Georgia has a top-five defense nationally when it comes to fewest points (11.4) and fewest rushing yards (77.6) allowed per game. The Bulldogs are among the top 10 in total defense (268.1), and they’re among the top 15 in pass-efficiency defense.
Yet when it comes to racking up turnovers, Georgia is 13th in the Southeastern Conference, ahead of only Vanderbilt.
“If I could give you the answer, I would,” Bulldogs junior safety Richard LeCounte III said. “We’ve definitely got to get turnovers and cause more havoc as a defense, but I love how we’re playing. I think we’re doing really well and that we’ve got room for improvement.
“Overall, I think we’re doing really well.”
Despite holding South Carolina, Kentucky and Florida to fewer than 300 total yards in each of its last three games, Georgia collected only one turnover, with LeCounte coming up with a fumble by Wildcats quarterback Lynn Bowden that was caused by Bulldogs safety J.R. Reed.
The Bulldogs have nine gained turnovers this season, exactly half the amount compiled by SEC leaders Alabama, Florida and Mississippi State.
Smart explains that’s inherent in the way his defense is structured.
“We play a little different style, because we’re a match defense for the most part,” Smart said. “I think a lot of interceptions come through zone defenses and being able to see the ball a lot of times. We are not all looking at the ball. We are looking at the man, whether it’s a zone matchup or a man matchup, and it’s what we think gives us the best chance to make people inefficient, and it doesn’t always promote a lot of interceptions.
“I mean, historically, we have not had a ton of interceptions.”
That doesn’t explain everything, of course, as Smart acknowledges.
“We’ve got to do a better job getting turnovers. There’s no doubt about that,” Smart said. “That comes with forcing them, havoc, tipped balls, batted balls, strip-outs, knocking the crap out of people, ripping the ball out — those things all affect turnovers, but we’ve been short on interceptions, for sure.”
You can see what he’s getting at with this — making offenses inefficient as a base strategy, something that is exacerbated by Georgia controlling time of possession, should limit scoring opportunities by its opponents. If the trade off for doing that well means a few less interceptions, I can certainly live with that. Of course, when you turn the ball over a bunch, like Georgia did against South Carolina, and that approach goes out the window, you either adjust or you get beat.