Observations from the 45, Auburn edition

The evening got off to the start most of us expected.  The crowd showed up raucous and looking sharp.  Malzahn wanted the ball first, which could only mean one thing.  Ten plays later, Auburn had run off a touchdown drive that was efficient and effective.

From there, it got a little strange.  Todd Gurley’s first touch in a month resulted in a 105-yard kickoff return that electrified the crowd.  Unfortunately, there was the little matter of Ryne Rankin’s first touch, which nullified Gurley’s good work.  Georgia took the ball, moved downfield and then stalled.  A brilliant fake punt play that set Georgia up inside the Auburn five and charged up the crowd all over again was wiped out by the most questionable penalty call of the night.  At that point, I thought I could see Malzahn waving that damned rabbit’s foot at me.

But from there on out, the evening fortunately went off script and stayed there.  The coaches coached, the players played and the result was Georgia’s most dominant home game against a ranked opponent in many years.  The track meet so many of us expected never materialized.  Instead, what we were treated to was the kind of game so many of us hoped for, but never thought we might see – steady competence in all phases of the game that led to Georgia slowly but surely grinding down the Tigers.  The Dawgs earned every point of that 27-point win.

On to the bullet points.

  • I’ll get to Bobo’s night in a minute, but of all the kudos to be handed out, Jeremy Pruitt has to get the biggest nod.  The defense played at a level that, I’ll be honest, I didn’t think it was capable of playing at.  Pruitt made one brilliant personnel move, getting Carter, Floyd and Jenkins on the field in his base unit, to get as much speed in the front seven as possible.  But that would have mattered little, if it hadn’t been for the miracle he performed in getting that same front seven to play disciplined ball.  The same bunch that couldn’t cover the edge against Florida if their lives had depended on it did an almost flawless job with containment – indeed, after that first scoring drive, I’m not sure I remember more than one or two plays where an Auburn back made the edge, and even in those cases, Mauger was there to clean it up.  I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it.
  • The other great achievement in the defensive scheme was the way Pruitt constantly mixed up looks and coverage.  If the point was to confuse Marshall on the option reads and force him to give up the ball, it worked pretty well all night.
  • Really, it’s hard to bitch about any defensive player’s showing.  But I have to single out Floyd and Jenkins in particular, both of whom played brilliantly.  Floyd, in particular, looked like a totally different guy from the one we saw free lancing with disastrous effect in Jacksonville.  And that one sack of the night was something to behold.  Jenkins couldn’t be blocked, but he could be held.
  • Herrera had a monster night, too.  And Sanders played some excellent coverage.
  • It’s fun watching the Auburn offense when it’s in panic mode.  Which actually started earlier than I expected.  It was not one of Gus’ best nights.  Or Marshall’s, for that matter.
  • Bottom line, you don’t hold a Malzahn-coached offense to seven points unless you’re coaching and playing your collective asses off, and that’s exactly what happened.
  • Bobo may have made you grit your teeth on occasion, but it was clear from the get go he was going to pound and pound Auburn with the run game and make that defense wilt.  He probably had a vision of that 98-yard fourth quarter scoring drive in his head before the start of the game.  He got the ground game going, and called just enough stuff to keep Ellis Johnson guessing – there was a brilliant pass play called to Michael Bennett that was the perfect counter to the steady dose of run blitzes Johnson was calling in a futile effort to slow Georgia down.  And of course, getting Chubb and Gurley on the field together with a package of plays was both entertaining and effective.  All told, he had a terrific night.
  • So did Hutson Mason, who didn’t have as much to show for it as he should have, with at least two dropped touchdown passes and another deep ball that was on the money, only to fall to the ground.  Mason wasn’t perfect – he got lucky one bad throw wasn’t picked – but he was damned sure good enough on the night.
  • What can you say about the nights Chubb and Gurley had?  Both ran tough and both ran to the point that Auburn’s defense didn’t want to have anything to do with them.  It’s a shame that Chubb stepped out of bounds on that incredible screen pass play (and, man, what a tough play to have to defend!).  It’s a bigger shame that we’ll never see that combination on the field again for Georgia.  Sigh.
  • Of course, you don’t have a dominant night on the ground without superior blocking, and the offensive line played at an even higher level blocking the run than it did against Kentucky.  Every one of the lineman had a good night, but Greg Pyke in particular has to be singled out.  Pyke’s level of play is at a point where I think he deserves some serious all-SEC consideration.
  • The line wasn’t the only group that blocked well.  Hicks atoned for his, um, strange play against Kentucky with a kick ass night.  There was rarely a play when he didn’t open a hole for a tailback.  He had a catch and handled his one special teams moment flawlessly.
  • Conley may not have had the best night catching the ball, but he and Bennett also did their jobs blocking downfield.
  • Mitchell didn’t have many catches, but he did have the night’s toughest catch on his score.  And by the way, there isn’t a Georgia quarterback who could have made that slant throw any better than Mason did.
  • Special teams deserved better than they got.  But at least they never got in the way.
  • The two big plays of the night were the fumbled punt and Richt’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-one.  The former undid some of the bad karma from Georgia’s special teams’ reversals and the latter seemed to kick the offensive line into gear for the rest of the night.
  • Which brings us to Richt’s night.  You don’t cream one of your biggest rivals and the ninth-ranked team in the country without having your guys ready to play.  And Richt made it clear from early on that he was coaching balls out all night, whatever it took to put Auburn down.  Every button he pushed worked.  It was one of the very best coaching jobs of his career.
  • Okay, if I have to live with a ridiculously loud PA system, would it be too much to ask that you not blast it when Georgia’s on offense?  There were at least a couple of times when they cranked tunes while the offense was heading to the line of scrimmage, only to have the players and coaches gesture to drop the noise so they could get the play called.
  • And the less said about the James Brown halftime experience, the better, I’m afraid.

