For once I actually find myself in a position to share some thoughts regarding the game that was in Athens. In no particular order, my musings are these:
Spencer Tillman said after the game from the comfort of the CBS studios that we can officially remove Mark Richt from the hotseat. Frankly, I thought that was the case after the Florida game. But it's safe to say now that Mark Richt not only has Georgia football headed in the right direction, but headed in the right direction on a jetpack-powered unicorn. Of course that progress is always subject to being reversed (say, with a poor performance against Georgia Tech or an unlikely loss to Kentucky). But there's not a fan in Bulldog Nation who can legitimately say that this team doesn't appear to be playing smarter, more aggressive football than at any time in recent memory. And it's a young team. A team that will by and large be back next season.
- Georgia won everything that needed winning. Really every statistical category that normally points to victory skewed in favor of the red and black, and it generally wasn't even close. About the best Auburn could point to was only losing the turnover battle 3 to 2.Third down efficiency wasn't even close (80% to 27%). Georgia amassed 304 rushing yards to Auburn's 51, most of which came after the game wasn't really in doubt. Perhaps worst of all was the time of possession disparity. Georgia had the ball for 40:55, Auburn for 19:05. That's not just unusual, it's it's nearly unheard of in this series.
- And that time of possession difference was not just academic. Gus Malzahn's offense likes to wear defenses down by running tons of plays and controlling the pace of the game. But it's pretty hard to wear a defense down when they spend less than 33% of the game on the field.
- About the only battle we lost was in the penalty column. Georgia was penalized 8 times for 60 yards, Auburn 3 times for 14. That's not a great number, but into every life a little rain must fall right?
On a related note, I told you last night about the phalanx of visiting recruits in the Classic City for tonight's game. I think it's safe to say that the day went about as well as we could have hoped. The atmosphere was great and the result was even better. Opposing recruiters have been busy over the last few months convincing recruits that Georgia was a program in decline and that our coaching staff wouldn't even be in Athens for long. Mark Richt looked like a lot of things tonight, but a guy who's about to be unemployed was not one of them. I'm assuming that after the game his pitch to the visiting recruits consisted solely of walking into the lockerroom, pointing back out at the field, and asking "Who wants them some of that right there?" Again, I don't know how many commitments we'll get in the near term. But for the long haul, Georgia opened some eyes tonight.
Auburn looked, for most of the second half, as if they'd had all they wanted for one night. I cannot begin to describe how much this pleases me. Seeing Auburn driven before us and hearing the lamentations of their women is pretty high on my list of ways to spend an evening. Seriously, a lot of those rushing yards came against an Auburn front 7 that collectively looked like they were ready to get back on the bus at halftime. In other words, when we hit them in the mouth they reacted in much the same way they did when LSU hit them in the mouth earlier this season. Which brings up a larger point . . .
Football is about physically imposing your will on the guy across the line from you. It's really that simple. While our offensive line doesn't have a lot of depth, they do have a lot of heart, and they played a whale of a game. Seriously, some of those holes were big enough for Early Cuyler to
run through slither through uh, whatever form squid locomotion takes. While a lot has been made of their collective size, perhaps too much, I was reminded of one of Bear Bryant's favorite maxims: "Fast guys get tired. Big guys don't shrink."
Clint Moseley never really had a chance. Auburn's offensive line did not have an answer for Jarvis Jones or Cornelius Washington from the first snap on. And while Cam Newton might have had the size/speed combo to take off when pressured like that, Moseley simply had to take it. As a result his feet got happier and happier as the night went on.
Aaron Murray however seized his chance. I've been very critical of Aaron's performance in big games so far in his career. Tonight it seemed that the lihgt came on. He could do no wrong, with the exception of not getting down to avoid a couple of unnecessary hits.He finished 14 of 18 for 224 yards, 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. It's virtually impossible to put up a better line than that from the QB position.
I'm not yet ready to say that Isaiah Crowell has turned the corner. But I feel better about saying that he's getting there. Those 2 fumbles were not good, but they were correctable errors. What I liked was that there were a couple of times when Crowell tried to tap himself out and the coaches kept him in. He responded with solid gains. He also came back strong after each fumble rather than moping around the sideline. Like it or not, Isaiah Crowell is likely our starting tailback for the foreseeable future. The sooner he grows into that role the better.
I'm starting to think Michael Bennett may leave Athens as the Georgia career leader in receptions. The kid just doesn't drop anything, and he catches the ball in traffic as well as anyone we've had since Reggie Brown. He's not going to take it to the house every time he touches it. But on 3rd and 8 defenses coordinators would be foolish not to be keying on him at this point. The kid's just a baller.
At one point in the proceedings Gary Danielson said something to the effect of "If Georgia makes it to the Georgia Dome, I think they're a match for anybody. And I mean anybody." I'm not so sure of that, but I don't think it's that far from the truth. This team is playing with a physical edge it hasn't had in years. They're gaining confidence every week. There may be teams that can beat them, but I don't know that there's anyone who'll intimidate them.
It's never a bad time to beat the unshirted hell out of Auburn. Ever. Because Auburn sucks. But tonight, it's great . . .to be . . .a Georgia Bulldog. Bring on Kentucky. Until later . . .