September 20, 2009

Bulldogs can't shake defensive concerns

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Head coach Mark Richt made no bones about it. Neither did linebacker Rennie Curran.

While the Bulldogs were certainly happy with Saturday night's 52-41 victory over Arkansas, Georgia's continued issues on defense left much to be desired.

"We did put them in a bind a couple of times but I'm not saying our defense played great. They did not play great by any stretch. We've got a long way to go," Richt said. "But we've got a long way to go in a lot of areas. But we're Georgia, we're a team and we're going to defend each other and we're going to battle together."

The statistics told the story.

Georgia surrendered over 400 total yards for the second consecutive week, includng 485 to the Razorbacks who threw the ball almost at will.

Quarterback Ryan Mallett enjoyed a record-setting night as he completed 21 of 39 passes for 408 yards and five touchdowns, setting a new single-game mark for yardage formerly held by Clint Stoerner in 1997.

"Coach (Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez) is making great calls but we've just got to do a better job with the coverage and execute," Curran said. "We've got to do a better job of pressuring. When we do things well, you saw what happened. We made them flinch, we made him get out of the pocket and made him run around. When we didn't, we just let him stand there and throw the ball."

When Mallett did, he made the Bulldogs pay.

With the exception of a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end D.J. Williams, Mallett's other scoring tosses went for 18, 30, 48 and 40 yards as Arkansas' receivers made a habit of slicing through the Bulldog secondary.

"There's two ways of playing it. If you're even with the man and the ball's hanging you might be able to sit there and try to make a play on the ball," Richt said. "But if you're getting beat, you're not beat until the play is over , so if the man gets by you've got to play the man's eyes and his hands. When he goes up to get the ball, you just rake it, knock the ball out. We just didn't play the ball very well in the air."

To the defense's credit, Martinez's troops did come through late in the game, holding the Razorbacks to two field goals, two punts before turning the ball back to the offense on downs with 1:11 left to play.

Georgia sacked Mallett twice, one each by Demarcus Dobbs and Cornelius Washington, although Curran believes there should have been more.

"We need to execute those blitzes better, we need to execute better," said Curran, who led Georgia with 11 tackles. "We've just got to quit giving away points. When it's third down we've got to make that stop. We can't allow any penalties, anything that's going to keep drives going because we can't always depend on the offense to come back and put those points back up. We've got to be the ones to anchor this team."

Richt has other concerns as well.

Georgia turned the football over three times, resulting in 14 of Arkansas' points. The Bulldogs were also flagged 14 times for 93 yards.

"Right now we've got to do a lot of things better. We certainly need to stop turning the ball over and quit putting our defense in a bad spot," Richt said. "I think we've had eight times now that we have either turned it over on a very short field or we have had kickoff returns that have had a very short field. When I calculated after the first two ball games, we basically gave up 19 points per game on those two types of things."

He added that those kinds of mistakes simply can't continue.

"It's difficult to play defense when that happens. Like on the opening drive, we get a stop, but football's a game of momentum and then we turn it over so they've (the defense) has got to run out there again," Richt said. "I'm not saying we played lights-out defense by any stretch, but it is a team game No. 1, and we've got to stick together. I'm just as concerned about our penalties and turnover ratio as I am anything else.

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