ATHENS, Ga. — Last week, Georgia defeated a run-first offense at Georgia Tech.
The Bulldogs face a similar challenge this week against Louisiana State University in the Southeastern Conference Championship game.
Although, Georgia will need to focus much of its attention on the Tigers’ power running, it can’t afford to get caught flat-footed by the pass.
“To start off, we’ve got to stop the run the best we can so we can get them in throwing situations,” Georgia linebacker and former Burke County star Cornelius Washington said.
“We’ve got to win first and second down. LSU, they’re a good team so they’re not going to give you much. We’re going to have to make the most of every opportunity that we can get.”
Georgia has become adept at making big plays with its pass defense. It is second in the SEC behind LSU in sacks with 32, and the Bulldogs have the second-most interceptions in the SEC with 17.
But against a team that likes to run like LSU does, opportunities to make big plays in the passing game could be rare.
“They’ve got talented and skilled receivers, so they’ll obviously mix in the play-action pass with the run game,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “Everybody has a job to do on every play. Everybody has to understand where your eyes need to be. You’ve got to be disciplined in your assignments and you’ve got to be ready to play. You’ve got to be able to make plays on the quarterback when it’s thrown. That’s more of an understanding the situation when it comes up and be able to take advantage of it.”
Facing a run-oriented offense didn’t stop Georgia from generating a pass rush and forcing turnovers against Georgia Tech.
Georgia sacked Georgia Tech quarterbacks twice and picked off two passes. Much of that success came from limiting the running gains on first and second downs to force the offense to pass in predictable situations.
“In the secondary, we think pass first,” Georgia cornerback and former Westside star Sanders Commings said. “Even against Georgia Tech, that’s what our mindset was. We think pass first. We stop the pass and we let the seven guys up front stop the run.
“We’re going to have the same mentality for this game.”
LSU is ninth in the SEC in passing offense, averaging 171.0 yards a game.
The Tigers have attempted the third-fewest passes in the league and that lack of passing numbers helps the Tigers lead the SEC in sacks allowed with 12 this season. When LSU does pass, it has big-play capability with 20 touchdowns and a league-low four interceptions.
“We’ve got to stop that tremendous running game they have and pretty much get them in situations where they have to pass,” Georgia defensive end Abry Jones said.
“It would make it a little bit easier on us to know when they’re going to pass so we can affect the quarterback.”
Getting the edge in down and distance formulas is imperative to stopping a run-oriented offense.
While running offenses can convert third-and-long, they probably won’t do so repeatedly, so the more often Georgia can force long yardage, the more it can apply its pass rush and force mistakes.
“When you get the opportunity, you’ve got to take advantage,” Georgia nose tackle Kwame Geathers said. Georgia would love to see LSU pass more than run.
“I think our defense would rather play a team that’s going to run right at us,” Commings said.
“Nobody runs the ball on us. If we can make them one dimensional, then we’ve pretty much got them because our secondary can cover everybody’s pass attack.”