January 1, 2013

Grantham 'grateful' for SEC refs

ORLANDO, Fla. - For the first half and opening drive of the third quarter, Tuesday's Capital One Bowl against Nebraska bore an eerie resemblance to the SEC Championship against Alabama when the Crimson Tide rushed for 350 yards against Todd Grantham's defense.

The Bulldogs were having all sorts of trouble stopping the run, as the Big Ten runners-up rolled 193 yards of rushing yards before stiffening in the fourth quarter to secure the 45-31 win.

But while Grantham admitted his defense did not get off to the start it had hoped, he also took issue with the Big 12 officiating crew, which he said did not allow for defensive substitutions before the Cornhuskers snapped the ball.

"I'm really proud of the SEC officials and the way they manage the game, because obviously I'm not, having a crew from the Big 12 like that, obviously I'm not in tune with their operating procedure," Grantham said. "When they sub, you need to have the right to sub and there were probably a handful of plays that were like that. So I really appreciate the way the SEC does it."

Linebacker Alec Ogletree agreed those played a big role in Georgia's early defensive woes.

"We couldn't get lined up most of the time," Ogletree said. "We were just trying to hang in there, but once we made our adjustments, we just executed our game plan like we were supposed to."

Grantham said he'd love all conferences to adapt some sort of uniform rule, echoing comments earlier this year by Alabama head coach Nick Saban who questioned whether or not the current rules give teams who employ no-huddle offenses a distinct advantage.

"You can talk tempo all you want, but if you make people get lined up to the letter of the law, then that's different," Grantham said. "But just to go fast, just to be going fast, I think there's a player safety issue there and a lack of competitive balance. It does create for some explosive plays, but there's such a thing as defensive players safety, too. I'm just proud of our guys because we won the game."

Grantham wasn't the only coach taking issue with Tuesday's officiating crew.

Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini did, too, although for different reasons.

During his post-game press conference, Pelini said he never received any sort of explanation from officials about two intentional grounding calls - one that went against his quarterback Taylor Martinez and one he felt that should have been called against Bulldog Aaron Murray, but wasn't.

"One, he said he (Murray) was out of the pocket and you guys saw the play," Pelini said. "The one on Taylor, it was a screen pass he got hit, went down and Taylor was throwing the screen. I mean, you know, I find myself shaking my head."

At least Grantham could take solace with the fact Georgia won the game as it limited Nebraska to 65 yards and no points in the fourth quarter while the offense scored 14 of its 45 to salt the game away.

"The bottom line showed more mental and physical toughness in the fourth quarter. We had more turnovers, we sacked their quarterback a few times," Grantham said. "We gave up 24 points to a team that's been averaging 35."

Moving forward, Grantham knows there's work to do.

The Bulldogs could potentially return just four starters off its entire defense if Jarvis Jones does as expected and declares early for the NFL, joining Olgetree who announced his intentions to turn pro after the game.

Grantham was asked what he feels his defense needs to improve on for 2013.

"Win that last game," Grantham said. "We did what we needed to do to win 12 games this year and I'm not going to apologize for that ."