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You're (Not) On Notice, Dawg! Week 13

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In the words of the immortal Erk Russell, "There ain't nothing like being a Bulldog on Saturday night ---- after winning a football game!"

UGA Sports Communications

My cup is overflowing today, Dawg fans. Rarely has such a great win been tempered by such horrible feelings of bittersweet melancholy. I seriously considered doing a regular "On Notice" article this week, but after thinking about it for a while, I decided I just couldn't ignore the magnificent effort put up by every single Georgia Bulldogs player and coach on the field Saturday night, as well as the effort put out by all of the fans wearing red and black in the stands.  We've got the I-AA Charleston Southern Carolina University Pirates (or something, I don't know) coming into town this week, so I'm fairly confident I'll be able to carry over a lot of my beefs for this week into next week's article.  And oh yes, I have almost a full list already compiled.

But we can't lose sight of the achievement we just witnessed.  We took down a team that, two weeks ago, had been ranked #3 in the country.  And we smacked the hell out of them.  I think last night we officially coined the term #DeepSouth'sOldestBeatdown on twitter, and Imma just enjoy that one for a little bit.  So, I'm letting the following people, places, and things know that, for Week 13, You're (Not) On Notice, Dawg!

In no particular order:

on_notice_20141116

1) Todd Gurley - (Expletive deleted). Life is just unfair. There's just no gorram justice in this world. After watching the NCAA strip away a third of what is, effectively, Todd Gurley's senior season, and one in which he was the Heisman Trophy favorite, Gurley comes back against Auburn, only to suffer what has now been confirmed to be a torn ACL at the end of our best win of the year.

Sometimes I hate the damn universe and the way it works. This is one of those times. And yes, I blame the NCAA for this, because just like I warned about last week, Todd Gurley simply wasn't in the same "game shape" that Nick Chubb was. He was still powerful and fast, but he just didn't have the same vision and quick-maneuvering form that Chubb had all night.

I can't help but wonder aloud if Gurley saw that he was having a worse day than Chubb and tried to push a little harder and get a little more, especially near the end of the game as we were trying to ice the thing, and that "extra effort" combined with the cold weather and lack of game conditioning were significant contributing factors in his season-ending knee injury.

I just hate life sometimes. This isn't a pyrrhic victory, necessarily, but it is definitely a bittersweet one. I'm going to choose to remember the good stuff, though.  With his 138 yards rushing and 1 TD, Todd Gurley will leave Athens with the second-most rushing touchdowns of any player in Georgia history (behind only you-know-who).  And he'll be a Damn Good Dawg forever.

Best of luck in the NFL, Todd. I'm gonna miss you on the sidelines in Athens, and I'll always be thinking about what might have been if the NCAA's head weren't so firmly wedged up its rear end in 2014.

2) The overall series record in the Deep South's Oldest Beatdown Rivalry - There's no circumspect way to say it, but Auburn has held the overall lead in this series rivalry for the last quarter of a century.  The Dawgs haven't had the overall series lead in this rivalry since Vince Dooley was roaming the sidelines in Athens. We had a chance to flip the record last year, but Nick Marshall stole another valuable item from his former Red and Black teammates on the plains in 2013.  But now, after this game, the series is once again level at a 55-55-8 all time record. When the 2015 game rolls around in Jordan-Hare Stadium, the Classic City Canines will have the opportunity to take the lead in this 123-year-old series for the first time since the glory days in the '80's. Nobody knows how that season will go... but Mark Richt has taken 7 out of the last 9 games in this series, so I like where this trend is heading.

3) Hutson Mason - Mason has just continued to get better and better, starting really with the Arkansas game. I'm incredibly proud of the progress he's made and the determination he's shown. And on Saturday, his own receivers let him down early in the game.  Hutson actually threw a few bombs early in this game, and almost all of them were right on target... most were precisely so. And the WR's just kept somehow dropping them.  Was it the cold night numbing up some fingers or something?  Shoot, I don't know, but Mason was making the throws.

