ATHENS, Ga. - Georgia has one of the top-ranked defenses in the country - and a lot to prove this week.
The No. 8 Bulldogs (7-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) were upset with their defensive effort against Florida last weekend. They gave up 458 yards in a 31-24 victory - 110 more than they've surrendered in any other game this season.
Much of the yardage came after broken tackles, including Florida's first touchdown. Everyone was critical of themselves, including junior safety Greg Blue.
"I missed too many tackles. That wasn't me, man," Blue said. "I was scared to come here (for practice this week) because I missed so many tackles."
He should have an opportunity for redemption against woeful Kentucky (1-7, 0-5) - especially with star safety Thomas Davis expected to sit out the game with a sprained ankle and knee.
"I think it'll be good experience for him to be the senior safety, to be the leader," coach Mark Richt said.
Linebacker Odell Thurman put much of the blame on himself. He's the run-stopper in the middle of the field, but Ciatrick Fason rushed for 139 yards - the most Georgia has given up to one player.
Overall, the Gators ran for 248 yards against a defense that had been allowing less than 107 per game.
"I'm disappointed in myself, to be honest," Thurman said. "I'm supposed to be a leader and I made way to many mistakes."
Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder kept the ball rolling, agreeing with everything his players had to say.
"I thought our tackling was poor right from the start," VanGorder said. "I'm really disappointed. That's probably the first game since I've been here that I can really say that about."
The Bulldogs expect Thurman to bounce back against Kentucky.
"You've got to realize he's human," defensive tackle Kedric Golston said. "He's going to have those days every now and then. But knowing what kind of player he is, I'd hate to be a Kentucky running back this week."
It doesn't take much to stop the Wildcats, the only team that has yet to win an SEC game this season. Kentucky has the league's worst rushing offense (107.8 yards per game) and ranks 99th nationally.
Maybe the Wildcats should try the hurry-up offense, which worked well for Florida. By the end of the game, the Bulldogs were struggling to catch their breath.
"That was really the first time anybody tried to do that against us," Thurman said. "It wasn't easy out there but any means."
The secondary is eager to address another troubling stat.
The Bulldogs haven't had an interception since the second game of the season, when freshman cornerback Paul Oliver picked off a pass against South Carolina. Davis is the only starter with an interception, getting his in the season-opening victory over Division I-AA Georgia Southern.
"We've probably dropped four to five, legit," secondary coach Willie Martinez said. "It's just sometimes you get more in one given year."
Talk about a statistical oddity.
Despite the lack of interceptions, Georgia ranks fifth in the SEC and 11th nationally in passing yards allowed (167 yards per game). Still, it's worth noting that five SEC schools (Kentucky, Auburn, South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee) have more than 10 interceptions, and every team except Georgia has had least five. In fact, Auburn cornerback Junior Rosegreen has a 5-2 edge on the Bulldogs all by himself.
"I don't know what the reason is, but it hurts," cornerback DeMario Minter said. "We try to go out and get them, but it just seems like they don't come our way."
Minter has a theory. Since Georgia plays a lot of zone defenses, most teams avoid the deep routes that increase the likelihood of interceptions.
"People may think something else," he said, "but we know the truth."