All season long, when Georgia’s controlled field position and won the turnover battle, it’s been the better team.  This game was no exception.  It’s a winning formula and when you see games like Saturday night, you have to wonder if there’s a team in the country that can beat Georgia when it’s checking all the right boxes like that.  All I know is I’d like to find out.

46 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

46 responses to “Observations from the 45, Auburn edition

  1. gastr1

    I admit I was pining for a rematch with Alabama in the SEC title game so I could watch Gurley make the Tide defense look silly on at least a few runs like he did in 2012.

    I look forward to what Chubb and Michel can do going forward. Why was Michel out of this game? Anyone know?

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  2. Graham

    ESPN has the whole game online. All via spider cam and sans commentary. Pretty cool. http://espn.go.com/watchespn/player/_/id/2188686/size/condensed/

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    • diving duck

      Very cool. No announcers and no replays. You catch a lot of the before and after play happenings that you don’t see on the broadcast. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. There was one play in the first quarter on Auburn’s second possession where I was watching only Leonard Floyd on the play. It was a run on either a jet sweep or on a planned pitch to that side. Floyd did not make the tackle, but I found myself yelling “Great play, Leonard!” because Floyd took on three blockers to string out the play while others (Jenkins/defensive backs) came up to make the tackle. Floyd got jacked up about the play too. It was a thing of beauty to watch, and it showed me that our players actually listened to our coaches and learned their lessons from that Florida debacle.

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    • HahiraDawg

      The line did that all night, taking on multiple blockers to free the lbrs. Oftentimes the OL will hit a d-linemen before advancing to a lbr, freeing up the d-lineman for the pulling guard or back to take. But this didn’t work for Aub, bc our d-linemen would hold onto the initial contact while initiating the contact with the pulling guard or back. All freeing up our lbrs. It really was beautiful team defense.

      Several times I had Grantham flashbacks when late on the play our lbrs and secondary would be waving instructions to each other. I was like, “here we go again, not ready for the snap”, but it seemed each time the communication was quickly received and quickly understood, allowing the whole unit to execute the scheme as one. Excellent.

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      • AusDawg85

        Yeah, that arm flapping was the first time I noticed it much this season and scared me. A couple of plays our guys weren’t fully set. Will need to see how that goes against the nats.

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  4. HahiraDawg

    The blocked punt that wasn’t, yet turned into 15 yards and a 1st down for UGA, should be added to your “two big plays”.

    If Aub gets that, it is might’ve been a very different game.

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    • That’s a fair point, and I haven’t seen a replay on it, but from the stands it was hard to tell how the guy missed the block. Did Barber actually get the punt off before he got there, or did the guy just miss it?

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      • James Stephenson

        The dude literally jumped to the wrong spot. His whole body basically on the kickers leg. Barber’s foot never got touched by the AU player. I screamed block and started cussing and my brother says, dude he got the punt off.

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        • That’s what I thought, figured he must have just came in at the wrong angle, because I was shocked when I realized it wasn’t blocke. I was looking on the field behind the punter trying to locate where the ball had gone when I saw the flag come out and realized he had actually gotten the punt off.

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    • Ben

      How he got that punt off I’ll never understand. He deserves a helmet sticker just for that.

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  5. Scorpio Jones, III

    “coaching and playing your collective asses off”

    Nuff said…is it ok if I start worrying about Tech now?

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  6. BMan

    Like you Senator, I enjoy it when the Auburn offense goes into panic mode. They hurry and hurry to go three and out and while their defense is sucking wind. Malzahn is reduced to standing on the sideline waiving his hand in a circle, yelling “go, go, go” and he doesn’t seem to have any more tricks left in his bag at those moments. I’m left wondering if he’s going to evolve over the next couple of years as the conference adjusts to his offense, or will those kind of nights happen more often. All that being said, it takes major discipline to stop their offense, and Pruitt’s men handled it wonderfully.

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    • Hackerdog

      I wouldn’t start shoveling dirt on Malzahn’s grave just yet. Every offense can be stopped with good athletes playing disciplined defense. But that’s a lot to ask. Malzahn’s offense requires more discipline to stop than most. UGA just played the best defensive game of any team Malzahn’s faced yet.

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      • I would imagine Saban’s army of consultants is breaking down every piece of film from the last 3 1/2 quarters of Saturday night. Pruitt gave everyone the blueprint for stopping the Gus Bus.

