Observations from the goal line: Auburn-Georgia

Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Once again, Aaron Murray can’t win the big game.  If only he played defensive back, too.

Seriously, as crazy as the game was, in the end it was a neat encapsulation of everything that’s gone on, good and bad, with this year’s Georgia team.  You can say that these Dawgs have played four top ten teams and come excruciatingly close to beating all four.  But the reality is that this team has never been able to shake the flaws that made all four of those games close (and contributed mightily to the Missouri and Vanderbilt losses).

There is one other thing to take away from what happened yesterday.  “They never quit” is a clichéd saying, but I’m at a loss to describe what happened in the fourth quarter – after playing some truly wretched ball, mind you – in any other way.  And that’s what makes the loss the most painful of the season.  About the only thing good I can say about it is that at least it didn’t happen to a Georgia team whose SECCG chances weren’t on life support.  Poor consolation, I know.

On to the bullet points:

  • It seems like we got the very best and very worst of Mike Bobo yesterday.  Ellis Johnson came out of the gate with the goal of shutting down Todd Gurley and the running game and Bobo’s playcalling in the first quarter played right into that.  With the defense struggling from the get-go, it didn’t help and the Dawgs found themselves in a deep hole at halftime.  But the second half playcalling was virtually flawless, Johnson proved to have no answer for what Bobo was throwing at him and the Dawgs found themselves on the good end of a 38-37 score.  And even the desperation drive after Auburn retook the lead was more effective than I expected, given the circumstances.
  • At this point, it’s impossible to be critical of Aaron Murray.  Given what he had to work with yesterday – an inconsistent offensive line, limited options at receiver (no deep threat and Conley was clearly at less than 100%) and the absence of a running game due both to Johnson’s strategy and the deficit Georgia faced most of the game – he did an incredible job lifting the team on his back as he’s done so many times this season and almost succeeded.  I’m not sure we’ll ever see a Georgia quarterback play at a higher level than what we saw out of him during that 21-point fourth quarter run that got his team the lead for the only time in the game.
  • Given what Auburn was doing on defense, it’s easy to overlook Gurley’s game.  He couldn’t run much until Georgia’s reliance on the pass finally dropped Auburn out of run blitzing, but he still wound up getting key yards late.  He was also a very effective receiver on checkdown plays.  And he’s very much improved picking up blitzes when he’s asked to stay in and block on pass plays.
  • There is something legitimately thrilling about watching Georgia’s offense get on a roll and realizing that the opposing defense has no answer for Murray and Gurley.
  • The receiving corps had a couple of glitches – Rumph turned the wrong way on one throw and it looked like Bennett never saw the ball on Murray’s interception – but by and large turned in a very good game.  Conley, as I mentioned, wasn’t at full strength, but had a couple of catches and threw a helluva block on a screen pass to Gurley.  Lynch, Wooten and Bennett were solid.  Rumph had the best catch of the day, but was unfortunately out of bounds when he pulled it in.
  • It’s amazing that teams have yet to figure out that you can’t bring Brendan Douglas down around the shoulders.
  • Offensive line struggles continued.  The line couldn’t handle Auburn’s run blitzing, Theus was abused with speed rushes early and there were a slew of false start penalties.
  • The good news is that special teams didn’t cost the Dawgs many points this week.  But with a couple of exceptions, there wasn’t much to get excited about either.  Barber was mediocre at best.  Morgan hit his field goal attempt, but failed to put a single kickoff in the end zone (every Auburn kickoff resulted in a touchback).  There was a blocked field goal, but there was also a bizarre penalty on a punt – a Georgia specialty this season – that kept a scoring drive alive.  It’s fair to note that Georgia’s coverage units played well against an Auburn return game that absolutely torched Tennessee the week before.
  • Admittedly the defense didn’t get much help from their offensive mates in the first half in terms of staying off the field, but it’s not like the defense brought much to the table, either.  Edge defense was as bad as I feared – that jet sweep is the new wheel route – the DBs struggled to keep up with an Auburn receiving corps on deep throws and even the defensive line wasn’t as good as it had been over recent weeks.  Shoddy tackling was the biggest problem on the day.  I still can’t figure out how Drew didn’t wrap up Marshall on that one play where the quarterback finally broke away for another fifteen or so yards.  They did step up their play in the second half when the offense finally got untracked and the team got its energy level back, but in the end it was too little, too late.
  • I will say Swann got burned a couple of times, but turned in a good game overall, with some key pass break ups.  Matthews was solid (and was in position to shut down Auburn’s last play on offense).  Wiggins will become a better defender with more upper body strength, but he’s got a ways to go until then.  He does have great instincts, though.  It’s a shame he couldn’t convert that play he made on Auburn’s last fateful scoring drive into an interception.
  • That was the finest game of Ramik Wilson’s career, and no, I’m not damning him with faint praise.  He may have been the only player who I didn’t see miss a tackle.  Plus, the huge sack of Marshall that should have been the defensive play of the game.
  • I keep thinking Todd Grantham will learn that three-man rushes on fourth-and-long aren’t his kids’ strong suit.  He keeps proving me wrong.
  • If anything, Penn Wagers actually exceeded my expectations.
  • Which probably explains why I’ve never seen a more animated Mark Richt on Georgia’s sideline.
  • I still can’t believe Auburn scored the winning touchdown on that play.

