isn't plenty of blame to go around.

Georgia entered its game against LSU three weeks ago boasting a top-five run defense, surrendering fewer than 70 yards per game on the ground. A week earlier, the Bulldogs held Tennessee to just one rushing yard. Since then, however, things have gotten ugly. LSU, Florida and Kentucky combined to total 599 yards on the ground.

"Georgia is labeled as a hard-nosed defense, but people have run the ball on us, scoring at will," defensive tackle Corvey Irvin said. "It's time for a change."

If fans think that change should start with the dismissal of Martinez, however, Richt strongly disagrees.

"It's the same basic defensive scheme we've had since we got here," Richt said. "It's not like there's some kind of philosophical issue. The philosophy of our defense hasn't changed hardly at all in eight years.

Prior to Demarcus Dobbs' acrobatic interception in the final minute against Kentucky, Georgia's defense had allowed opponents to score in 15 of their previous 16 red-zone opportunities – with all 15 scores being touchdowns.

Richt said it's hard to pin the blame for that entirely on the defense.

Against Florida, four second-half turnovers set the Gators up with strong field position – with four of their scoring drives consisting of fewer than five plays. On Saturday, Kentucky exploited some special-teams mishaps to start key drives with strong field position as well.

"It takes the entire team to play good defense," Richt said.

Linebacker Rennie Curran said it's not enough to find excuses for the poor performances. The Bulldogs have allowed nearly 42 points per game during the past three weeks, and Curran said that all can't be blamed on offensive or special-teams miscues. At some point, the defense simply needs to play better.

"Everybody's working hard and everybody's playing hard," he said. "We've just got to play smart."

Martinez echoed a similar sentiment, saying no play call can work if the players don't do their job – and it takes just one missed assignment to turn a good play call into a big play against the defense.

"It's just a matter of executing," Martinez said, "and when we execute, we stop them."

Richt said the coaching staff will study the mistakes of the past three games and make some decisions on how the defensive play can be improved, but he won't be sharing that information with the public.

"We're a team, and we're not going to point fingers, certainly not in the media," Richt said. "We'll always go back and look at things we've got to do better, whether it's a coaching decision or player execution. That's just how we handle it."

EXTRA POINTS: Georgia moved up to 10th in this week's BCS rankings… Richt announced Sunday that fullback Justin Fields tore his ACL and would miss the rest of the season… Right tackle Justin Anderson will miss this week's game against Auburn with a foot injury. Richt said the team would likely not decide on a starter until Tuesday… Saturday's game at Auburn will be broadcast on Raycom with a 12:30 p.m. kickoff time.

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