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  7. Russ

    I loved it, and the bonus is it gives us the first of two games seeing the triple option before the maggots come to town. By that time the defense should really be rolling and we will once again stomp tech.

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  8. paul

    All I can say is it was better than anything I could have hoped for. PLUS, we kept our foot on the gas all night. That game was every bit as awesome as the Florida game was awful. Hard to believe it was the same team. Way to go Dawgs!

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  9. Rebar

    The defensive play gives me confidence for winning against Tech. Have to play that disciplined play of covering your assisgnment and trusting your team mates to do their part.

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  10. sectionzalum

    upstick rabbit’s foot, asswards.

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  11. CannonDawg

    This one’s for Cam. And Fairley. And Trooper. And Marshall. And the rest of the ones we’ve booted to them, and the ones we will boot to them. And all the way back to The Hoses.

    They’re no longer Charmed Auburn or Lucky Auburn or Auburn the Team of Destiny. They’re just Auburn now. Everything’s returned to normal. And they know it. They saw it, too.

    Thanks, Dawgs. A lot of us needed that. And thank you, Todd. In the end you gave it all you had. That’s all any of us could ask. You are, and will forever be, a DGD.

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  12. Reservoir Dawg

    Re: the “James Brown Experience,” those of us who lived through the real thing in the ’70’s were just saddened. If you want to do a tribute, stick to the Star Wars shows. And somebody needs to tell Tom Jackson that biopic does not rhyme with myopic.

    I sat in front of a Bobo hater. Every single pass play he was screaming. Even the ones we scored on or where Chris Conley went all Manos de Piedra. In the fourth, I finally said “Hey look at the scoreboard. Now what don’t you like about that?”

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  13. DC Weez

    I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an offensive line look better than on the 4th and 1 Chubb touchdown. That was phenomenal.

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  14. Russ

    Okay, I gotta ask…what was the James Brown halftime experience? And no way it was as bad as the Michael Jackson show that played at halftime repeatedly during the early 80’s.

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    • Reservoir Dawg

      It was some kid doing a mime wearing a wobbly plastic fried, dyed and laid on the side wig doing his best to Popcorn and Pony step into a split and the final Bring on the Amberlamps finale where he was pled into coming back for just one more split while the band played a bad medley and Tom Jackson droned on and on like only an old white man reading Snoop Dogg lyrics can do. It was excruciating to hear and to watch and irrelevant to anyone under 40. And I had the worst Too Much Fun on a Friday Night in Athens hangover still to be able to move from my seat and get away from it and the Bobo hater behind me. Awesome game, though…

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    • stuckinred

      A guy did an re-enactment of James on stage. Like all of the halftime shows you couldn’t hear the band from where I was. IGF they had played real JB music through that ridiculously loud sound system maybe it would have been tolerable. As it was it was just stupid. And, while I am at it, spelling Georgia before the game is hardly “the greatest tradition” in college football. Get real.

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  15. McTyre

    Only real quibble is our still shaky punting operation. Between the still slow get off of Sleepy Barber and length f either punter, it could kill us in a tight game.

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    • Macallanlover

      Clearly a weakness that needs to be addressed, and you can add improved blocking for punts to the list after that breakdown Saturday night. Could have been a disaster and will be visible to future opponents.

      Impressed the ref got that call right, he could have easily claimed they touched the ball because it looked like it was impossible to not brush the ball. Nice that we have little to change from that performance, very complete domination.

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  16. PatinDC

    A great game.
    Side story: My mother (74) called me on Sunday to tell me that she attended her first ever football game, UGA v AU. Wow. I told her that it was as good as football gets. She had a ton of fun and now understands why I like UGA football so much. She did it all, Tailgating, Dawgwalk, UGA, Bookstore and halftime show (we love the marching band). She said she loved the music they played at the stadium. She loved dancing to all the hip-hop. 😉

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    • Macallanlover

      Great story, very cool that she is enjoying life and added that evening as her first football experience. I recall that my grandmother, at the same age, stood in line over 6 hours for tickets to see Elvis almost 40 years ago. Tells you a lot about both if them. Have to “Live like you are dying”. Touch ’em all folks.

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  17. Chuck

    Greg Pyke. Reminds me a little of Tardits: not classically a football player, but rather an athlete/warrior from another sport who has found a niche here. Dude loves contact and maintains blocks. Hell he beat Chubb to end zone on at least one occasion. Paved the way and was there to shake his hand when he got there.

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    • Macallanlover

      Good chance that we get 4 of those 5 OL starters back next year, excellent base to build from. Pyke has become a solid player for us and looks like the leader going forward.

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  18. Cosmic Dawg

    Great synopsis, Senator.

    I nit-picked Bobo a little after the game, not meaning to be hyper critical, but just over-analyzing what happened. I like the guy and hope he’s our next head coach. But definitely a case of me not seeing the forest for the trees and having a sense of proportion after an amazing win…so mea culpa. Was an awesome game.

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  19. Senator as usual a perfect recap. One for the archives. Thank you! 😘

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  20. Bulldawg Bill

    Looked to me as though Auburn basically threw in the towel when they had 4th and long from about midfield at about 5:00 left in the 3rd. They didn’t even think about punting us deep.

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