Ho hum. Just another win at home over a highly ranked Auburn Tigers team. Been there; seen that.
Okay, it was a little more bonkers than that. The Maurice Smith interception jolted Sanford Stadium and the defense fed off the crowd for the rest of the game.
Bullet points? Sure.
- Give a Georgia crowd a chance to get excited, and it won’t disappoint. The second half was as energized a setting as I’ve sat in for a couple of years. The noise level at the time of Auburn’s last fourth down play of the night was ear-splitting.
- Right now, the most money call in Jim Chaney’s playbook is Isaac Nauta on a crossing pattern. There isn’t a defender in college football who can cover that. The only catch is that the line has to block for a while for the pattern to open.
- I’m not sure how significant it was, but McKenzie appeared for much of the evening to be shifting the wideouts when Georgia deployed trips to one side. I assume it was to get a certain matchup against Auburn’s defensive backs.
- The most telegraphed play call is when the tight end goes in motion and settles in near the center of the line. It’s always a run and it got stuffed every time they ran it.
- Nick Chubb with over 100 yards rushing was good to see. I know Sony Michel needs his touches, too, but it was a little frustrating on occasion to see Chubb run for a good game, appear lathered up and ready to go, only to see a substitution.
- Good to see after dropping a couple of balls against Kentucky that Riley Ridley got his mojo back… with a vengeance.
- It was an up and down night for the offensive line. There was a brutal stretch when Adams and Lawson looked like they were taking over the game, and by brutal, I mean I was worried that Eason might not remain standing on the night, but there were also stretches when Eason had solid pass blocking. The line was still not particularly effective run blocking up the middle, but did manage to open up the outside with effective pulling. No small thing after Wynn went down.
- Tyler Catalina has gotten his fair share of criticism this season, but he deserves some credit for a gutsy night. He was clearly playing in pain in the fourth quarter, but basically held his own. He also was the lineman who got down the field to throw a big block to spring Nick Chubb on one of the night’s longer runs.
- Eason showed nice touch on several of his downfield throws, but it was a pass to Nauta where he took a little off but still put the ball exactly where it had to go that may have been his best throw of the night. It’s also worth noting he made it through another game without throwing a pick. When he gets a real handle on reading defensive sets and is given some leeway to change the call at the line, look out, world.
- Broken record time: it’s gonna be a lot of fun to see what the pups on the defensive line do next season with a year under their belts.
- Roquan Smith played his ass off. Again.
- How could you not love the way the convoy formed around Smith after he intercepted the ball?
- That may have been the best usage of blitzes I’ve ever seen from a Georgia defense. Creative and effective. Add in some halftime adjustments that shut the outside run down, and Mel Tucker had a whale of a game.
- Not coincidentally, special teams turned in their best collective effort of the season. Blankenship amazes more with every passing week. This time it wasn’t only nailing two field goals that turned out to be the difference in the game, but also putting all four of his kickoffs in the end zone. Ramsey, called into service because of Long’s injury, did shank one, but had a very effective punt that was fielded inside the Auburn 5. McKenzie managed to hit the longest punt return Auburn’s given up this season. There were no breakdowns by the coverage teams, either. As good as Auburn’s kicker and punter are — and, man, the punter especially was good — it didn’t turn in to an area of advantage for the Tigers. And that’s one way you win a close game.
- Bitch about those trick plays if you want, but overall, Jim Chaney called a solid game. Georgia held the ball for over 39 minutes, and if you don’t think that was job number one for the offense, you weren’t paying attention. There was an effort made in the playcalling to take pressure off the offensive front; it didn’t always work, but it worked enough. I loved the commitment to throw deep, too, and somebody figured out that Auburn’s corners were vulnerable. Yes, Georgia’s inability to score touchdowns in the red zone is troubling, but I think as Eason grows more comfortable running the offense that will get better.
- The officiating was SEC-level quality, which is to say it sucked. The blown pass interference call was the night’s worse, but there were plenty of other whiffs that made me shake my head. The best thing I can say about it all is at least it didn’t cost Georgia the game.
- Man, Deshaun Davis for Auburn was hell on wheels, wasn’t he? I saw him making plays all over the field. Good player.
- I tweeted about this during the game, but the video board put up a tribute to the win at Auburn in 2002 and managed to misspell David Greene’s name. That’s beyond embarrassing.
- Cool use of cellphones by the crowd in the fourth quarter, but from what I’ve seen from video clips of it, it was something that had a lot more impact live.
I wish I could take credit for calling the game with this post from Saturday, but identifying the strategy to win wasn’t the hard part. It was getting the players to execute that was. So give Smart and his staff a lot of credit for getting that done. It was their finest hour this season. Now, the trick is to keep it up.