Bill Connelly praises Georgia’s defense with faint damns.
3. Georgia’s defense is awfully bend-don’t-breaky.
The Dawgs have allowed just 24 points in three games, so we probably shouldn’t overstate any issues.
Still, while they might prevent big plays as well as anyone in the country — which should make for an interesting matchup when they take on Drew Lock and the Missouri offense this weekend — teams have been able to move the ball incrementally so far. The Dawgs are 88th in success rate allowed, and opponents’ average third-down distance has been just 5.9 yards, the second-lowest (and, for defenses, second-worst) in FBS.
They swarm to the ball well, but they don’t disrupt: they’re only 103rd in havoc rate. A patient offense could do some damage.
Which begs the obvious question: is Missouri’s offense a patient offense? They’d like to think so.
“I think we handled their pass rush really well,” Lock said. “They were known to get to the quarterback and we blocked really well in the first half to where he had the opportunity to let guys run past the normal cover zone. If we can block it up, sometimes we can put a pass to those yard marks.”
That is one part of being patient, and it probably helps that Georgia to date hasn’t generated much in the sack department.
Interestingly, though, the offense appears to be running at a faster pace in 2018 — 86 plays per game, which leads the conference — than in 2017 (70.46 ppg). That’s allowed the Tigers to generate over a hundred yards per game greater offensive production than Georgia, despite the Dawgs averaging a yard per play more on offense than UM. It’s also helped get Missouri to second in the SEC in time of possession.
That, in turn, has probably helped a defense that’s yielding over six yards a play and evidently had issues last week with play action, something that should be music to Jake Fromm’s and Jim Chaney’s ears.
All of which tells me that one of the big keys to Saturday’s game is the play of Georgia’s safeties.
Last year, the Bulldogs’ didn’t do a very good job on Hall when he came to Sanford Stadium. Hall gashed the Georgia secondary for a pair of 63-yard touchdown receptions. But those were just the ones he caught. Erased from most everyone’s memory are the two other occasions when Hall was running free deep in the Georgia secondary but quarterback Drew Lock couldn’t connect with him. He finished with four catches for 141 yards.
That was with veteran free safety Dominick Sanders manning the deep third. Now it is the first-year LeCounte taking on that responsibility.
“I watched that a few times, reviewing last year’s tape and watching this year’s tape,” said LeCounte, who started one game last season and all three this year. “He’s a real fast guy. We know we’re playing a great team and have really got to hone in and focus on everything we need to do.”
LeCounte won’t be alone. He and Reed will both have deep-ball responsibilities on Saturday. But Missouri is also running the ball with more authority this season, and most of the run fits fall to Reed.
LeCounte’s specialty is manning the center of the field and following the ball wherever it goes.
“Stay deep and protect the defense in front of you,” LeCounte said of his marching orders. “I’m the last line of defense back there. So, whenever I can stay deep and chase the ball down, that’s something I enjoy doing. I take pride in that.”
Smart and Tucker are not going to commit either LeCounte or Reed to the run unless Missouri forces them to. Is the Tigers’ running game good enough to force their hand?