Georgia couldn't do much right for much of the first half. I actually abandoned the game...for about 2 minutes. Then, we relied upon our defense and some Isaiah McKenzie magic to beat Auburn in their house. Today, I couldn't feel better.
1. From the start, I want to address why my "Thoughts" have been sporadic of late. Honestly, these pieces are sometimes difficult to write - especially after defeat. Last week, despite the win over Kentucky, I sat down to write some thoughts, but the words simply could not flow. Once they did flow, they were dispassionately written and that is something this blog doesn't deserve. So, I quit. With the events in Paris and the general malaise around the program, I was not planning on writing anything this week, either. However, winning helps. Beating Auburn (I hate Auburn) is like Viagra for the soul. Or, at least a really strong multi-vitamin.
2. The first half of the game was nearly a disaster. It would have been a disaster had Reggie Davis' fumble on Auburn's ensuing kickoff at the 10:24 mark not been recovered by true freshman Kirby Choates. If Auburn gets up by 14 early (and Georgia had not allowed a first quarter touchdown all season as I recall), I do not think we recover. So in my mind, this non-fumble turned out to be one of the biggest plays (or non-plays if you're a WarTiglesMan) of the game. Give that Dawg a big 'ol bone!
3. I nearly lost all hope as we put together our most impressive first-half drive towards the end of 1st quarter and found ourselves, after a 9-yard burst from Sony Michel, sitting pretty on 2nd down and 1 yard from the Auburn 2-yard line. Two more idiotic runs into the middle of a stacked box later, Greyson Lambert short-arms a throw behind a breaking open Malcolm Mitchell on 4th down. What should have been a score on the only decent play call in the last 4 attempts was ultimately doomed to failure by a poor throw.
4. Speaking of Malcolm Mitchell: It's all moot now, but he was mugged twice on long sideline routes where Lambert actually threw a pretty good ball and the ref didn't or wouldn't throw a flag. Late in the game, Mitchell was called for a PI against the Auburn defender when the Tiger was grabbing Malcolm all the way. This league is a lot of things. At the top is the worst collection of officials in all the land. There weren't many penalties in the first half, but some pretty bad non-calls, too.
I saw nothing...
5. So, the Wild-Dawg. It certainly is an interesting concept, but don't we need to attempt a few throws out of this formation to fully maximize it? I like it, but running sweeps to Auburn's dominant side of the line - the left side - on 3rd and short for no gain or a loss was maddening. I've said this before: We've got skills position talent - except at quarterback - to make things go. Our offensive line is at times serviceable, and at others a liability.
6. We survived the 2nd quarter which has been the bane of our existence by only yielding 3 points as Auburn went 53 yards on 12 plays. Seven points before the half, given our offensive ineptitude, would still seem insurmountable. Holding the Tigers to 3 wasn't terrible. Georgia has done better in the 3rd quarter and, although it took a while and a huge break, Saturday was no exception. On our 3rd drive of the quarter, Georgia got a gift when Auburn's Johnathan Ford grabbed Terry Godwin's facemask on a play that not only resulted in a 5-yard loss and would've made for a long field goal attempt, but kept the drive alive where Isaiah McKenzie ultimately took a jet sweep around the left side for a desperately needed score. Tie game: 10-10.
7. Perhaps the turning point of the game can be attributed to Gus Malzahn's decision to replace Jeremy Johnson with an obviously hobbled Sean White for a good part of the 3rd and 4th quarter. With Johnson, Auburn had moved the ball at times. With White, Georgia pinned their ears back and put great pressure on this kid who had no business being out there in the first place. This led directly to several Auburn punts...
8. ...which Isaiah McKenzie was happy about. (Thanks, MaconDawg). And just like that, 53 yards later Georgia has the lead. And Gus keeps Sean White in the game. Brilliant!
9. On Auburn's next possession, Jordan Jenkins blows up Sean White from behind who fumbles, Aaron Davis recovers, we can't move the ball so settle for a Marshall Morgan 38 yard field goal (he was money today) to give us a 10 point cushion. I'm now out of beer and have resorted to drinking hot sake from a bottle that has been gathering dust for about 9 years now. And it tasted damn good!
10. Georgia going backwards after starting a drive in Auburn territory was reminiscent of the 2011 game against Tennessee in Knoxville when we ultimately were 3rd down and 60 something yards. This was close: Georgia was 3rd down and 41 from our own 25 yard line (the drive began at Auburn's 44). It's been said before, but another huge play in the game was Brendan Douglas' 20 yard run to get us out of our own end allow Brice Ramsey to flip the field, pinning Auburn back on their 7. A three and out later, they punt to iMac...and the rest is history!
10a. Sony Michel earned every bit of his 77 yards. These were tough, tough yards from a tough kid.
11. The defense is really coming together...and these guys are young. Early on, we had trouble containing anything that went towards the strong side of the field, but Jeremy Pruitt adjusted and his defense, in 8 quarters, has allowed Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee exactly 2 touchdowns. Not bad.
12. Malcolm Parrish's interception was a thing of beauty. Watching how physical our safeties are becoming is a joy to watch. As bad as our QB play was, Auburn's has been worse. White is going to get better. Johnson is simply not an SEC caliber signal caller.
13. Auburn used up a lifetime of luck in 2013. Ricardo Louis' fumble inside the Georgia 5 - when it appeared he might score - was a beautiful strip by Lorenzo Carter, who was very active all day. Watching Louis lose that ball purged some of the bad Ju-Ju from the Prayer at Jordan-Hare.
14. Malcolm Mitchell did the right thing on the onsides kick by curling up over the ball. We executed the coverage on that to perfection, but he could've taken that one to the house. Don't be greedy, Dave. (But, still...)
15. There is so much that is wrong with the 2015 iteration of the Georgia Bulldogs that can't be fixed with a real quarterback (coming) and some consistency on the offensive line. This team has issues from coaching to personnel. But beating Auburn, at least in this moment, is elixir of joy. So, enjoy this. It wasn't easy, but we won and now lead the all-time series 56-55-8.
- So, the specter of a 9-3 season now looms for some who want great changes. We might possibly win 10 games this season - and then what? There needs and will be some hard decisions at the end of the season, but Mark Richt ain't going anywhere and those of you who have made your disdain for CMR known need to reconcile this for now. I'm not telling you how to think, what to think or how to express it. Just use caution when posting about it because we all get it. What happens to the offensive brain-trust is anyone's guess at this point. My personal fear is nothing changes and the "give them another season to implement the plan" will be the plan.
- Today, the only thing that matters is beating Georgia Southern in Athens next Saturday night. They'll come in fired up with a chance to knock us off like they did Florida a few years ago and we'd better be ready. With our offensive issues, who knows how many points we will score? We'd better score one more than them...
- ...and beating a reeling Georgia Tech team in 2-weeks time. I don't give a rat's kerfluffle about anything beyond this; bowl matchups, whatever. Just win the next 2, and put what was turning out to be a joyless season to bed. Beating Auburn has changed things a bit. Beating Tech will change things a bit more.
- We are battling Auburn on many blue-chip recruits at the moment. Same as it ever was. Does this win really help? Guys like Kyle Davis, Derrick Brown and Mecole Hardman were all watching Georgia win this game. I hope they liked what they saw: A team that didn't quit, overcame adversity and will use their skill sets more effectively than the host team will once we get a certain QB on campus.
- Just one more point about the defense: They are improving week-to-week. Progression, not regression is a result of coaching. If we can somehow get our offense in sync next season, there just might be a reason for real hope in 2016 and beyond. I hope we have the courage to change what needs to be changed.
As Always, GO DAWGS!