I’d say it’s worth worrying about how the Dawgs rebound emotionally from such a crushing way to lose, but I think Aaron Murray’s got too much pride for that.  It also helps that Kentucky is the next opponent.  Speaking of which, if you’ve got tickets, you should attend, if only to give Murray the appreciation he deserves at Senior Day.  He’s earned it.

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57 Comments

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57 responses to “Observations from the goal line: Auburn-Georgia

  1. 81Dog

    there is no wound so crushing as the one that is self-inflicted. Our DBs were in perfect position to make the game winning play, and they did the only thing that could cost us the game by going for the INT instead of batting it down. I suppose mistakes of aggression are better than mistakes of timidity, but that one really, really hurts.nI dont know if its much worse than 2005, but it feels worse.

    • D.N. Nation

      2005 sucked, but that team won the East anyway and destroyed LSU in the SECCG.

      We won’t be doing that this year. This one hurts more.

    • adam

      If they had tried to bat it down and it had been tipped to the receiver, everyone would be asking why they didn’t just catch the ball and end the game.

      • Athdawg

        Totally agree with you. I said same thing.

      • 81Dog

        we’ll never know, of course, but it seems to me there’s a difference between trying to make the RIGHT play and screwing it up and screwing it up by making the WRONG play. I accept that JHC and TM were trying as hard as they could to make a play, it just seemed like they were both trying to make the wrong play. That’s on the coaching, isnt it?

        • PDawg5960

          NO…it is not on the coaching. Do you honestly believe that is the first time the players were in that situation with all the football they have played ? It was just a freak play . It happens. I watched it happen last week at the end of a NFL game.

          • 81Dog

            since you asked, yes, it is on the coaching. They were both clearly trying to catch the ball, not knock it down. What would be the point of catching it on 4th and 18? By reaching UNDER the ball to catch it, they only managed to tip it UPWARDS. If they were trying to knock it down, they’d be striking on TOP of it to send in DOWNWARDS. But, think what you like.

            • IAmAGurleyMan

              +1,000. The players always try and catch it – it’s human nature. Plus they want the stats. It’s incumbent on Grantham to hammer into their heads that they don’t do that, and he failed big time. What’s the point of taking a TO if you’re not going to get that point across? Grantham is a buffoon.

      • IAmAGurleyMan

        Baloney.

        Everyone knows you try and knock it down. No one would have questioned it. Besides, if they had knocked it down, it’s not possible that the ball would have gone behind them to the receiver who was already past them. Only trying to catch it and having a carom would lead to that.

  2. Peteydawg

    Apt rundown. Still crying over last night. I still don’t see why you don’t KNOCK DOWN THE BALL. Worse than not spiking it in the dome imho

  3. charlottedawg

    -in terms of “this team doesn’t quit” part of that is because this team is so fond of inflicting adversity on itself.
    -at this point I’m truly feeling bad for Aaron Murray. The only positive aspect of his season is that he has eradicated the idea that he can’t come up in the big moments. We have wasted so many valiant performances by the guy this year alone.
    -this 4th and 18 is going to obviously get the majority of the attention but it’s really just a symptom of the fact that our defense as a unit is poorly coached and that was from the first snap to literally the last. This is THE reason we lost the game. If this play had occurred in a vacuum you could chalk it up to a young player making a mistake in the heat of the moment. But when Grantham’s unit gets torched by every good offense we’ve played in his four years here with last night being the latest example, it’s a coaching issue.

  4. Peteydawg

    I mean Jesus if it isn’t even the last play of game you knock it down for better field position.

