After raising questions about which Georgia Bulldog offense would show up tonight, the Red and Black decided to put those questions to bed early. Kirby Smart’s crew built a 24-0 lead by the late second quarter and were never seriously challenged as they cruised to a 27-6 victory.
Much of the damage was done where Georgia has done its damage for most of Smart’s tenure: on the ground behind a bruising offensive line. Georgia churned out 202 yards on the ground, led by Zamir White’s 88 yards on 19 carries. James Cook added 41 yards of his own, including 16 on the last snap he played all night.
Cook left with an apparent right shoulder injury we’ll await word on. But the remaining Bulldog backs filled in admirably. Kendall Milton, Kenny McIntosh, and Daijun Edwards all got at least 6 carries down the stretch as Todd Monken chose to punish a Plainsman defense that spent over 34 minutes on the field. Imagine getting pounded on for three and a half quarters by White, Cook, and McIntosh, only to be rewarded with 225 pound Kendall Milton bouncing fresh-legged onto the field to prove what he can do. Sometimes, especially when you’re Auburn, life just ain’t fair.
And while the ground game was excellent, the passing game was perhaps more surprising. For much of the game it appeared that Monken did not intend to give first time starter Stetson Bennett a chance to lose it. But ultimately the Mailman delivered. Bennett finished 17 of 28 for 240 yards and a touchdown pass with no turnovers. In some respects Bennett reminds me a little of Hutson Mason, a guy who doesn’t have the strongest arm but takes care of the ball and doesn’t often try to do too much. While Mason had some good skill players around him, Bennett is surrounded by a stellar cast of offensive talent.
That includes wide receiver Kearis Jackson, who broke the career receiving yard record he set last week during the first half of this week’s game. Jackson once again led the ‘Dawgs in catches and yards, reeling in 9 passes for 147 yards.
And then there was the defense. It’s become so predictable for the Bulldog defense to perform beautifully that one can almost become desensitized to it. But on this night it was truly a thing of beauty.
Dan Lanning’s unit harassed Auburn QB Bo Nix from the get-go, and the Tigers never really attempted to establish a credible running threat. I said on Thursday that if Georgia pressured Nix 7 times and sacked him 3 times it would be hard to lose. In fact by my preliminary count Georgia tallied 3 sacks and 8 QB pressures. While they did allow Nix to escape and make positive yardage on some of those pressures, it was still a bravura performance.
Coming in Auburn receiver Seth Williams was supposed to be a challenge for the UGA secondary. He finished with 3 catches for 34 yards, spending much of the night locked in hand-to-hand combat with Tyson Campbell, who played perhaps his best game in red and black. Instead Auburn’s leading receiver was freshman tailback Tank Bigsby, who had 76 yards reviving thanks to a handful of harried throws from Nix that appeared to be motivated by pure terror at the onrushing UGA defense.
In total the Plainsmen amassed on 216 yards of offense to Georgia’s 442. The 39 yards on the ground was the lowest total by an Auburn offense since 1788. That’s probably not correct, but it feels that way.
How would I sum up this night? Like this:
There’s just nothing like beating the illiteracy out of Auburn. Doing it 13 of the last 16 times the ‘Dawgs and Tigers have squared off is the most dominant streak in the rivalry’s long history. On this night in particular, it remains great to be a Georgia Bulldog. Until later...