Georgia cornerback Kelee Ringo is considered one of the Bulldogs’ top defensemen this fall and a player who could be a first-round pick in April. Ringo’s ability doesn’t mean he’s always perfect and on Saturday the second division side had to overcome some early mistakes.
Ringo had two glaring errors against Georgia Tech earlier in the second quarter when he missed a tackle Dontae Smith‘s 16-yard reception then pulled a defensive pass interference penalty three games later to extend Georgia Tech’s drive. To his credit, Ringo’s troubles didn’t last long as he took cover the rest of the way to help the Bulldogs overtake the Yellow Jackets 37-14.
“Honestly when things like this happen it’s just something I think about, yes it was a difficult thing that happened but the next game, honestly. I don’t want to let my feelings about this game affect my next game to possibly allow something like that to happen again,” Ringo said. “[It’s] just keep putting one foot in front of the other and I definitely feel like I can be successful after that. After that, man, I feel like those things get washed away. So it’s a good feeling.”
Georgia Tech actually led Georgia 7-3 during the drive where Ringo struggled, but to the Bulldogs’ credit, they didn’t let the Yellow Jackets get past Georgia’s 45-yard line before forcing a punt. That stop was immediately followed by the Bulldogs’ offense, which put together a six-play 80-yard drive that ended Stetson Bennett‘s 5-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint.
From then on, Georgia never fell behind Georgia Tech again.
The Bulldogs’ defense locked in as the game progressed and Ringo was certainly an important part of the equation. By the end of the game, Ringo had 5 tackles – the second highest for Georgia – and also had powerful 3-pass breakups. According to Pro Football Focus, Ringo rated Georgia the best in terms of coverage (he received a score of 85.6%), allowing just 3 receptions on 9 goals for a total of 23 yards.
Though Ringo had a moment or two he’d like to do again, Georgia is head coach Kirby Smart stated that this is natural in the position he plays.
“He’s made some good games and he’s had some tough games. He was often targeted. I need to go back and look at the PIs. I can’t really say,” Smart told Sideline, Bang Bang Games. You feel like in our league they would let them play and the PIs, pass interferences, were their best conversions. But he made some nice plays where he turned his shoulder back. He got a ball over on our sideline.
“He keeps working. He understands it’s tough playing on this island, folks. You get attacked a lot out there.”
Reflecting on Georgia’s approach after an up and down first half, Ringo said it was about moving on and understanding how the Yellow Jackets would try to attack the Bulldogs in the final 30 minutes of the game. Georgia was up to the challenge as Georgia Tech had just 1 yard offense in the third quarter and found the end zone only once in the second half of the game.
Ringo explained that the entire defense stays connected in difficult times and that the players take pride in dealing with adversity. Ringo did that on Saturday as he recovered from a couple of early errors and finished strongly in Georgia’s 12th and final regular-season win.
“No matter what happens, teams will be able to make a game against us. What can we do to answer this? And honestly, I feel like that’s a big part of what has made us successful,” Ringo said. “[We’ve got to] Just keep working on our tech, keep trusting each other and our connections out there, and just know that your teammate out there will do their job just as well.”