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Todd Grantham on win over South Carolina from UGASports.com on Vimeo.
From a statistical standpoint, Georgia no doubt surrendered more yardage and points than defensive coordinator Todd Grantham would have preferred.
But despite the yardage (454) and points (30) South Carolina was able to earn, one big second-half stand by the Bulldogs has Grantham optimistic his young defense can continue to improve and will before the year is done.
"The more they play the better they're going to get," Grantham said. "We had some red zone situations last week in the Clemson game and we actually got them in third downs but didn't make the stops."
Saturday, the Bulldogs were able to make a key stand.
With less than nine minutes to go, South Carolina faced a fourth-and-goal from the Bulldog 1-yard line. Trailing by 11 points, there was still plenty of time for the Gamecocks to climb back in the game.
On the play, running back Mike Davis took a quick pitch and tried to skirt around the right end, only to be knocked back by linebackers Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson to give the ball back to the offense.
"When it's fourth and goal like that and they choose to put the ball on the perimeter, I'll take that," Grantham said. "The same thing happened last week. They (South Carolina) decided to call that same play. I'll take that all day."
For a moment, it appeared the effort might have been for naught as defensive end Garrison Smith was flagged for a personal foul.
However, the officials determined the offense happened after the play was over, and Georgia retained possession inside its own 1-yard line with 8:28 to play.
The Gamecocks would not touch the football again as the offense held the football the rest of the way before time ran out with Georgia at the South Carolina 20.
"It was a just a great play by those guys," Smith said. "Everybody flew to the ball to make the stop. I even tried to get over the top and be part of the action."
The play brought the Sanford Stadium crowd of 92,746 roaring to its collective feet.
"Anytime you get a fourth down it creates energy for the fans, energy for the team," Grantham said. "I think it's a little bit of a reward for the players to keep grinding and they can see what can happen if they keep working and do the things we ask them to do."
Herrera had 12 tackles and defensive end Sterling Bailey 10 to lead the Bulldogs, who recorded two sacks and totaled eight tackles for losses of 26 yards.
But Grantham still has plenty of work to do.
With an off-week before hosting North Texas on Sept. 21, the Bulldogs' defensive coordinator will look to shore up Georgia's run defense which surrendered 226 yards on the ground and for the second straight week allowed an opposing running back to break the 100-yard mark after freshman Mike Davis ran for a game-high 149 yards on just 16 carries.
"We used a lot of guys up front and that helped us at the end of the third and four quarter so we're going to continue to do that and hopefully get better," said Grantham. "We weren't perfect, but I did see improvement. We kept battling, and truthfully, we were tougher than they were tonight."
The defense did contribute two other stands of note. First, on South Carolina's opening drive when the Bulldogs forced a 36-yard field goal by Elliott Fry and again on the Gamecocks' first drive of the second half when Herrera forced a fumble by quarterback Connor Shaw at the Bulldog 25.
"I think the more we play, the better they're going to get," Grantham said of his defense, whose starting 11 consisted of three sophomores and two true freshmen. "I think their confidence will exemplify that."
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