As great as our defense played on Saturday in a stunning victory over the hated Auburn Tigers, the offense - and the offensive line - manned up in a big, big way when they absolutely had to. It feels great typing that.
1. Was our offensive line perfect? No, not perfect. But when this game was on the line in the 4th quarter and we needed to burn clock, was there anything more beautiful to see than our guys getting physical and actually grinding down the best defensive line that we’ve played to date? We were absolutely manning up and beating down a much bigger and athletically gifted group. It wasn’t spectacular, but it didn’t need to be. It was game-winning.
2. Georgia’s penultimate drive consumed nearly 7:00 minutes of precious time did not result in the touchdown that would have iced the game. The 21-yard field goal by Hot Rod Blankenship (with a great job by holder Jacob Eason on a low snap) ensured that Auburn would have to score a touchdown, and given their inability to even generate a first down at all up to that point in the 2nd half, it would prove to be enough. How refreshing is it to praise this much maligned group? I thought they played as well as they could possibly have for the majority of the game.
3. There was a point immediately after Auburn scored their lone touchdown just before the end of the first quarter when I really thought this game would be lost. Auburn proceeded to sweep left and right down the field for an 80-yard touchdown drive and we seemed unable to counter with anything defensively at that moment. This came on the heels of Terry Godwin’s inexplicable interception on 1st-and-10 out of a wildcat formation after we were set up on Auburn’s 15 yard line. Jacob Eason had hit Riley Ridley on a 57-yard strike to set all of this up. On Georgia’s next possession, after moving the ball to Auburn’s 48 yard line, the spectre of horrible SEC officiating again reared its ugly head as Eason lofted another perfect pass that I’m convinced Riley Ridley either grabs inside the Tiger’s 10 yard line, or scores outright, but was clearly interfered with. No call, another punt...and Auburn seemingly had all the momentum right then...right there. To keep them off the scoreboard not only on their next possession...but for the rest of the half was massive. Sanford Stadium, immediately after the non-call, seemed eerily quiet as if the collective were bracing for some sort of inevitable outcome (at least that was my feeling from watching TV).
The rest of the half resulted in no more points for either side, but by shutting down Auburn from here on out was the turning point. If the Tigers score anymore points, I think we lose this game.
4. Auburn’s last drive of the day that was longer than 4 plays (until they had to go for it on 4th down at the end of the game) occurred with 8:57 left before halftime - a 7 play possession. That’s incredible. Auburn essentially was 3-n-out for the next 39 minutes of football. They only amassed 164 yards of total offense...not even accumulating 40 in the 2nd half. Pinch me.
5. Sweet Auburn tears are sweet. The blogs and Tweets emanating from The Plains (in large part) have a common post-game
whine theme: Well, we were too banged up, our QB’s arm is only made of soft tissue and marshmallow; our best running back was out, blah blah blah. Auburn, these injuries did not happen in-game. You had an entire week to prepare and implement a plan. Why you got away from what was working is on the coach(es). Give Mel Tucker some Erk Russell type love here: His adjustments were outstanding. I loved the corner/safety blitz packages, the stunting linebackers and hustle on defense all day long, for example:
6. Nick Chubb is looking more and more like his “old self.” Both he and Sony ran hard and maximized every ounce of space they were afforded. The little misdirection pitch to the left side came up big all 3 times (by my count) that we ran it. Sony got hit below the belt in the 4th quarter, but shook it off and got back in there. I love these guys. They give it everything they have, game in and game out. Nick got his 100 (101) yards on 23 tough carries; Sony rambled for 55 on 10 attempts. We ran the ball when we had to.
7. Ever see that horrible 1984 film “Gremlins?” You know, the one about those cute little furry critters that, when they get wet, multiply into these horrible face-eating chupacabra-looking things? I’m beginning to think that Penn Wagers is a gremlin who got wet (rumor has it he actually showers) and because of this his spawn has infested the SEC officiating ranks with gremlin-like clones. It wasn’t the blatant late-hit on Sony Michel 7 damn yards out of bounds that got me, or the phantom holding call on Tyler Catalina (who played his best game of his Dawggly career last night) that nullified a long Eason-to-Javon Wims pass on Georgia’s first possession (the same one where Sony got nailed out of bounds). It was...it was...well, MaconDawg has this one pretty much summed up. The only way to cope with this is to expect that it will happen, accept it, and move on. At least until the Conference actually does something about it. Fat chance.
