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Jeremy Pruitt puzzled by Georgia's run defense

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- How shocking was Georgia's defensive performance in Saturday's 38-20 loss to Florida?

The Bulldogs were so inept in giving up 418 yards rushing that defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt felt compelled to speak to the media after a game for the first time all season.

“I hadn’t been doing the media deal,” he told reporters outside Georgia’s locker room inside EverBank Field. “But you play like that and you need to come out here and look everybody in the eye and tell it like it is.”

He did.

Pruitt didn't hold back in criticizing his defense after it gave up the most rushing yards in Georgia history since yielding 430 to Auburn in 1978.

Time after time on Saturday, Florida gave the ball to tailbacks Kelvin Taylor (197 yards and two TDs) and Matt Jones (192 yards, two TDs). Time after time, Georgia failed to get off blocks, take precise routes to the ball or tackle properly.

“They lined up and gave us a good ole butt-whipping," Pruitt said. "They run the power and the zone, things you see every day in practice.

"For four days, we probably had the best four days of practice that we’ve had all year. It’s a good learning lesson for us, because four days of practice doesn’t mean you’re going to play good on Saturday. You’ve got to bring the juice, and we didn’t bring it today. Florida did."

Head coach Mark Richt offered the same blunt assessment, saying, "They physically whipped us. That’s probably the best description that I can give you."

The obvious question for Pruitt, since he volunteered to take questions, was "How?"

The Bulldogs came into Saturday's game giving up an average of 105.1 yards a game -- good enough to rank second in the SEC.

Florida, on the other hand, came into the game ranked 96th in the nation and 11th in the SEC in total offense, averaging 368.0 yards. The Gators had the league's eighth-best rushing offense, averaging 169.5 yards a game.

"It’s a choice," Pruitt said three times for emphasis. "It’s a choice each individual has to make. ... People try to impose their will on the other team. Today they imposed their will on us."

There were few answers.

"We didn’t play well up front. We didn’t rotate well in the secondary," cornerback Damian Swann said. "And that’s what happens when you play a team that can run the ball very well."

Richt wore the disappointment plainly on his face. He and his coaches, the fans and the media -- everyone -- knew Florida's game plan would rely on the run game. True freshman quarterback Treon Harris was making his first start, and the wind was gusting up to 40 mph.

Harris finished with just three completions on six attempts for 27 yards.

“They didn’t have to really take many chances," Richt said. "They were able to keep the ball on the ground. ...

"We never put them in a position where they had to throw the ball, quite frankly, so I don’t blame them for only throwing it six times."

Even with a limited playbook, Florida found a way to flourish. Entering the game, the Gators had 64 plays of 10 yards or more on the season, second-fewest in the FBS. On Saturday, they had 16.

There was plenty of blame to go around on Saturday, and Pruitt promised to go back to basics in practice.

“We’re still dealing with 18- to 21-year-olds," he said. "You’ve got to keep the hammer down at all times. You can’t ever get comfortable.

"The big thing that we’ve got to do is first probably just give Florida credit. They whipped our tail today. They outcoached us. They outplayed us, all right?

"Ain’t nothing we can do but go back and look at it and fix it. And we’ve got to do it together."