  5. Always Someone Else's Fault

    What can McGarrity do about Wagers? Seriously? Even if it is just perception, it’s a significant problem given how widespread that perception runs.

    Short of a promise from the league office that he will never officiate another Georgia game again, I would take it public. Video montage, the works.

  6. Ray Drew did have Marshall wrapped up Senator, then he was tackled by Ramik Wilson and Marshall got away for what appeared go be an amazing run. Another inadvertently unfortunate outcome resulting from 2 Dawgs playing hard but cancelling each other out. You’ll see it when you watch the replay…

    • Thanks. I’ll add that to an already long list of things I want to check out in the replay.

      • Also watch the final play replays. The ‘regular’ replay angle makes the hit on Murray look legit, but they show a low field close up replay on Murray and that one clearly shows helmet to helmet decleater on Murray. Should have been half the distance, ball on 10 yard line, and 1 final chance. Didn’t cost us the game but would have been nice to see it called correctly and have 1 more try. More interesting is that replay junkie Danielson and Verne said nothing about it because they got the Iron Bowl they had been openly rooting for all day. I imagine if the jersey colors & situation were switched that Danielson would still be talking about it- not because of a bias against UGA but because it would have jeopardized the dream Iron Bowl that CBS happens to be showing in 2 weeks.

      • Orl Dawg

        On the miracle throw, Drew was seriously held. So the play should’ve resulted in a holding penalty. Of course that would’ve meant Wagers who was looking at that play would’ve had to throw the flag. Of course he didnt

  7. mg4life0331

    Its amazing that we can still piss away pretty good offenses with a lack of a defense. Why in the hell cant we get one? That “good year” Grantham had was chock full of dismal opponent offenses. Grats.

  8. Timphd

    I’ve been a rabid fan since my first trip to Sanford as a freshman in 1975. I can honestly say I can’t remember a year where every freak event that occurred, whether bad call, bizarre injury or fluke play went against UGA like this year. Torn ACL’s celebrating touchdowns, penalties for jumping to block a punt, phantom targeting calls that continue drives, or last nights fumble recovery that wasn’t called (which I think could have turned the game) or that damn Barn touchdown that shouldn’t have happened. No team has ever had that many things go wrong in my memory. Yes, some of them are self-inflicted. Two defensive backs knock the ball to the receiver, but honestly the receiver should not have been where he was. If he had tried to make a play on the ball in the air he is no where near it when it comes down. Gaaagghhh.

    I will say I agree with the Senator that Murray should get a standing ovation from the Sanford crowd next week. There has never been a better Dawg. All the critics and those groaning about him had to be converted with that 4th quarter. I hope the stadium rocks long and loud for him. Wish I could be there.

    Penn Wagers should disappear. I was watching the game with friends who don’t know SEC football at all and told them Wagers would find a way to screw the Dawgs and damn if I wasn’t right. That penalty on Richt was piss poor, and if you need further evidence, see film of the FU USC game and watch Boom go off on the refs with no yellow hanky noted. Of course the fumble call was awful, how they screwed that pooch I don’t know. You could see Matthews arms (both of them) around the ball and the players leg. The Barner had one hand on the ball. Even my friends who had no dog in the fight were astounded. Gaaaaggghhh.

    All that’s left now is to wreck Tech. GATA.

  9. JRW7

    That’s what you get with this coaching staff. Seems like every week this crap happens over and over again, do you see the pattern?

  10. Rebar

    God Bless Murray, he’s a gamer. If our defense ever learns how to tackle, we might become competitive on that side of the ball.

  11. SouthGaDawg

    Murray was a stud in the 4th quarter. He certainly was “in the zone.” I really felt like had he not gotten pressured on the last play, there was a chance at an open receiver and catch in the end zone It’s a shame that the legacy of Aaron Murray comes down to two loses – Bama last year and AU last night. As they say, “If ifs and buts were candies and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas.”

  12. adam

    Agreed with everything you wrote here.

    The bad tackling was so frustrating. I’ve reached the point where I’m excited for every stop the defense does get. Including holding a top RZ efficiency offense to field goals. But they have up too many TDs and the offense struggled mightily to hold on to the ball and got shut out for most of the first half. One TD drive, 9 minutes of possession, and a FG as the half expired. It was a true team effort to dig us into a hole that deep.

    At this point, I’m not totally convinced we have to nix the whole defensive staff. But I am sure that Lakatos and Friend should be gone. Bad recruiters, bad coaches. I hope Schiano gets fired from Tampa and we hire Bob Bostad. I also would love to get Travaris Robinson from UF to coach DBs. He’s also the top recruiter in the country.

