Secondary torched by Tide, Smart talks defense
TUSCALOOSA, Alabama – Georgia came into the game with the SEC’s top-ranked defense, but after Saturday night’s 41-24 loss to Alabama, it's obvious there's still work to do.
Especially as far as the secondary is concerned. Crimson Tide quarterback Mac Jones torched the Bulldogs for 417 passing yards, completing 24 of 32 passes for four touchdowns.
“We have to play better as a secondary,” safety Richard LeCounte said. “We gave up some big plays they were able to capitalize on. They have perfect throws, perfect catches, and we were playing a great ball club in Alabama.”
Unfortunately, there were plenty of mistakes, too.
When cornerback Tyson Campbell fell down, it allowed Jaylen Waddle to convert a 90-yard score to go up 27-24.
Later, a pass interference call in the end zone on Eric Stokes set up Najee Harris for a 2-yard run.
"Yeah we grabbed them a couple of times. Guys were not able to run with Waddle, so they reached out and grabbed him instead of putting their hands on him and stopping him. That was huge,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “The Stokes penalty, that was third-and-goal. But that was huge, because you're going to go from—they are going to kick a field goal—to first and goal. You can't do that. Tyrique grabbed a guy; Stokes grabbed a guy early in the first half. It was going be fourth and forever, and they're going to have to punt—and he grabbed and held a guy. At the end of the day, the pressure they put on you with their vertical passing game and their wideouts, they force some of those penalties."
Alabama’s fourth touchdown came on a perfect throw to DeVonta Smith to ice the game with 9:32 to play.
“I thought they made several explosives,” Smart said. “To start with, they ran a bubble wheel, where they throw the bubble out there, and they’ve got Waddle as the bubble guy; everyone’s worried about him, and DeVonta slipped by our Star and caught a touchdown on a bubble wheel. It was actually a play we repped, and we gave it up for a touchdown to the scout team and they beat us with it.”
Jones and the Crimson Tide converted 6 of 11 third-down attempts.
“They made a couple of really big throws. You think about the third-down they’ve got down in the red area, and we think we’re going to get off the field, and we get a PI on Stokes,” Smart said. “Stokes had DeVonta really covered well. I thought it was a great throw and a great catch. When you play man-to-man on those guys, you've got to be able to get the ball out and make plays. I thought DeVonta Smith played really big for them tonight. He caught a lot of 50-50 balls as well as Waddle. Give them credit.”
Smith led the Crimson Tide with 11 catches for 167 yards, with Waddle catching six for 161.
Georgia did sack Jones three times. Unfortunately, their timing was not always perfect.
"As far as the pressure, I agree with you. We pressured probably as much as we always do. We didn't get as much pressure as we always do, and that has a lot to do with their offensive line. There have probably been some guys running open like they did tonight in other games, but we got there, if you know what I mean. Like tonight—and I've got to watch the tape, because I don't want to judge that—I didn't think we converted to pass rush really well,” Smart said. “We were hunkered down trying to stop the run, and when we did pressure, it didn't get home. And the kid made some really good throws. I mean, look guys, he's a really good quarterback, and it's not mobility. It's protection-oriented, with seeing every coverage in his career. The guy has seen every coverage, and he has really good vertical weapons."