ATHENS, Ga. — No one in the state of Georgia was probably more relieved to hear about the Cam Newton controversy this week than Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.
The talk in newspaper columns and on radio talk shows shifted from Grantham signaling the Florida kicker to choke on a winning kick last Saturday to the potential scandal involving Auburn’s quarterback.
Grantham didn’t want to talk after Saturday‘s game about his mess from last week. But he was more than willing to discuss his defense holding Idaho State to 7 points Saturday. And then there is that opponent next week that might be a little more challenging than Idaho State.
“Nobody’s stopped their offense,” Grantham said, referring to undefeated Auburn. “They’re putting up big numbers. They’re putting up big points.”
You could tell Grantham was just happy talking football again, instead of having to explain what happened in Jacksonville. And it probably made him feel good when UGA president Michael Adams interrupted the questions from the media with a congratulatory handshake on Georgia’s fifth win of the season.
Adams probably knows what is becoming more obvious with every game: Despite having mediocre players, the defensive coordinator is pretty darn good.
The uproar over Grantham’s gesture was silly, as was being called into Mark Richt’s office like he was a third-grader who had pinched a girl in the back row of art class.
Did some people really believe Grantham needed to be fined and suspended for that? Come on. This is football, not badminton.
The guy is fiery. He’s emotional. Most defensive coordinators — like the late Erk Russell or former UGA coach Brian VanGorder — are wound up a little tight. That’s usually the reason they’re good.
“We’re motivated by him and the type of coach that he is,” cornerback Brandon Boykin said of Grantham. “Everybody respects him. He’s always enthusiastic. Whenever he steps foot on that field, he has a mentality to play lights out.”
“We feed off him. He motivates this defense a lot. We try to play like the kind of guy he is,” added linebacker Justin Houston.
Grantham’s defense recovered after playing poorly in Jacksonville. Florida’s offense got well against Georgia last week, but the Bulldogs bounced back Saturday against a bad team. Who cares that Idaho State was 1-7 and plays in the FCS Big Sky Conference? Grantham was just glad his unit played well.
“Once that (Florida) game is over, it’s over and it’s on to the next week,” he explained. “You prepare every week just like it’s the same. I thought the players did that. That’s the most important thing to me is the way the players came out and prepared. They came out ready to play and they set the tone. That’s what you’ve got to do to be a good defensive team.”
Idaho State probably would lose to the top high school teams in Georgia. They just weren’t very good. But for a team — such as Georgia — that just needed to feel good about itself again, it really didn’t matter.
Georgia needed a laugher. They needed a cakewalk. They needed a win.
The Bulldogs are back at .500, but it’s going to be tough to stay there. Next week’s opponent will be a bit different. Georgia fans will pray for a miracle, but Newton likely will play, despite the story that broke Thursday.
And it will be up to Grantham to come up with something to at least contain the dangerous quarterback.
“Nobody’s stopped him, really,” Grantham said. “We’re going to have to play really well, and we’re going to have to fly around.”
Either way, the controversy won’t be on Georgia’s side heading into next week’s big game. And Grantham probably will enjoy trying to figure out how to stop Newton rather than talking about his sideline behavior.
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