    That said, if we could give Kirby another shot and actually get him, I’d be ok with that. And I can’t explain the Jekyll and Hyde act from Mike Bobo. The offense will disappear into 5 straight 3 and outs and then for a quarter it will be totally unstoppable. We came out in the second half and went Air Raid (basically) and scored almost immediately. Where was that in the first half? The offense has 21 minutes on the sidelines, couldn’t we make some adjustments before halftime?

    Anyway, total team loss in my eyes. The defense finally started getting stops when the offense started scoring and we suddenly looked like a good team all around. Then they get a crazy fluke TD. Gah.

    Oh, and I’m pretty sure Marshall Morgan’s kicks aren’t touchbacks because our coaches say he can kick it as far as he can as long as it has good hang time. His kicks likely went a lot farther than Parkey’s, just on a different trajectory.

    • I’ve come to the realization that Bobo is a streak shooting 2 guard. Makes everything for stretches and then can’t buy a jumper for stretches. He’s Vinnie Johnson from the 1980s Detroit Pistons. It is what it is…

  13. Blake Carroll

    Did anyone else think that the hit on Murray on the last play should have been penalized for targeting?

  14. Same song, different year.

    I love the heart, dedication, grit, toughness, tenacity, and will to win of our players.

    A goddamn shame our coaching staff isn’t up to the task and doesn’t hold themselves to the same standard.

  15. ZeroPointZero

    How can you possibly re watch that game? I woke at 4am never to fall back asleep. I can only imagine what the players must be feeling. This would be a bad week for drug testing the team.

    • lostdawg3

      Or most of the Dawg Nation….

      Aaron Murray DGD and balls out warrior! I’ll never forget his effort in this game.

  16. swgdawg

    I am still in so much shock from the outcome of the game that my brain isn’t yet functioning to full capacity in the area that allows for use of my full vocabulary or correct punctuation, much less the ability to use said vocabulary in any sort of debate. It’s kind of stuck on pondering that nanosecond frame where the luckiest receiver in Auburn football history is all of a sudden in the correct position and clutching the ball into possession. Bright eyes wide open like he either just got back an exam marked with an “A” that he actually didn’t cheat on, saw a large cat species, maybe even a Tiger, while rounding the corner of a heavily worn trail on the sierra, or more than likely had a horribly overthrown desperation pass somehow wind up in his hands when it had absolutely no business doing such. I can say it wouldn’t have happened that way if K. Smart had somehow come back in the Delorian(sp?) and played the ball the way it should have been played, hell even Muschomp back in the day would’ve at least known to drill the ball into the ground, but if memory serves correct he probably would not have been anywhere close to the play. All this BS means nothing. It doesn’t feel better but that wasn’t AU making a play like they want it to be in their history books, it was pure &$@s# luck. Malzahn has been around some woodpiles lately. Plain and simple. When UGA wins at the last second, it is an executed play. Even though very fortunate, Belue to Scott was an executed play as was P-44 Haynes and 70X takeoff. This game’s ” huge play” and final outcome was something more infuriating and absurd to this UGA fan than it could have been glorifying or even satisfying to any AU fan.

  17. Will Trane

    Said it before, close strong with 2 crushing defeats of Uk & GT, I mean strong [which this team can do] and the bowls will take note along with sports writers and opposing coaches. Yesterday’s loss was tough but it was not like at Vandy. That was a very bad game top to bottom.

  18. Will Trane

    Very troubling to hear Theus’ remarks about the O line play and his play. This is a big rival, history, a chance to stay in the hunt, to upset a top 10 and make a statement. The O side and coaches had ot know AU would want the ball, score, and set a pace. Likewise they wanted to be aggressive and take out Murray and TG.

  19. 79dawg

    I know I’ve felt worse after a loss before, I just can’t think of when right now…
    While Aaron Murray and this senior class haven’t been able to deliver a championship, they have given us lots of incredible moments and a lot to be proud of, even when they’ve come up on the short end of the stick. All true Dawg fans need to be in that stadium early Saturday night and show these guys the appreciation and thanks they have earned and deserve!

