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Even the most optimistic of observers realized that Georgia's defense would be in for some growing pains having to use so many young players than in previous years.
Saturday's 41-26 loss to Missouri marked the fifth time in six games the Bulldogs (4-2, 3-1) have surrendered at least 30 points, equaling the number of times allowed by the 2010 squad that finished 6-7.
Even more disconcerting is Georgia still has six regular season games to go.
Defensive end Ray Drew admits it's more than a little bit of concern.
"I would like to see us step up a little more, I would like to see us get off the field more on third down situations, I would like to see us hold teams to less points," Drew said. "That's the dream of every defense. We've just got to continue to work."
Frustrating would be a good way to describe it.
The Bulldog defense actually got off to a good start, forcing punts on Missouri's opening two possession. In the third quarter, the Tigers' only three possessions resulted in punts. But what happened in between, well, it wasn't good.
Missouri had four plays of at least 20 yards, one on a 40-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Bud Sasser and another on a 36-yard scoring run by Marcus Murphy, who bounced through at least five would-be tacklers on his way to the end zone to give the Tigers a 21-10 lead.
"I think anytime you've got young guys there are going to be a lapse or two that happens which will extend a drive, create a seam or allow them to make some plays," defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. "I'm pleased with their effort. I don't see anything wrong with their effort, and it's more of a matter of execution and getting some experience."
Head coach Mark Richt was asked point blank how close he believes the defense is to turning its act around.
"I thought we saw some spark, some signs of life," Richt said. "I thought some individuals played well. Ray (Drew) continued to play, and I thought Shaq (Wiggins) played well from what I was able to see from the field. I believe we'll keep getting better. I think we're going to be the type of defense that everybody can be proud of, but it takes some time."
The question remains though how much many more big plays will occur, and how many more losses will result until it does?
"When you play at the level we play at you've got to be on technique wise, you've got to be on with your effort, and you've got to be on in your ability to play fast," Grantham said. "If you're not on in one of those areas it's going to create seams and cause big plays."
Georgia trailed Saturday's 28-10 at the half, although one of the four touchdowns by the Tigers was the responsibility of quarterback Aaron Murray who fumbled after a sack with Sam Michael picking up the football and running it in for a score from 21 yards out.
"We didn't sit here and think we were just going to stone this football team," Richt said. "They were going to move the ball and they were going to score. You can't just sit there and say all the points was a result of how the defense played, part of it was, but part of it was because the offense played, too."
Making matters worse for the defense is the fact the Bulldogs can't, for whatever reason, force turnovers.
In six games, Georgia has only recovered four fumbles and intercepted just one pass.
Drew admits that's a head-scratcher.
"I can't say whether it's one reason or another why that hasn't been happening," Drew said. "We practice hard each week, we go out and we'll get an interception here, an interception there. We're practicing well; they're just not coming our way."
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