You don’t walk out of Jordan-Hare Stadium with a victory over a top fifteen Auburn squad without some players stepping up. And while all ‘Dawgs are created equal, on any given Saturday, some prove themselves more equal to the task. They are the MVDs: Most Valuable ‘Dawgs. For this week those players are:
Offense: D’Andre Swift. 17 carries. 106 yards. And to the extent that Auburn ultimately ran out of time to come back, and to the extent that the defense was not gassed by the end, it was due to Georgia establishing a creditable running attack against the most physical rushing defense they’ll see all season. Swift’s performance was all the more impressive because he made a lot of those yards on his own, including a handful of plays where he made the first defender miss and turned 2nd and 12 into 2nd and 7.
Defense: Everyone, but only for three quarters. Through 3/4 of the game it appeared as if Auburn would not score on Georgia if you gave them eight quarters to do so. Then suddenly, Bo Nixs got hot and Bulldog fans got worried.
I still need to go back and rewatch, but Kirby said after the game that Georgia didn’t go with more zone on defense in the fourth. I’m not sure that’s true, even though I wasn’t charting it at the time. I do suspect that to the extent UGA was playing man late his players were trying to keep the ball in front of them, which is a good way to give up 12 yards a clip if the defense isn’t getting home to the QB.
With three minutes left in the game and a 21 point lead that’s not a huge problem. With twelve minutes left it’s not ideal. With an offense that’s likewise not going anywhere and watching the clock it’s courting disaster.
On the bright side, they showed good mental resilience to come back and get a stop to win the game. This defense is good enough to slow LSU down. Not stop them, mind you. But keep them within sight. But if (just if) Georgia were to build a 21-0 lead on the Bayou Bengals and Joe Burrow going into the fourth quarter I hope everyone on that side of the ball would realize exactly how unsafe that lead would be.
Also on the bright side:
Imagine Travon Walker. And Nolan Smith. And Nakobe Dean and Tyrique Stevenson....— Dawg Sports (@dawgsports) November 17, 2019
Now imagine they’re all true freshmen. pic.twitter.com/J4XNz69jYE
Special teams: Jake Camarda. I joked going into this one that Rodrigo Blankenship might kick seven field goals to lead Georgia to a 21-20 win. I was only slightly exaggerating.
But in the end it was Jake Camarda who avoided mistakes and was perhaps the MVP of the whole darn game.
It’s rare that the punter needs an ice bath after the game. But Camarda’s gonna be sore. The sophomore punted eleven times for a 50.8 yard average, with a long of 67 yards. His first three punts (and four overall) were all downed inside the Auburn 20. Eight of the eleven were downed inside the 30. With a defense like Georgia’s, you’re not going to give up a ton of points if you make the opposing offense go 70 yards on every possession. Honestly, a shank on any of those punts could have given the WarPlainsTigerGeneralStudiesMaJors the yardage needed to make that Bo Nix rushing touchdown the tying score.
The other thing Camarda did was avoid mishandling any snaps. Auburn didn’t come after him a lot, be he and snapper Steven Nixon deserve credit for taking care of business and not making a momentum-flipping mistake despite eleven opportunities to do so. Sometimes the most important thing one can do is simply to do one’s job. This was one of those days for the Bulldog special teamers.