October 3, 2009

Bulldog defense can't stem the tide

During a brief post-game interview with reporters, defensive coordinator Willie Martinez uttered a familiar phrase.

"We just didn't make the plays, and they did," said Martinez, topping off answers to four different questions with the same nine-word response.

Basically, that's exactly what happened.After holding LSU to just two field goals for basically 57-plus minutes of the contest, some last-minute breakdowns and poor tackling eventually cost the Bulldogs big-time, leading to Saturday's 20-13 loss to the fourth-ranked Tigers.

With Georgia holding a slim 7-6 lead, punter Drew Butler kicked the Tigers back at their 12-yard line with 6:47 left on the clock.

But that's when sophomore quarterback Jordan Jefferson suddenly found his range, completing a 10-yard pass to tight end Richard Dickson for a quick first down, followed later by a huge 16-yard toss to Reuben Randle on third-and-10 play.

That was just the beginning.

Later, Jefferson broke containment and picked up 26 yards to the Georgia 13. Four plays later, Charles Scott scored from 2-yards out to put the Tigers up 12-7.

That wouldn't be the last the Bulldogs would hear from the 234-pound senior.

After Georgia roared back to take a 13-12 lead on a 16-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green, an unsportsmanlike penalty on the receiver and subsequent 40-yard return after the Bulldogs kicked off from the 15 put the Tigers in business once again.

With the ball at the Georgia 38 after Georgia was called for illegal formation on the kickoff, Scott plowed ahead for five yards bringing up second down. Scott would get the football again, this time breaking through a host of would-be tacklers before rumbling into the end zone to complete a 33-yard touchdown run.

"Field position is a part of the game. We tried to make something happen. We blitzed, and obviously he made some plays to Charles Scott and we didn't make the tackle," Martinez said. "It was huge. It lost the game. That's why you have to play 60 minutes, we didn't play for 60 minutes. We didn't finish strong."

Defensive tackle Jeff Owens, who was one of the players Scott escaped, took much of the blame.

"It doesn't matter where they put the ball down, somebody's got to make a play and that's what we didn't do on defense," he said. "They did and that's why they ended up victorious. It's very disappointing. I'm a competitor. I don't like losing. It's a bad feeling. Hopefully, it's a taste we can get out of our mouths real soon."

Ironically, until LSU's late explosions, the Bulldogs had played extremely well.

Georgia established a season-high in sacks with six, including two by defensive end Justin Houston. Cornerback Brandon Boykin even had a huge interception in the end zone to save a touchdown on the Tigers' initial drive.

But in the end, when the Bulldogs needed to make a play, they didn't get the job done.

"I thought we got pressure on them. That's why we went with our four-man front a lot of the time. Again, we were playing solid until the second to last drive when they went up 12-7," Martinez said. "But then they went on that 88-yard drive. We had opportunities to make plays on third down and get off the field but didn't."

However, in the end it was the Bulldogs who reverted back to some of the same problems that haunted the team late last year and in parts of games earlier this year.

Mistakes, that eventually meant the difference between victory and defeat.

LSU finished with 368 total yards in becoming the third team to outgain the Bulldogs (Oklahoma State and South Carolina) this year.

"Our job is to defend the field, no matter where the ball is placed, and we didn't do it," Boykin said. "We had bowed our necks the entire game until right there at the end. It came down to that one play and we didn't make it."

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