Jarvis Jones didn’t play on Saturday against Florida Atlantic and his absense had a major effect on Georgia’s early defense.
Florida Atlantic punched holes in the Bulldogs in the first half before Georgia resettled for a walk-away 56-20 win on Saturday at Sanford Stadium. Florida Atlantic converted eight of its first 11 third downs and played evenly with Georgia until late in the second period.
“That’s pretty strong,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “We got them into third down quite a bit but we couldn’t get off the field. Guys like Jarvis get you off the field. Obviously we’ve seen that with him. I think it affected us. I don’t think there’s any doubt. I think if Jarvis had played, we would probably have been more productive in the pass defense. Knowing Jarvis, he’d have probably gotten a sack or two just because he’s Jarvis.”
Jones came out of last week’s Missouri game with a banged-up shoulder and a groin strain. Richt said that on Thursday the coaching staff decided to rest Jones for the Florida Atlantic game. Jones dressed on Saturday, but did not play.
“We just kind of made the decision based upon where we are right now and what we have coming up,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “We just decided that the best thing to do was to rest those guys and let those other guys get in there and play.”
Jones wasn’t the only defender missing from the Georgia lineup. Cornelius Washington (sore hamstring) played sparingly, not to mention Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree were suspended for their third straight game. However, Chase Vasser and Sanders Commings returned after serving two-game suspensions.
“It made a huge difference,” Georgia nose tackle John Jenkins said. “Our defense has a bunchof pieces that need to fit together for it to work at its best. Everybody knows that J.J. (Jones) is one of our star players and we had to get through adversity. The guys had to step in and they played. They did their job and they got better as the game went along.”
Georgia’s defense started shaky. Florida Atlantic repeatedly caught the Bulldogs off balance and picked up 263 of its 318 yards in the first half. Florida Atlantic also scored both of its offensive touchdowns in the first half.
“Not having Jarvis back there made a big difference,” Commings said. “He’s a really vocal leader out there and helps get us into position. Not having his leadership and his ability to make plays made a difference. You can’t describe what it means to have him out there making plays. Not having him forced us to do a lot of different things. But we made the adjustment and played a lot better in the second half.”
Georgia started shaky, but it didn’t stay that way. Georgia’s defense pitched a shutout in the second half with Florida Atlantic’s only score coming off of an interception return for a touchdown. Georgia held Florid Atlantic to 55 yards and three first downs in the second half.
“We’ve just got to play better,” Grantham said. “We’ve got to play better. The guys have to understand how to fit it up. You’ve got to give the guys credit. They handled the sideline adjustments. They handled adjusting to the things that (Florida Atlantic) did and really in the second half just kind of stopped them.”
One of the biggest plays of the night came from of Jones’ mates at linebacker. Amarlo Herrera one-upped Jones when he picked off a fourth-quarter pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown. Last week Jones intercepted a pass against Missouri but was tackled at the 1-yard line.
“It felt good, I was just trying not to get hit,” Herrera said. “That’s the main thing whenever I get the ball, don’t get hit. I just wanted to outrun everybody else. That’s all I was thinking about.”