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Georgia defense steps it up in second half after shaky start against Vanderbilt

October 7, 2018

The Georgia defense had a first half to forget on Saturday night against the Vanderbilt Commodores.Heading into the matchup, the Bulldogs were giving up just 275.6 yards per game to opposing offenses, good for sixth-best in the country. But Georgia gave up 230 yards of offense to Vanderbilt in the first half on Saturday.While the Commodores mustered just six first-half points, the Bulldogs were displeased with their defensive performance. The disappointment led to a regrouping in the locker room at halftime, and Georgia’s players experienced a bit of a wake-up call.“We got yelled at,” senior defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter said with a chuckle.Whatever went on in the locker rooms must’ve made a difference for the Bulldog defense, because the Commodores mustered just 91 total yards in the second half.Georgia was also on the verge of pitching a second-half shutout, until Vanderbilt scored a garbage-time touchdown with two seconds left to make the final score 41-13 in favor of the home team.“We just came in and talked,” Ledbetter said. “You just get everybody on the same page. We had guys out there just trying to do a little bit too much and not playing our brand of football. So, you’ve always got to come back to your roots and we just tried to do that to the best of our ability. I still don’t think we did as well as we should have, but we’re working. And we’re going to keep working.“In the first half, the Bulldog defense looked quite vulnerable.The Commodores were gashing the Georgia run defense up the middle, gaining 91 rushing yards on 19 first-half carries. Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur completed 10 of 17 passes for 139 yards to complement a strong ground game.But the Commodores could not finish drives. Vanderbilt became the first team to lead the Bulldogs this season after it kicked a field goal to go up 3-0 with 10:30 remaining in the first quarter.The Commodores were later stopped on a fourth down in the Georgia red zone after Georgia freshman defensive lineman Jordan Davis stopped a 4th-and-1 run short of the chains. Vanderbilt also settled for another Ryley Guay field goal in the second quarter after a drive stalled.It was the “bend, don’t break,” defense in effect for the Bulldogs in the first half, before they went back to their usual ways in the second half. Out of halftime, the Georgia defense forced four consecutive punts, and just one of the four drives gained more than 10 yards.Why? Because, according to head coach Kirby Smart, the Bulldogs stopped giving Vanderbilt plays to make and stuck to their assignments.“We made some adjustments,” Smart said. “Every play in the first half they made, it was a breakdown on our part. If you have breakdowns, you give up plays. You’ve got to do a good job. Obviously, when we give up plays, it’s as much our coaching and what we’re doing as it is the players. We’ve just got to make sure they’re buying into it. I did think they came out with a little more energy there in the second half and played a little harder as a defensive unit.”

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