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UGA beat writer says Aaron Murray has matured quickly, 3-4 defense is working

Content provided by Swamp Things – Gators Blog.

Swamp Things continues its blog exchange with two – yes, are lucky enough to get two! – Georgia beat writers this week. This is the first, and comes from Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald. For more insight into the Bulldogs, be sure to check out his work and follow him on Twitter.

1. The Bulldogs are last in the SEC in opponent’s third-down conversion. Why have they struggled to stop teams on third down?
I could write a whole notebook lead about that. Wait. I just did for Thursday’s newspaper. Georgia coach Mark Richt this week laid our several factors for the problems:
–Allowing the quarterback to get out of the pocket to buy time.
–Not being disciplined enough in zone coverage to avoid chasing down the quarterback even when he hasn’t crossed the line of scrimmage.
–Not holding off on curl routes and square-ins while instead pursuing a receiver in the flat.
“It just gets down to leverage, understanding your assignment, making good decisions and kind of knowing where the sticks are,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said.

2. QB Aaron Murray has been named SEC freshman of the week twice. Why has he done so well in his first season?
He makes really good decisions. At least so far. Georgia was killed last season by throwing too many interceptions, but Murray has just three in eight games. Not bad for a rookie in the SEC. Georgia coaches made sure not to put too much on him early in the season. In retrospect, they probably played too conservatively. Now they have plenty of confidence in Murray, who has surprised them by his ability to scramble for touchdowns (four on the year). It helps that he also can throw to probably the best receiver in college football in A.J. Green, who is back from his four-game suspension.

3. How has Georgia handled the change to a 3-4 defense?
The numbers would indicate fairly well. Georgia is first in the SEC in rushing defense (99.3 yards per game) and fourth in total defense (306.8 yards per game). It is 30th in the nation in scoring defense at 19.1 points per game, seven less than last season. The Bulldogs are still giving up too many big plays, but there have been less busts in pass coverage during the winning streak than earlier in the season. The three new defensive assistants now have a better sense of the personnel. Players like cornerback Sanders Commings (team-high three interceptions) have gone from backups to starters.

4. Florida has been playing the celebration from Georgia’s first touchdown in 2007 this week. What are the Bulldogs using as their motivation?
As far as I know, winning the SEC East and keeping a good thing going (the three-game winning streak). Then again, nobody told me about the planned end zone dance back in ’07 (popular with Georgia fans) or the black helmets last year (not so popular). They are not coming out and saying it, but I imagine they want to do something about that ugly 17 losses in 20 years to the Gators that players and fans have endured.

5. Is Georgia viewing a win in this game as a season saver? Does it make up for a 1-4 start?
It would certainly be the biggest win of the year given the stage of a national television audience and the opponent — perhaps their biggest rival. To a certain extent, they have saved their season already by rising from the dead of a 1-4 start to be able to still be in the thick of the SEC East race. Of course, if they lose to Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech — or perhaps even two of those three — the season again will be looked at as a disaster by some Georgia fans.


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