  20. Double A

    I have read all the condemnation of Grantham and agree with much of it. Grantham is credited for rushing three on the final play, this is incorrect. He rushed the two ends, only. Our NT stood up and dropped two yards deep to cover a middle screen (why???). Agreed, he should have learned that this prevent defense only prevents us from stopping the opponent (please ref. LSU).
    However, there seems to be little recognition of the fact that it is the offense or lack thereof is to be held in most contempt. The play calling the first half and much of the third quarter was some of the most incompetent ever witnessed; wherein Georgia was dominated in time of possession, had no clue as to how to block the defensive scheme thrown at them, and left the defense on the field. Bobo continues to run the sprint draw out of the shotgun formation. This play has NEVER EVER worked. Yet he will call it no fewer than 7 times per game, including when trailing by 17 on a third and ten. If he continues his employment at this university, he should be docked pay each time he calls that horrible play.
    Yes, Georgia racks up impressive numbers, but those numbers do not reflect their timing or ultimate success on the scoreboard. Also notable is that Georgia has failed to win an SEC championship since Richt stopped calling the plays. Drawing up effective plays does not translate to being able to call them effectively.
    I sincerely hope McGarrity will take a long look at the continual transition of top-5 recruiting classes into middle tier results and make the appropriate moves regarding the coaching staff. The talent level and money poured into this program are simply not justified by the results.

    • stick jackson

      Yeah, the offense has killed us all year. Just can’t score. Smart take.

      • Roswell DAWG

        We hold our opponents to under 20 points a game, we are undefeated.

      • Logic Kills

        Georgia has lost the time of possession battle in each and every single game since North Texas, amassing a stellar 4-3 record in that span. If the offense called by that rocket surgeon Bobo could ever control the clock, perhaps the D wouldn’t be on the field the majority of the game. Seems pretty simple (and was evidenced last night) that the longer you allow the opponents to have the ball, the more likely they are to score. But why try to control the clock when you have a stable of competent running backs? Doesn’t fit in Bozo’s QB first scheme.

  21. stick jackson

    Like most here, I’ve had it with Grantham. Fire him (although, I know that the ultimate BM conversation stopper — “there’s a cost to that” — applies because he has a year left on his contract.)

    But I disagree on the 3-man rush on the last play (if your point, Senator, was that it’s just ill-fated, then OK; it’s certainly that at this point). And I admit I yelled “No, not the three man rush!” when we lined up. But, it actually worked.

    Unlike with a conventional quarterback, the priority with Marshall is to keep contain on him, don’t let him scramble for the first down. When you watch the replay, you will see that it was really a two man rush. The nose (Smith?) just stood up and took a step back to spy Marshall. It looked like one of the ILBs was doing pretty much the same thing a couple of yards deeper.

    And, it worked. The converted CB stood in the pocket and quacked out a wobbly duck that the WR had no chance to catch. Except the “don’t do your job, try to be a hero” impulse kicked in with both 28 and 25.

    • Orl Dawg

      If they don’t hold Drew he sacks Marshall or at least flushes him out of the pocket and that throw doesn’t happen. Wagers should’ve thrown the flag!!

    • I understand TG’s strategy on the three-man rush in that situation, and honestly, it should work. But it’s flopped twice this season because of on-field execution.

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        If you look at history, all those “Hail Mary” type throws that worked (2002 LSU-Kentucky, 1984 BC-Miami, 1992(?) Colorado-Michigan, etc) did so because the DCs played 8 back and rushed 3. If you give a strong-armed QB time he will pick you apart. The “prevent” D only prevents you from winning.

    • Logic Kills

      Yep, Marshall was probably a real threat to run for that 73 yards (or even 18 needed for the first), especially considering he had been hurried on 1st and 2nd, sacked on 3rd and Auburn’s line was whipped and completely gassed. Also, if by “duck” you mean “tight spiral” you are accurate. One can clearly see the spin continuing on the ball even after the tip. Brilliant analysis.

  22. Roswell DAWG

    Penn Wagers absolutely MUST insert himself into a game. He can’t help his poor, emotionally sick self. You could see the look on his face when the replay official called Murray’s TD late good; I thought he was going to cry, he wanted it so much to go Auburn’s way. He is a pathetic excuse for an official. Just awful; I don’t think he will ever learn to stay in the background. He knows millions are watching and he wants, no needs, to be remembered by them, when he should be a non-event. Mike Slive, can you find a way to reign this guy in?

  23. WarD Eagle

    Aaron Murray is one heck of a football player. Gurley is a stud.

    Hopefully Gurley doesn’t come back next year either.

  24. Gurley Is Not NFL Eligible.
    The Refs did have some input. Enough to cause our loss to Vandy & to Aawbarn ? My opinion Is Yes.