45-7 – All I can say is wow. Georgia made the defending national champion Auburn Tigers look like a tasty cupcake. Last night I thought about the last time the Dawgs looked as dominant against a quality opponent as they did yesterday afternoon between the hedges. I kept coming back to the 2004 win over the defending national champions, the Nick Saban-coached LSU Tigers. Yes, this Auburn team is missing its quarterback-for-hire, $cam Newton, Nick Fairley, and 4 members of the last year’s offensive line, but the total performance Georgia put together yesterday was a beautiful sight. Let’s get to the rundown.
What Went Well
In a game where a team wins big over a quality opponent, this list could go on for a while, but I’ll pick 3.
Offensive Line Play – To score 45 points and put up 500+ yards of offense without really trying to score in the second half has to have good offensive line play. While the Tigers got some pressure, the pass blocking was superb giving Aaron Murray time to make the back shoulder downfield throws that require a lot of time to develop. In the second half, when Richt and Bobo were trying to run clock, the offensive line just broke the will of the Auburn defense as Isaiah Crowell and Carlton Thomas both easily clear the 100-yard barrier. This game was certainly the best game the offensive line played since Blackout 2007.
Defensive Effort – I can’t pick a portion of the defense to call out for its play yesterday. Bill Shanks wrote this morning that Erk Russell is smiling right now with the defensive performance against the Tigers. After the first possession, the Georgia defense just smothered Gus Malzahn’s spread attack by matching speed for speed and creating havoc up front. The defensive line led by Abry Jones manhandled the Auburn offensive line and changed the line of scrimmage throughout the game. The linebackers led by Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree controlled Michael Dyer and Onterrio McCalebb without committing safeties to the running game. The secondary led by Bacarri Rambo and Brandon Boykin sat on the short to medium passing game. This game was the best defensive effort since the Brian Van Gorder days and probably goes all the way back to the 2003 season-opening shutout of Clemson at Death Valley.
Kick-off Coverage – Everyone knows we have struggled in kick coverage this year. Quintavious Harrow’s hit on the second Auburn kick-off electrified the crowd and the Georgia sideline. I think we can now say Richt didn’t offer Harrow out of desperation to close the deal to get Crowell’s signature. Bogatay and Walsh both kicked the ball high and deep and caused either touchbacks or good coverage.
It’s hard to find something wrong after beating your oldest rival by the largest margin in 65 years.
Fumbles – Isaiah Crowell ran hard inside and outside like an SEC tailback throughout the game. The two fumbles were coachable but were caused by an outstanding talent trying to make a play. The first was careless because Isaiah was looking upfield for a big hole before securing the hand-off. The second was a learning experience because sometimes the other guy makes a play, and you have to live to fight another day instead of trying to make a play that’s not there.
Deep Passing – Auburn hit us down the field on two pass plays. One was caused by a safety biting on a play fake and allowing the receiver to run past him. The other was a perfect throw into pretty good coverage. Yes, I know I’m being nitpicky with this.
Punt Coverage and Return – We only punted once, but Drew Butler shanked it. If Auburn scores on that possession, we have a completely different game in the second half with the Tigers’ receiving the 2nd half kick-off. It seems he has not been the same since the blocked punt at Vanderbilt. We are now so concerned about fake punts that we’re playing safe on every punt now. We need to find a balance between the two, so our best athletes (the Fabulous Brandon/Branden Boys) can make a play.
This game was gratifying across the board. This team is playing as well as anybody in the country right now. When this offense is clicking, they are as potent as the Oklahoma schools in a conference that prides itself on defense. This defense is the third best in the conference and may be the third best in the country. We are one win away from securing a return to the Georgia Dome to play for the real prize, the SEC championship.
Offense – A+. 45 points, over 300 yards rushing, and 220 yards passing has to be absolutely scary for anyone left on our schedule to deal with. Auburn came out to stop the run, and Murray and his receivers carved up the Auburn defense. We then ran the ball with power and authority. Welcome back, Georgia toss sweep!
Defense – A+. Gus Malzahn’s offense generates yards and points. To hold them under 200 yards of total offense and 7 points was unbelievable. 5 more sacks and constant pressure never gave the Tiger offense a chance. Brandon Boykin’s hit on McCalebb epitomized the physical play of the Georgia defense.
Coaching – A+. Total effort and focus for 60 minutes. No stupid penalties. No special teams’ breakdowns. Outstanding game plans by Grantham and Bobo. Coach Richt never took his foot off the gas and was intent on breaking Auburn’s will. Coaching staff, excellent job!
Look Ahead to Next Week
We should handle the Wildcats easily on Senior Day between the hedges on Saturday. Their fans are now focused on whether they can break the Tennessee hex and, more importantly, basketball season. Vanderbilt hammered them in Nashville yesterday. If we come out ready to play, we should be able to name the final score and celebrate our first SEC Eastern division championship in 6 years.
An early start typically means a late-arriving crowd at Sanford Stadium. Bulldog Nation, let’s not allow that to happen. Get to the Dawgwalk. Be in your seats to honor the seniors. Be the home-field advantage we were yesterday. Stay late to celebrate what we hope to be a division championship. It will be great to be a Bulldog on Saturday night!
Those are my thoughts, and I would like to read yours in the comments.