NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Although it's obviously safe to say that nobody will confuse Vanderbilt quarterback Larry Smith to Florida's Tim Tebow, who Georgia will face two weeks from now in Jacksonville, members of the Bulldogs' defense saw Saturday's effort against the Commodores as a needed step on the road back to respectability.
Coming into play, Georgia's defense has been anything but impressive, as indicated by the fact that Willie Martinez's charges entered play dead last in the SEC in giving up a tick over 30 points per game.
But although Saturday's effort came against the conference's lowest scoring team, coming off last week's embarrassment against Tennessee, players like Jeff Owens saw it as a harbinger of better things to come.
"We came into this game with a chip on our shoulder," Owens said. "Everybody had been saying Georgia's defense is this, Georgia's defense is that. We came out determined and wanting to prove to the world that we're still a force to be reckoned with."
At least the Bulldogs can say that against the Commodores.
The Bulldogs limited Vanderbilt to 296 yards and sacked Smith three times after failing to record a single one last week against Tennessee.
Georgia forced one turnover, a red-zone interception by cornerback Prince Miller, his first of the year.
Although impressive, the biggest thing that stood out to Martinez was how loose his defense played after being embarrassed last week by Tennessee.
"Our kids were ready to play, they weren't uptight. Obviously, that's the goal you go into any game with but we didn't really have to say or do too many things. They were excited," Martinez said. "The key for us is we've just got to continue to practice very well, get some guys back healthy. We've had some bumps and bruises, but in these next few weeks we should be getting some other guys back, and that will help us a lot."
Safety Quintin Banks made it back into the fray against the Commodores.
Banks missed the first five games of the year due to a meniscus injury, but saw his first action late in the fourth quarter.
He should have some company when the Bulldogs face the Gators.
Martinez said that linebackers Akeem Dent (hamstring) and Marcus Dowtin (finger) will be back for the Florida game. Dent has missed the last five contests with a hamstring injury while Dowtin sat out the last two games while recovering from recent surgery to repair a ligament in his finger.
"That's going to really help because you've got to have depth," Martinez said. "You play seven games in a row like we just did, you're going to have guys out and get injured so it's going to be good to have them back."
Some of their replacements stepped up nicely against the Commodores.
Freshman Branden Smith saw his most extensive time at corner and responded with a career-best four tackles, including one for a loss of 2 yards. Redshirt freshman linebacker Christian Robinson chipped in with three tackles.
"We've got a lot of young guys who have to play. We've got tads of it here, shades of it there. Whether it's (Smith), playing (Bacarri) Rambo for the first time, Christian Robinson getting some snaps with Dent and Dowtin out
Abry Jones. We've got some young guys who have to get after it and tonight, they and the rest of the guys played loose and made plays. That's the thing I saw today."
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