Georgia put together a dominant performance this evening, shutting down a normally high-powered Auburn offense and running the ball nearly at will to carve out a 34-7 victory.
There was a great deal of great news, but the bad simply can't be overlooked. Let's go ahead and get it out of the way. Todd Gurley went down during a fourth quarter run clutching his left knee. He was later seen gloomily sitting on a training table with ice on the knee and teammates coming over to console him. I pray that it is nothing serious, but that's a sequence that's never a good sign. He did walk into the locker room under his own power without much of a limp, which is a much more positive sign. If Gurley came back from his suspension only to suffer an injury that impacts his professional career I will probably be sick to my stomach.
In less serious bad news, as I write this Missouri is defeating Texas A&M 34-27 late in the fourth quarter, so that it appears that the best chance for Missouri to slip up and hand Georgia the SEC East may have gone untaken. Has any coach gone from hot commodity to "what are you doing with your time?" as quickly as Kevin Sumlin over the past five weeks? So now we find ourselves dependent on the likes of the Tennessee Volunteers and Arkansas Razorbacks to get us to Atlanta. It's shades of 2007, as one team after another derped the Vols into the title game while we watched helplessly, and likely missed a chance at a national title as a result. C'est la vie.
But there's too much good news tonight to dwell too long on the bad. As they did on the road against Arkansas, Georgia allowed a prolonged touchdown drive on the opposition's first possession then stonewalled them the remainder of the night. Auburn was held to 292 yards of total offense, easily their lowest total of the season (Kansas State limited the Plainsmen to 359 yards). The total was only a shade over half their season average. This Georgia defense tackled well, played within themselves, and blew very few assignments. They held Nick Marshall to 11 of 23 passing for a pedestrian 112 yards and held the SEC's leading rusher coming into the game, Cameron Artis-Payne, to only 86 yards. I would not have believed either of those was going to happen before kickoff, much less both of them.
In short, they looked like what we hoped a Jeremy Pruitt defense would eventually look like in Athens, though I don't know that it would have been reasonable to expect it this soon. And of course, there's still plenty of time for some more hi jinx like we saw down in Jacksonville. But again, for tonight, no one can rightfully complain that the Bulldog D didn't do its part.
Hutson Mason on the other hand was his usual efficient self, completing 10 of 19 for 123 yards, and could have had significantly more but for some truly horrendous first half drops. Todd Gurley posted 138 rushing yards before going down with that knee injury, Nick Chubb churned out 144, and looked like he could have kept going all night long if necessary. Chubb also led all Bulldog receivers with 2 catches for 48 yards, including a highlight reel fourth quarter screen pass which I spent the rest of the game attempting to get uploaded to this site, sadly to no avail.
Once again the Bulldog offense played keep away late, marshaling an 11 play 98 yard drive that began with just over 11:00 left in the fourth quarter and ate up 6:34, effectively ending the game. Auburn responded by pulling Nick Marshall and essentially conceding defeat, which had been knocking on the door and patiently waiting on the doorstep next to the fat lady since at least the middle of the third quarter. For the night they averaged 5.6 yards per rush, with the veteran offensive line mashing Auburn defenders and Quayvon Hicks and Taylor Maxey lining up in the I-formation (and a modified power-I look) and sealing off whatever was left. Georgia made no secret of what was coming and Auburn was powerless to stop it. If Vince Dooley has a DVR and knows how to work it he may rematch this all winter. Or, as a former Auburn Tiger, he may delete it immediately. I'd love to ask him which is the proper response to this kind of beating in this incestuous rivalry.
It was the sort of workmanlike effort that you would expect from a team looking to play for a conference title and perhaps much more. And while the "much more" is out the window and the conference title business is still a tenuous thing, it's always a good night to beat Auburn like they stole something. Because generally they have. Tonight Georgia evened the slate in the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry by thrashing those cheatin' so-and-so's from Opelika in impressive fashion, and that will always put a smile on my face. Until later . . .