COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Georgia coach Mark Richt is not worried about his team's defense, no matter how many yards the Bulldogs have allowed this season.
No. 5 Georgia ranks near the bottom of the Southeastern Conference, 10th among league defenses at more than 370 yards a game given up.
That's almost 100 yards more than the team gave up a game a year ago when Georgia was fourth in the league and adding to the SEC's reputation for powerhouse defense. The Bulldogs (5-0, 3-0 SEC) must ramp things up defensively this week against No. 6 South Carolina (5-0, 3-0) in a Eastern Division showdown sure to have a bearing on who will play for an SEC championship.
Richt says his players have made the critical stops with the game on the line, something that's helped the Bulldogs to their first 5-0 start since 2006.
Not that it's been pretty. Georgia gave up 371 yards in the SEC opener against Missouri and 478 last week in beating Tennessee 51-44.
Richt brushes aside the outside grumbling about Georgia's porous defense. Great stats, he says, don't always equal winning records. "I was more concerned about are we going to stop people when we have to stop them, when it means the most," Richt said. "I think that happened in the Missouri game and I think it happened in the Tennessee game defensively.
"I'm pleased with that," he said.
Georgia got three turnovers to hold on against Missouri, including a fourth-quarter interception by star linebacker Jarvis Jones. The Bulldogs picked up three interceptions and a fumble to beat the Vols. Perhaps more importantly, the defense got back suspended starters in linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety Baccarri Rambo.
Ogletree made a career-high 14 tackles and tipped a pass that led to an interception. Rambo had nine tackles.
Jones is the leader, though, with 4½ sacks and eight tackles for loss this season.
Georgia has had its troubles stopping South Carolina's rushing attack the past two years. Gamecocks star Marcus Lattimore scorched the Bulldogs for 182 yards and two touchdowns in 2010 and 176 yards and a touchdown last season — both South Carolina victories.
The Gamecocks have picked up defensively where they left off a year ago when they finished third nationally.
South Carolina's defense showed that last week in a 38-17 win at Kentucky. The Gamecocks gave up 196 yards and trailed 17-7 at the half, then held the Wildcats to 47 yards and no points the rest of the way.
Sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is second in the SEC with 5½ sacks. Clowney's sack of Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray late in last year's 45-42 win over the Bulldogs led to a crucial fumble that Melvin Ingram returned for a touchdown and provided the Gamecocks' winning margin.
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