8. Sometimes, deferring to the 2nd half is not the best move. For the last 5 minutes leading up to half-time, Gary Danielson reminded us that Auburn was getting the ball to start the 3rd quarter. I think he was trying to make a point the way only Gary can do. Well, they got the ball back and their possession lasted exactly :23 seconds. I don’t know why Brett Lashlee called 3 consecutive passing plays (unless it was Gus that overrode him - and some are suggesting he took over playcalling last night), but I really want to thank you, sirrah!. So does Mo Smith.
9. Our interior defensive line is evolving quicker than a strain of a new superbug. Trenton Thompson is leading a group of freshman big men that are really beginning to click. We just have to add depth, but I cannot recall a more promising group of run-stuffers than we have at this moment.
10. Natrez Patrick was held out last night. Roquan Smith had another excellent game and is a revelation in pass coverage. Reggie Carter did a great job stepping in. Johnny O’Neal made some plays as well. Overall, the linebackers performed well with Davin Bellamy stepping it up big time as the Mel Tucker adjustments were executed perfectly.
11. No one is playing more freshman at the moment than Georgia, amirite? They’re all making plays, too. I hope the horde of deep-blue chip recruits that were in attendance were taking note. There is still much opportunity.
12. Isaiah McKenzie got a single opportunity to return a punt, and his 20 yard nearly broke for more. Rodrigo Blankenship deserves a full-ride and is becoming dependable in all phases of what he does. He barely missed a career-long 49 yard attempt (affected by a Greg Pyke false start penalty that pushed it back 5 more yards), but his accuracy is excellent and his kickoffs are consistently traveling deep enough for touch backs. A bit more leg strength and he’ll make that 49 (or longer) kick. His technique is solid.
13. This is the kind of victory that builds momentum. This feels so much like 2006 all over again. Great things happened in 2007. The optimist in me (yes, card carrying) sees what is unfolding is more sustainable. Georgia has a very good shot at finishing out the regular season at 8-4 - about what I expected but would never admit to myself. Either way, we are bowl eligible and since whatever that bowl is will be a glorified scrimmage, more playing opportunity for some guys will be realized.
14. Beating Auburn last night by a 13-7 score at home gives this old coot a feeling of revenge that is 33 years in the making. Yeah, I realize we’ve whipped Auburn 9 out of the last 11 seasons to take a 2-game lead in the all-time series of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. But in 1983, Auburn beat us in a similarly played game at home by a 13-7 score. It denied Georgia a chance to repeat as the SEC champions for the 4 consecutive year. That was as bitter a loss in my memory as I’ve ever experienced. Last night, we effectively dashed all hope for Auburn making a playoff run. This is great for us, our momentum, recruiting and America.
15. What a night of upsets. Clemson goes down and loses to a kicker named Blewitt. He didn’t. Clemson has been living dangerously for weeks now and it caught up with them. Michigan goes down and Jim Harbaugh’s hemorrhoids have never been more fiery. In my favorite of the evening, Washington got whipped by USC. Why am I picking on Washington? Simple: There’s only 1 college football team in America that can be referred to as Dawgs...and you ain’t it.
Last night was a big, big night. Hopefully, this will quell some of the Kirby Smart detractors for now. We’ve still got to take care of business against UL-Lafayette (a team that has some talent) next week and Georgia “Jekyll and Hyde” Tech in a few more. However, 8-4 is a real possibility with a 5-game win streak to close things out on a most tumultuous season. It’s always darkest before the dawn, and in my heart of hearts I believe the turmoil and transition of the last 2+ seasons - although not completely behind us - is beginning to become more and more distant in the rear-view.