Can the Georgia Bulldogs defense be believed in after just one game?


It had to be on the mind of every fan wearing red and black.

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When Clemson took their first possession straight down the field and scored a touchdown, slicing through the Georgia Bulldogs defense, it had to be on the mind of every fan who was waiting to see how this new defense would hold up…

Oh boy. Here we go again.

Clemson quarterbacks Cole Stoudt and Deshaun Watson pretty much had their way with the Dawgs in the first half. When Georgia guessed zig…Clemson zagged. The secondary looked like they were going to break an SEC record for passing yards given up in a season in just the first game.

Every fan who wanted so desperately to believe that Jeremy Pruitt was the missing ingredient in the mix that had been holding Georgia back from the potential greatness they displayed had to be in a state of denial.

This can’t be happening again, can it?

But then, do you know what happened? A miracle! Well, perhaps a miraculous series of events.

First, Todd Gurley happened. His 100-yard kickoff return that tied the game at 21 each gave a much-needed shot in the arm to the Dawgs and to the Sanford Stadium crowd. It electrified everyone, and got Georgia right back in the game when it looked to be slowly slipping away.

Shortly after that, Aaron Davis happened. His interception of a Cole Stoudt pass kept the momentum going in Georgia’s favor, and got the defense off the field quickly after the Gurley kickoff return.

Then, Ammon Lakip happened. His missed 34-yard field goal with just under a minute left in the first half was another momentum shifter. At worst, the Bulldogs would go into halftime tied.

After the half, Jeremy Pruitt and the Georgia defense happened. And by happened, I mean absolutely dominated a half the way no Georgia defense has dominated in quite a few years.

Aug 30, 2014; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs safety

Corey Moore

(39) tackles Clemson Tigers running back

C.J. Davidson

(32) during the second quarter at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson scored zero points in quarters three and four, and put up a total of 15 total yards of offense, including three final drives of -3 yards, -6 yards and -15 yards. Between this recharged defense and Todd Gurley running like there was no tomorrow, it was all Georgia in the second half.

But those are just the broad strokes, and it’s only one game. We should be asking ourselves is it time to believe in this defense already? Even after only one game?

Here’s why you probably shouldn’t really get too jacked up about believing just yet.

Yes, this was an opening week game against a quality (and ranked) opponent. But preseason rankings are fickle, and (as has so often been seen) absolutely off the mark at times. The truth is, Clemson was probably ranked at No. 16 based on reputation and past accomplishments.

This was not the Tajh BoydSammy Watkins Clemson Tigers. They have young players at skill positions, and their running game is a work in progress. They were also missing a key defensive component — defensive end Corey Crawford — who was suspended for the Georgia game. Gurley might not have as much luck getting to the edge if Crawford is there waiting.

So the competition, while good, was not world class, particularly for the Georgia defense. They took their lumps in the first half, made the needed adjustments, and then took advantage of Clemson’s inexperience and lack of top personnel. It was obvious that neither Stoudt nor Watson had a complete grasp of the Chad Morris offense yet, which can be rather complex.

Without a strong running game coming from the Tigers, Georgia was able to pin back their ears and come hard at the quarterback, mixing blitzes from corners and linebackers in with the three man front. It was a perfect storm in the second half once Georgia knew what Clemson could and could not do.

The Bulldogs still have some very good offenses to match up with this season, including Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, and Auburn – all of whom have very different strengths on offense. The game against the Volunteers in particular will be a real litmus test for this secondary, as the Vols have some of the best wide receivers in the nation.

But here’s why you should light the incense and start the “I believe” chants.

Were you watching this defense? They played with purpose and with fire, but not out of control. They were lined up prior to the snap and listening to the audible calls, not meandering around hoping they’d be able to make a play.

The adjustments made at the half were genius. Pruitt saw the weaknesses of the Clemson offense, and went for the jugular. He disguised blitzes, he ran stunts, he made it so that the Clemson quarterbacks barely had time to think and make a throw, less yet get through their progressions.

This Georgia defense played like a unit, for the first time in many years, and that, my friends, is the start of something very good.

This young secondary is going to get burned this season, you can see that coming. But that doesn’t mean the game will be lost or that the entire defensive unit will suddenly up and quit (which we did see in the past couple of seasons). No, if things begin to go sour, it’s obvious that coach Pruitt will have a plan and will put his defense in a position to minimize the damage.

It’s a long season, and it’s just one game, but the 2014 Georgia defense showed that they have started the long climb back to being a top-ranked unit, and that’s something you can believe in.