By my count, I only saw two passes that were bad decisions, and one of them absolutely should have been intercepted, but was graciously dropped by the Tigleman defender. Overall, though, Hutson Mason has developed into exactly what we want him to be:  a quarterback who is great at handing off the ball to our bread and butter running back, but who can also keep the defense honest by launching a few over their heads.  He's had a very good senior campaign, and he needs to keep it up for at least 3 more games.

4) Amarlo Herrera - Man, the senior linebacker couldn't have picked a better day to have what was probably his best game of the season. He's frequently cited by the players and coaches as one of the most vocal senior leaders on defense, but for whatever reason you just haven't heard his name being called too much by the announcers during games.  (Which is kind of odd, too, since he's our team leader in tackles and TFL's on the year.) But he had a huge night on Saturday, and his big plays stuffing Cameron Artis-Payne or Nick Marshall were a significant contributing factor to the way that we absolutely shut down their offense for pretty much the entire game.

Take a bow, Amarlo.  You've earned it.

5) Everybody else on the defense.  All of 'em.  Ever-dang-body. - Our defense has been much maligned through much of this season.  And to be fair, much of the criticism lobbed their way (including by myself) was fairly earned.  They absolutely showed up big-time, though, in 3 of the last 4 games that we've played.  They shut down a strong Arkansas offensive attack, pounded Kentucky into oblivion, and last night they held Auburn to less than 20 points for the first time under Gus Malzahn. Prior to this past game, Auburn had averaged 286 yards of rushing per game in 2014.  Last night, they got 150 yards.  That's an incredible stat for a team that rushes the ball more than anybody we have played or will play this year without the words "Tech" in their name.

And you know what?  Without trying to count my chickens before they're hatched, it makes me feel a lot more confident about the Tech game, too.  Our defensive backfield has been making strong strides, and if we can slow down a dedicated rush attack like Auburn's... it just might be a good day two weeks hence between the hedges.

(Yeah, I'm anti-Munsoning pretty strongly here.  So sue me. I'm sure I'll be back to my normal self next week.)

6) Jeremy Pruitt - The honeymoon for Coach Pruitt didn't last too terribly long this season... not much past the debacle in the "bad Columbia," really... but give him this:  he has coached up the players he has this year and has molded them into a very solid defense.  Also, he apparently totally has Auburn's number, which makes me smile even a little bit wider.

On top of that, Coach Pruitt is set to bring in a stud-lined recruiting class in 2015, and already has some strong commits lined up for 2016.  Our defense might be getting better this year, but the future definitely looks to be even brighter for the new bald man on the Georgia sidelines.

7) Our team's response to adversity - At one point late in last night's game, I tweeted out a reactionary tweet saying that Auburn was, basically, just DERP'ing the game away to us at every opportunity.  And there's no denying that Auburn clearly made mistakes that hurt them significantly last night. But on my DVR'd re-watch of the game today, I  realized that UGA really faced a significant amount of adversity, too... especially early in the game.

Isaiah McKenzie dropped a touchdown pass from Hutson Mason in the 1st quarter that literally landed softly right in the crook of his arms. Shortly thereafter, Jay Rome was unable to catch a Mason heater across the middle that hit him directly in his outstretched hands. Even Chris Conley, normally one of our most sure-handed receivers, improbably dropped a fade pass in the endzone that glided right into his hands.

And our adversity wasn't just limited to improbably-dropped passes. Todd Gurley's 106-yard kick return TD in the 1st quarter was called back on a very light holding penalty. (I mean, it was obviously holding, but no more so than one can call on virtually every play from scrimmage in every game.  And it didn't give Gurley an appreciable advantage, in my opinion.  He was already running past the guy when the hold happened.) Also, punter Adam Erickson tossed an incredible wide-open pass on the fake punt that went down to the 3 yard line, but it was called back on a just-flat-out-wrong penalty for ineligible receiver downfield on Brandon Kublanow (who seems to be every SEC ref's favorite whipping boy for incorrect penalties).

