JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Safety Shawn Williams didn’t have the copyright on calling Georgia’s defense ‘soft’ in the lead-up to the Florida game Saturday.
Georgia cornerback Damian Swann had an interception in Georgia's win over Florida on Saturday.
National college football analysts made their own critical comments of the way the Bulldogs’ defense had played this season.
Georgia defensive players heard about it when they were shown video of ESPN commentators blasting away at their play in the team’s “hype” video before leaving the team hotel in St. Augustine before the No. 12 Bulldogs’ 17-9 upset of No. 3 Florida Saturday.
“As I was watching it, it was just bringing more fuel to the fire,” said linebacker Mike Gilliard, one of four Georgia players with six tackles behind only Jarvis Jones’ 13. “With those guys singling me from the inside linebackers, I challenged everybody on defense to just have that spark and hit anything that moves. I feel like we did a great job.”
There was reason for taking shots at the defense after Kentucky rolled up more than 200 yards rushing last week against Georgia.
A top-five defense from a year ago was ninth ranked in the 14-team SEC entering the week.
Williams unloaded after practice Monday with comments that served to motivate his teammates.
“Shawn wasn’t calling us out, I respect what he did,” said safety Bacarri Rambo, who had five tackles and interception and a sack. “He gave us a challenge and we went out there and accepted it and we did our best. The game came out like we wanted it to. The offense didn’t do like they wanted to, but on defense we played our best, we gave it our all. I felt like we kind of won this game.”
Florida was held to 266 yards of total offense and failed to score a touchdown for the first time since a 17-6 loss to Auburn on Oct. 15, 2011.
Georgia had allowed 20 or more points in six of its first seven games for just the second time in program history.
“Finally enough was enough and guys stepped up and performed,” said defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, whose unit faced early-season suspensions and he thinks lost confidence when players had to transition back to other positions.
It was the first time the Gators were held without a touchdown by Georgia since 1988.
“They went out to kind of prove that they do have mental toughness,” Grantham said. “Here’s the question I asked them: Are we mentally and physically tough enough to beat Florida?”
Grantham said a lot of so-called experts were saying that Georgia wasn’t.
CBS analyst Gary Danielson said this week in comments sent out by the network: “Their defensive unit is the most disappointing unit in the SEC. The defense is underachieving.”
Grantham said he “tweaked” things by moving Jones around in the game and played him at the same time as fellow outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins.
Jones responded with a career-high 13 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries,
“This is a man’s game and this is the kind of game that you’ve got to put players like him to where the ball is going to be and let him make plays,” Grantham said.
Rambo did his part with an interception of Jeff Driskel in the end zone after the Gators had the ball at the Georgia 5. Rambo returned it to the 10-yard line to end the half.
Florida was ninth in the SEC in scoring at 30.2 points per game, but had a winning formula that included limiting turnovers.
Georgia forced four fumbles and picked off two passes.
“We wanted to show the nation, all the doubters what kind of defense we were,” Rambo said. “We should have been playing this way the whole year, but it just took this game just to get this train rolling.”