Much like their prior two games, the Dawgs were workmanlike Saturday. They scored on a couple of long, bruising drives that were reminiscent of the Tech game last year. The run blocking was much better last night, resulting in a record five rushing TDs from a tailback benched earlier in the year for ball security issues. Then, when UK made a big mistake with the fumble on their own five, the Dawgs were there to cash in some easy points. The turnovers that killed us the last two years are suddenly bouncing our way. The Dawgs got four Saturday, three fumbles and a Sanders Commings INT in the UGA endzone. Oh yeah, Boykin had another 100 yard kickoff return. Ho-hum.
Overall, I'm not going to complain about much of anything, considering I left both Starkville and Boulder utterly convinced that the 'Cats were going to beat us for the third time in five games. So, I'm excited that we've got a shot at a bowl game, something I thought utterly unimaginable on the flight home from Colorado.
With that said, Saturday's game illustrated a worrisome defect in our defensive play. UK converted nine of fifteen third downs. That's sixty percent and two of the unconverted third downs were late in the fourth quarter when UK was in desperation mode. Even counting those last two, UK outperformed their season third down conversion rate by 15%. Georgia's now allowing opponents to pick up third downs at a rate of over 42%. We're very likely to be last in the conference in third down conversion defense when the stats are updated Monday.
A bigger problem Saturday night was the way our third down defense allowed all those conversions. Generally, the defense performed well on first and second downs. That set up several third and longs, the goal of every defensive coordinator. We just couldn't take advantage of those third and longs. UK converted nine third downs. All but one were third and more than five yards to go. Three were third and really long (10, 12, and 15). We just can't keep that up. So, either our coverage skills have to improve or we have to get better pressure on third downs. With those kinds of numbers, it shows our third down pressure ain't working. When the blitz comes, it's ineffective. When we don't bring pressure, our zone defense is still full of the same holes that were there last year.
"Third and Grantham," a comment of derision among Dawg fans, must turn into a term feared by opponents. So far, we're a long way from that.