ATHENS, Ga. — Alec Ogletree and Bacarri Rambo spent a long month just waiting and watching from the sideline.
The pair finally came off a four-game suspension Saturday and made their presence felt in a big way as they led Georgia in tackles in the Bulldogs’ 51-44 win against Tennessee at Sanford Stadium.
“I’ve just been spending the last few weeks just preparing and getting ready for when I do come in,” Ogletree said. “It’s been tough. But I’m a team player and just want to go out and support my team. It was a relief. I wanted to come out there and make my presence known again.”
Ogletree had an assist on Tennessee’s first snap of the game. The junior inside linebacker finished with a game-high 14 total tackles. He also chipped in three tipped passes, including one that led to a Damian Swann interception.
“We knew that was coming,” Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones said. “The dude (Ogletree) is a beast. He can play safety. He can play linebacker and run sideline to sideline. They’re just one of those players that’s just special. We know that they’re going to be everywhere on every play. That gives the front a little more time to rush and lets us do some things differently. Coach (Todd) Grantham likes to mix things up and Alec, he’s a freak of nature.”
Rambo made a major contribution also with nine tackles – second-highest on the team after Ogletree. He made a solo third-down stop to force a Tennessee field goal in the first half that figured hugely in a seven-point game.
“We’re a lot better with them out there,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “They’re in the top five guys that we have as playmakers. We had our hands on some more balls but we just couldn’t bring them in. When you face a good quarterback like that (Tennessee’s Tyler Bray), when you get your hands on some balls, you’ve got to make those plays. The difference is, in the fourth quarter we made those plays where in the first half and even in the third quarter a little bit we just kind of batted the ball down.”
Ogletree and Rambo made plays. But Georgia’s defense gave up some big plays, too. Tennessee gained 478 yards and scored 44 points, both season highs.
“If you’re listening in headsets you can hear coaches correct things as they happen,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “There were some things that both Rambo and (Ogletree) need to correct. But overall they played well and they played hard.”
Although Ogletree and Rambo practiced through their suspensions, the introduction of two fresh faces caused some timing problems in the defense. Blown assignments and missed timing because of rust from the starting free safety and a starting inside linebacker contributed to Tennessee’s offensive outburst.
“I think that anytime you haven’t played for four weeks and haven’t really run anything from a competitive standpoint, it’s going to take you some time,” Grantham said. “Not just timing but conditioning too. I thought for the most part those guys hung in there and kept battling. We hung in and won the game. Like I said, this game reminded me a lot of the South Carolina game last year (45-42 loss) except this time we won. We improved our mental toughness and made the plays when we had to.”