Georgia’s defense brings pressure

Georgia’s defense kept bringing pressure and kept bringing pressure until Tennessee finally cracked in the fourth quarter of the Bulldogs’ 35-32 victory on Saturday at Sanford Stadium.

With Georgia leading 28-25, defensive end Josh Dawson recovered a fumble by running back Jalen Hurd in the end zone to give the Bulldogs a 35-25 lead with 4:27 left. Hurd faced a wall of red jerseys as he tried to take a handoff from Justin Worley, whose offense was trying to create a little bit of room after being forced to start from inside the 1-yard line.

The pressure and subsequent score was a series of hits and sometimes misses made by a blitz-heavy Georgia defense in the second half. The Bulldogs finished with three sacks and countless pressures, one of which by outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins knocked Worley out of the game for three possessions across the third and fourth quarters.

“It caused a lot more confusion,” defensive end Ray Drew said. “We believe we got them rattled a little bit. They couldn’t spend much time in the pocket and make the precise passes that they wanted to.”

Tennessee’s Worley and Nathan Peterman combined to complete 27 of 44 passes for 284 yards, but only 139 of those yards came in the second half.

The pressure was the culmination of a week of exercises during practice in which Drew said the defense worked on 5-yard bursts timed to the snapping of the ball. It was training so that when the defense needed to — such as the play that led to the recovered fumble — it could still come off the ball as the aggressors.

On the key play, Drew said every linemen and linebacker filled their gap so that “everything fit perfectly.” All Dawson needed to do was fall on the ball after the fumble, which Hurd said was the result of a bad exchange.

“We just came out in the second half with the mindset that we had to make something happen, and we did,” Dawson said.

Jenkins said the Bulldogs blitzed 20 percent more in the second half than in the first half.

“If I was a quarterback, I’d hate getting off the ground and trying to run another play,” he said.

The defense was burned a couple of times. Worley found Alton Howard for a 31-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and was successful on the subsequent 2-point conversion when Georgia’s blitzers didn’t get to him in time.

But the defense also took the field after two interceptions and didn’t give up any points, something that coach Mark Richt highlighted.

“We had two turnovers that could have turned into points, but they didn’t,” Richt said. “When you can stop the bleeding after turnovers, it’s huge. The defense did a great job of keeping those from becoming a bad situation.”

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