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UGA coaches hold up ugly reminders for defense

Georgia’s defense put on a show when it came to stopping Florida’s rushing attack. They held the Gators to just 21 yards on the ground and an even more impressive 1.1 yards per carry. What did junior defensive lineman Malik Herring think of the performance?

“We played really good. We really prepared for it throughout the week and locked in on the havoc,” said Herring. “We came in and did the job. We got the job done well. So I felt like, ‘Maybe we are as good as people say.’ But, then again, we always know when we get back on Monday, coach is going to show us everything we did wrong that could’ve been better.”

When Monday came and the players flipped the page to Missouri, they were reminded of their performance against the Tigers last season. Missouri running backs totaled 172 yards and four touchdowns in last year’s matchup—and the coaches haven’t let them forget it.

"...so coaches are running around with signs that say ‘172 yards and four touchdowns' "
— Malik Herring

“We know last year they put up 172 yards on us, so coaches are running around with signs that say ‘172 yards and four touchdowns,’ so we’re just trying to prevent that from happening.”

While the measures taken may seem annoying to players, this year’s defense hasn’t shown any signs of a repeat performance. Georgia is the only team in the FBS that hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown. Every other FBS school has allowed at least two. According to Herring, they hear about that statistic in practice too.

“We try to carry it with us, but Coach Smart always breaks it down like ‘Oh, scout team just scored.’ It just motivates us,” said Herring.

How many rushing touchdowns does the scout team have?

“Who knows? Coach Smart will say about 2,000,” said Herring.

With a rushing defense so stout in the red zone, it makes you wonder what this Georgia team is doing differently from past units.

“We haven’t changed philosophically,” said Smart. “I mean, we added some things to our package that have helped. It’s a great feat to have, but I would trade some goal-line rushes for some not big plays, you know what I mean? I’d much rather not give up long passing plays. But the guys are proud of it, and they try to own it. We work hard to keep people out of our end zone. We’ve always said that, to get into our end zone, you have to throw it, and try to make them one-dimensional. But it doesn’t always happen that way.”

Georgia’s stout defense is home to a freshman who has turned heads this season. Travon Walker doesn’t have ridiculous stats, but his presence has still been felt by his teammates and Smart.

"Ah, he's talented. He's bright. He's conscientious,” said Smart. “He's one of those people who takes pride in his performance every day, so he'll watch the tape and say, 'Man, I see what you're saying, coach. I can do better than that.' And he raises his standard. He gives tremendous effort when he's on the scout team. He comes over to our group, works really hard. He's got a lot of promise, because he's got a lot of heart. We've got to find ways to use his talents more.”

Herring had high praise for the true freshman as well.

“Travon’s a freak. He’s long. He can run fast and he’s strong. His future is probably going to be way better than mine is.”