Dawgs' D Tries to Get it Going

ORLANDO – It has been a month since Georgia Tech ran for more than 400 yards against a Georgia defense that missed tackles, missed assignments and missed plenty of opportunities to salvage the Bulldogs' final game of the regular season.

In the past four weeks, Georgia has worked to forget the bitter taste the 45-42 loss to the Yellow Jackets left in its mouth, but more than that, the Bulldogs have worked to fix the problems that plagued them before they hit the field again against Michigan State and All-America running back Javon Ringer.

"We've got a bad taste in our mouth after giving up all them rushing yards against Georgia Tech," safety Andrew Williams said. "We respect Javon Ringer, we know he's a great back, but we've got to go out there and stuff him up."

Making that happen won't be easy for a defense that has allowed 226 yards per game during its past five contests.

The biggest culprit has been a litany of missed tackles, a problem that allowed Georgia Tech's Roddy Jones to rush for 214 yards in the season finale, including several big runs aided by a refusal to wrap up by Georgia defenders.

That's made tackling a top priority in the weeks leading up to Thursday's Capital One Bowl.

"We went through a lot of the tackling drills and things like that through bowl preparation," linebacker Akeem Dent said. "As a defense, we're ready to get out there and show the way Georgia defense is supposed to be played."

Ringer's teammates, however, don't appear too impressed.

Michigan State has built its offense on the running game this season, with Ringer averaging nearly 31 carries per game and racking up 1,590 yards on the ground.

Michigan State tight end Charlie Gantt said, after watching film on Georgia, his Spartans think they can be the more physical team Thursday.

"If you just come out and hit them in the mouth every play, they'll back up a little bit," Gantt said. "They're real good in pursuit, but if you come right at them, I think that's our advantage."

Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran knows his team has struggled against the run lately, but if Gantt had watched film of the Bulldogs' early season games, he might have a different game plan.

Georgia was among the best defenses in the nation against the run early in the year, holding South Carolina, Tennessee and Arizona State to fewer than 30 rushing yards combined. That's what Curran wants the Bulldogs to get back to Thursday.

"We know they like to get Javon Ringer the ball a lot," Curran said. "We're going to be flying around. That's our main thing. Go back to those things that we started off doing in the beginning of the season with just running to the ball and making plays."

Of course, even if Georgia can slow Ringer, Williams said Michigan State won't necessarily be a pushover.

Williams compared Michigan State's offense to the one employed by Alabama – a team that scored 41 points on the Bulldogs. The Crimson Tide ran the ball effectively, but killed Georgia through play action passing.

"Their quarterback is kind of similar to John Parker Wilson," Williams said of Michigan State's Brian Hoyer. "Having a threat like Javon Ringer, they're going to run, run, run and then hit you with the play action or the boot. He might not take as many chances, but he minimizes his mistakes and that makes him a valuable quarterback."

That's why stifling Ringer and turning the Spartans into a pass-first attack will be key for Georgia.

The defense has seen its reputation take a hit down the stretch, but Williams and company remember those first seven games when they were one of the most feared units in the SEC. It's a reputation they want to begin rebuilding Thursday.

"We know that we've got to first and foremost stop the run and make them one-dimensional. If we put them in situations where they've got to get in the shotgun and pass it, we feel pretty good about our game plan."


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