Georgia Football: Defense Good Enough When It Counted

Tyler EstepSenior Analyst ISeptember 14, 2009

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Brandon Boykin #2 and Rennie Curran #35 of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrate a fourth down defensive stop against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Sanford Stadium on September 12, 2009 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

You can call it the final stand, a potentially season-changing stop or just Rennie being Rennie.

Either way, Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran swatted down a fourth-down, fourth-quarter throw from South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia, keeping the Gamecocks out of the end zone and sealing the Bulldogs' 41-37 win.

The play summarized Georgia's defense as a whole on Saturday—it didn't play great, but made it happen when it counted.

"It was a crazy play in a tough situation," said Curran, Georgia's leading tackler with 15  on Saturday. "But that was just one play that helped us win. We had guys all over the field making plays here and there, making turnovers. That was just part of my effort for this defense and this team."

To say Georgia's defense was a makeshift one against the Gamecocks would be a stretch; but there was some added adversity for the Bulldog defense that had started out the season stalling Oklahoma State's powerful offense.

Starting defensive end Rod Battle went down in the second quarter (and will now be out for the season with a left ACL tear), linebackers Darius Dewberry and Nick Williams did not play, and Marcus Washington flip-flopped between defensive end and linebacker throughout the game.

"As a team we put a premium on every single play," said corner Brandon Boykin, who had Georgia's first interception of the season. "And I think we did a good job giving the defense good field position [on special teams]. Even when we didn't, the defense bowed up and made a couple of huge stops."

Georgia's defense surrendered 427 yards of total offense Saturday to a Gamecock offense that put up just seven points in its opener against N.C. State.

But the Bulldogs got consistent pressure on a quarterback for the first time in what feels like ages, holding the Gamecocks to just 6-of-17 on third-down conversions, and hunkered down when the game was on the line. It was good enough to avoid starting the season 0-2.

"This wasn't just another game," said Curran. "It was the SEC championship. We can't expect to go to the [Georgia] Dome [for the SEC title game] unless we take care of the South Carolina Gamecocks and the next SEC game after that."