Dogs’ defense doesn’t make excuses for performance against Bulls

A shorthanded Georgia defense was missing four suspended starters.

Another player expected to start was on crutches instead of on the field.

Buffalo took advantage Saturday, piling up 199 rushing yards and 347 total yards against a Georgia defense that ranked fifth in the nation last year in yards allowed.

The Bulldogs left with a 45-23 victory to open its season, but Buffalo had more points at halftime — 16 — than Georgia gave up last year in entire games to Auburn, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Kentucky or Ole Miss.

In fact, Georgia had held seven opponents to 16 or fewer points last year.

Nobody was using the suspensions to All-American safety Bacarri Rambo, inside linebacker Alec Ogeltree, cornerback Sanders Commings and outside linebacker Chase Vasser as an excuse.

“I ain’t blaming none of that because that is what it is and the guys that are available are the guys that are available,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said.

“Whoever’s out there has got to play good enough to win is really what it comes down to,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “That’s the way football is. Just like Malcolm Mitchell. We never would have dreamed he would not have played.”

Mitchell sprained his left ankle in practice Thursday.

So the player moved to cornerback to help shore up a depleted secondary was out of action himself.

Rambo and Ogletree’s suspensions were expected, but not announced by Richt beforehand. Neither were dressed out.

Rambo’s high school coach said this spring that he was appealing a four-game suspension for a second violation of Georgia’s drug policy. Ogletree reportedly also was facing a multigame suspension.

Even after the game, Richt wouldn’t say if Rambo and Ogletree will be back for Missouri.

“Yes, they were suspended for this game and we’ll find out next week what we’ll do next week,” Richt said.

Georgia’s starting lineup included first-time starters Connor Norman at safety and redshirt freshman Devin Bowman at cornerback.

“As you could see, the guys we were missing were all veterans,” said outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who had eight tackles and one and a half sacks. “They’re a big part of our defense, but at the same time we’ve got to play those young guys for them to learn. Those guys have to be ready to play.”

Sophomore cornerback Damian Swann said he played “nearly every possession, every snap.”

“That’s what I need,” said Swann, who tied Jones for the team lead with eight tackles and had a half a tackle for loss. “I need the reps. We’re going into a big part of our season and I needed that.”

Georgia’s players, like their coordinator, didn’t use the players missing as a crutch for a first half in which it gave up 243 yards.

“I wouldn’t use that as an excuse,” defensive end Abry Jones said. “We always have people that can roll in, pretty much play and compete. Definitely those guys have a lot of experience so you know we would be better with them. I was would not say them not being here had anything to do with the way we played today.”

Said Swann: “With those guys being out, it kind of took away from what Georgia could be. … Today guys got experience and next week everybody’s going to have to play.”

Swann said Mitchell has “been rehabbing all day yesterday, all day today. Right after practice Thursday. Hopefully he’s back.”

Richt said it wasn’t a high-ankle sprain, but it “swelled up pretty good.”

The injury happened when Mitchell landed on a wide receiver’s foot near the end zone.

“Scout team going a little bit too hard and a guy rode him up,” Swann said. “Stuff happens. You’ve got to play through it.”

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