ATHENS, Ga. -- Sometimes generating a turnover is the result of a brilliant defensive scheme or excellent individual play, and sometimes other factors are in play.
“It's all about being in the right place at the right time. Turnovers is about like an Auburn catch at the end of the game -- sometimes they're luck, but you do have some kind of control over them as a defense,” joked Georgia defensive end Ray Drew, referring to the Tigers' 73-yard pass that bounced between two Bulldogs defenders and landed in Ricardo Louis' hands for the game-winning touchdown at the end of last Saturday's game.
The Bulldogs haven't had much good fortune in that department this season, which has been one of the most glaring differences from the turnover-happy defenses that tied for eighth nationally with 62 takeaways between the previous two seasons. Georgia has generated only nine turnovers -- last in the SEC and 121st nationally -- one more than Air Force and Eastern Michigan, which are tied for last in the FBS.
Obviously a helpful factor in Saturday night's game against Kentucky (2-8, 0-6 SEC) would be if the Bulldogs (6-4, 4-3) manage to change that trend, but the Wildcats have been surprisingly effective at taking care of the ball. Although their “Air Raid” offense averages just 349.2 yards and 21.5 points per game -- both totals that rank among the worst in the SEC -- the Wildcats entered last Saturday's game against Vanderbilt tied for second nationally with just seven giveaways.
“Most of the time the quarterback fumbles the most. But when you get the ball out as quick as they do and put it in space, there's not a lot of opportunities for that because runners don't fumble as much as the quarterbacks,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “A little bit of it is they're doing a good job of coaching it, and they're getting the ball out pretty quick and protecting it.”
Last weekend's loss to Vanderbilt saw that season-long trend come to at least a temporary end. Kentucky quarterback Jalen Whitlow threw four interceptions in the 22-6 loss to the Commodores after tossing just one in the Wildcats' first nine games.
Whitlow is also a talented runner, so containing him -- and perhaps forcing him to make mistakes that allowed Vandy to pull away for a win last week when Kentucky largely controlled the first three quarters – will be a main objective for Georgia this week.
“If the head comes off the body, the body dies, basically. So the quarterback is basically the head of the team,” Drew said. “If you can play at an uptempo pace, which I know they like to do, try to rattle them while they're trying to rattle you, as well, get in their head a little bit, it'll throw them off. It's a two-way street.
“So if you're well-prepared as far as doing your assignments, playing the way you're supposed to be playing no matter how fast the tempo is, that might throw them off because they're not expecting you to be ready.”