I will be atypically brief, for two reasons.
First of all, all that really needs to be said about the Deep South’s oldest football rivalry generally and the 112th installment of that rivalry specifically essentially has been said in a pair of comment threads appearing here at Dawg Sports in recent days.
Secondly, my response to games of this nature is stark and uncomplicated, so little space is needed to articulate my postgame reactions and reflections.
To the tale of the tape, then: Georgia converted only three of eleven third down attempts, committed nine penalties for 95 yards, roughed the kicker and lost a fumble on opposite ends of the same play to turn a three-and-out that would have given the ‘Dawgs great starting field position into a one-play possession in which the Plainsmen went 52 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, muffed the center-quarterback exchange while attempting to run out the clock, had a 21-yard field goal attempt blocked, and only narrowly led one of the weakest offenses in the S.E.C. in first downs (20-19).
Auburn, on the other hand, converted seven of 17 third down attempts, racked up 303 yards of total offense, held the advantage in time of possession (30:49-29:11), and retook the lead with a little over eleven minutes remaining in a game the visitors were expected to win, perhaps handily.
In short, every criticism offered by every Georgia fan in the aftermath of this game is legitimate. I make no effort to rebut any of it.
My only response to the critics, who are myriad and whose points are valid, is this:
Although I foolishly predicted a double-digit victory, I ought to have known better. The last two series meetings notwithstanding, these are the kinds of games these teams play against one another.
The Tigers are our oldest rivals. Georgia has played Auburn more often and for a longer period than Georgia has played Georgia Tech. Auburn has played Georgia more often and for a longer period than Auburn has played Alabama. The cross-pollination between the two programs is so deeply ingrained that Auburn’s field is named for a two-time Bulldog all-American.
Low-scoring nailbiters are the rule rather than the exception. This is so not only of Georgia-Auburn games generally, but of this Tiger team specifically. The Plainsmen’s two S.E.C. wins were by final margins of 3-2 and 14-12. Their five S.E.C. losses have come by final margins of 26-21, 14-13, 25-22, 17-7, and, now, 17-13.
For the home team, this was a typical game against an S.E.C. opponent in 2008. These two rivals were tied at the end of 60 minutes of play ten times in their first 104 showdowns; Larry Munson looked at the sugar falling out of the sky after the ‘Dawgs won in Jordan-Hare Stadium by a 19-14 score; 70 X Takeoff lifted the Red and Black to an S.E.C. championship in a game that ended 24-21.
At the end of the day, 17-13 is business as usual. Heck, 17-13 was the final score between these two teams in 1974.
The only difference is, this time, Georgia won.
Georgia won because Matthew Stafford averaged 9.0 yards per pass, threw two touchdown strikes, and never threw an interception. Georgia won because Knowshon Rockwell Moreno carried the ball 22 times for 131 yards (6.0 yards per carry) and caught four passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. Georgia won because A.J. Green and Mohamed Massaquoi each caught five passes, including the true freshman’s second straight game-winner.
Georgia won because, when the Bulldogs had to score to win, they did. Georgia won because, when the Tigers had to score to win, they couldn’t.
There are huge problems that will need to be addressed during the open date. For now, though, the Red and Black just went on the road and did not play their best in a rivalry game, yet they won anyway.
I, for one, feel like a Bulldog on Saturday night after beating Auburn.