But hey... the Dawgs stood up and took it. The defense bailed stood up strong and stopped Auburn's offense and the Georgia offense finally got on track.  They didn't let the adversity get them down.  They stayed determined, stayed focused, and just got the dang job done.

And though Auburn had turnovers while we had none, they also made other mistakes that gave us opportunities at critical times. For example, the roughing the kicker penalty that extended our drive in the 2nd quarter, and which resulted in a field goal. Also, Auburn didn't have the monopoly on incredibly inconvenient penalties/mistakes, mind you. Those penalties in the 1st quarter could have easily cost us some critical momentum if Auburn had capitalized. Nick Chubb had a long run called back due to a holding penalty in the second quarter. Also, Chubb's highlight-reel TD run in the 3rd quarter was reduced to a drive ending in a field goal when he inadvertently stepped out of bounds while making the huge play.

Players on both teams made mistakes at key times on this day. The difference was that Georgia capitalized on Auburn's mistakes, while the Tiglesmen failed to capitalize on the Bulldogs' mistakes. That statistic is frequently a telling one in a big game like this... and definitely factored into the equation on Saturday night.  The Dawgs didn't get down when the bounces went against them.  They just kept chuggin' along, going at it with all they had.  And they finished the drill.

8) The Georgia fans (at least, the ones that didn't sell their tickets to Auburn fans) - Before and during the game several UGA folks were tweeting out messages about the startling number of Auburn fans sitting in the UGA fan sections, and I can verify this story.  There are frequently a couple of opposing fans sitting here or there in the general section where I sit, but on Saturday night, there were at least 8-10 Auburn fans sitting just within earshot of my seat, which was absolutely insane.  One of the bastards even had the unmitigated gall to order a Georgia fan near me to sit down so he could see the field during one of Auburn's possessions early in the game. (The Auburn fan was sitting down at the time.) What a tool.  No, sir, when you sit in a section full of Georgia fans at Sanford Stadium, they're going to be standing up and cheering against your #AllIn #Blessed #Don'tKnowOurOwnMascot angels when they have the ball. If you don't like it, then buy yourself a damn ticket in the section where your own fans are sitting.  This is the damn SEC, man.  It ain't Michigan.  (/jingles keys stoically while sitting down in a snowstorm)

But enough about that.  The Georgia fans that were in attendance were numerous, and were raucous all night.I'm not going to lie and say it was at the level of the 2007 Auburn blackout... but that's just splitting hairs. That's kind of like saying Isaiah McKenzie's opening kickoff touchdown against Kentucky was awesome, but it wasn't as awesome as Todd Gurley's kickoff return touchdown against Clemson. They were both friggin' awesome, and so was the crowd last night.

You could tell in the build-up during the day that the crowd was getting hyped up. And I was personally very excited that the blackout had apparently caught on, after all, as I saw more more fans during the day wearing black instead of their customary red.  Let me share a few of my Twitter anecdotes:

And I don't condone public littering, but this is always a sign that the fans are getting ready to, as the damn kids nowadays say, "get turnt."

And then, during the normally-unified-in-Dawg-love Dawg Walk:

And then, even during pregame warmups, the atmosphere in the stands... well, it made me think this:

And it didn't let up all night.  Even when we iced the game at 34-7, almost nobody left the game early.  Everybody knew that we had something special happening in Sanford Stadium last night, and the vast majority of the (non-Auburn) crowd stuck around until the clock read 0:00.  It was awesome, and the fans made it an awesome experience.

Congratulations, Georgia fans.  Y'all proved once again that y'all know how to turn up and make playing between the hedges one of the best experiences in a player's (and even a fan's) life.  I'm not going to delude myself into thinking it will be like that for every game, and certainly not for the next game against Eastern Charleston Southern Carolina University (or whomever), but it was, as the tweet says, "nucking futs" on this night.  It was wonderful.  Job well done.

That's all I have for this week, Dawg fans.  We might have gotten some terrible news today, and I imagine we'll have more about Todd Gurley in the days to come, but after beating the hell outta Auburn, it's a great day to be a Georgia Bulldog!

Go Dawgs!