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.