October 9, 2011

Defense taking toll on QBs

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - There was a stat that showed up in Saturday night's 20-12 victory over Tennessee that wasn't included in the post-game notes package given out to reporters after the game.

But it's one defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is actually a little bit proud of.

For the third straight week, a Bulldog opponent finished with a different quarterback than the one who started the game, something Grantham feels is indicative of how hard he believes his defense is currently playing.

"It's nothing illegal; just that our guys are playing aggressive and they're playing hard," Grantham said. "It's showing that we're affecting the quarterback. Make no mistake about it, he (the quarterback) is the most important part of the offense."

Saturday, it was Vol starter Tyler Bray who didn't make it to game's end after injuring his thumb in fourth quarter, forcing backup Matt Simms into the game.

Simms eventually scored on a 1-yard run for Tennessee's only touchdown, but that did little to wipe the smile off the face of Grantham, whose defense's ability to make Tennessee one dimensional played a role in Saturday's victory. The Vols were limited to minus-20 yards rushing on the evening.

"I thought our guys got better as we went along," Grantham said of the defense, which held Tennessee to just 110 yards in the second half, 270 for the game. "They handled our adjustments as we made them on the sideline and I thought because of that we were able to take over the third quarter."

Simms' touchdown with 2:45 to play was just the second scored against the Bulldog defense in the past four games.

"When you say that it sounds so good," said linebacker Mike Gilliard, who continued his stellar play with a career-high 12 tackles.

"We're trying to be one of the best defenses in the country," he said. "Week in and week out, we're trying to be the best."

It was Gilliard who was involved in arguably the biggest play of the game when he was later ruled to have brought down Vol running back Marlin Lane who originally was ruled to have scored on a 66-yard catch and run.

Instead, the 13-yard catch fell three yards shy of a first down, forcing a punt. Three plays later, Isaiah Crowell scores his second touchdown on a 17-yard run to put the Bulldogs up 20-3.

"I thought I had made the tackle. I could have sworn his butt, his elbow, something, had hit the ground," Gilliard said. "But we got lucky. That just shows the defense always needs to keep running to the ball, even when you think the play is over."

Of Gilliard's 12 tackles, two were behind the line of scrimmage, including one of the Bulldogs' two sacks. All total, Georgia had nine tackles behind the line of scrimmage for losses of 54 yards.

Although the Bulldogs failed to snare an interception, they did break up five passes, including several intended for leading Vol receiver Da'Rick Rogers who caught just five balls for 71 yards.

"He's a talented guy but our players understand how to play him and that's to take the fight to him and challenge him," Grantham said. "That's how you play a talented guy, you challenge him. That's football. Whoever you face, you've got to challenge him. If you do that every snap and play hard on every play, then you have a chance to be successful."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]