After a loss, and a loss like the one Georgia had against Auburn on Saturday, you’d expect some changes to come during preparation for the next game.
Maybe it’d be a change in mood during practice, or a slight, maybe even complete, change to the game plan. But for Georgia, it’s all going to stay the same.
For senior defensive back Aaron Davis, the mood among the team is, or should be, just what it was before the loss to Auburn. “Guys should be focused regardless of whether we win or lose,” Davis said.
And focusing doesn’t come too hard for this Georgia team.
While each game up until Saturday had ended in a win, players and coaches have been making sure everyone is focused on the next game. Not the last win, and definitely not any game ahead on the schedule. It’s always been about what's just in front.
“We just worry about what needs to be done for this next weekend,” senior tight end Jeb Blazevich said. “I think that’s been what we do all year, so that didn’t really change, even though it was a heartbreaking loss.”
It has been the consistency with that message throughout the entire season that has led to a lot of the success Georgia has had. And the man behind that message is head coach Kirby Smart.
And it’s the same message now as it was last week.
“He has a plan and he sticks to it,” Blazevich said. “Regardless of a heartbreaking loss or a tremendous win, we’re going to do what the plan was.”
Smart said the players have responded to the loss to Auburn the way they should and the way he wants. He said they’re in “good spirits” and are ready to practice with “good attitudes.”
“Things aren’t swayed by emotions, positive or negative.” Blazevich said. “We’re going to do the plan we need to to win.”
Smart Not Pleased With Team's Tackling
There’s a lot for Smart to like about the way his defense has played to this point in the season. After all, even after giving up nearly 500 yards in a loss to Auburn, the Bulldog are still the No. 5 defense in the country in terms of yards given up per game.
Still, Smart said his team has yet to meet the standard he expects from a defense in one of the simplest aspects of the game — getting opposing players on the ground.
“I haven’t been happy with the tackling the entire time,” Smart said. “I really haven’t.”
Smart was quick to add that Georgia’s group of impressive running backs can sometimes make the defense look worse than it actually is in practice, but he was definitive in stating “there’s not been a day that I was really happy with our tackling.”
It’s a worry Smart has alluded to on a couple occasions throughout the season, but one that has gone unwarranted until Georgia’s most recent matchup against Auburn, when the Bulldogs were handed their first loss of the season.
When defensive lineman Tyler Clark looked back at the tape from the defeat, he said mistakes by the defense were what ended up costing Georgia the game.
Missed tackles were among the many issues he cited.
So where does the team go from here? Clark’s fellow defensive lineman David Marshall said it comes down to correcting technique and physicality in practice.
“We’ve got to improve in practice,” he said, adding that Georgia needs to “thud up” when preparing for games and carrying that mentality into Saturday.
Defensive back J.R. Reed said much of it comes down to staying focused as the season wears on. With 10 games in the books, Reed said the team needs to bring the same level of energy to its tackling as it did from day one.
“You can’t be lazy about it,” Reed said. “Sometimes you get lazy with tackling as the season has gone on, and it’s really a one-two thing, so you have to want to tackle.”
Smart echoed much of the same sentiments as his players, emphasizing that success in practice is the key to success on game day.
But for Smart, the problem won’t be solved until his players have bought in and started to hold each other accountable.
“It certainly helps when they call each other out, when one guy says 'Hey, you didn’t thud the guy. You need to thud him.’” Smart said. “So that’s usually when we do better.”
The Kentucky Wildcats face Georgia Saturday in Athens. Game time is 3:30 p.m.