Observations from the 35, Georgia-Auburn edition

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.


Filed under Georgia Football

52 responses to “Observations from the 35, Georgia-Auburn edition

  1. Good post, Senator. I’ve given Chaney grief all season long, but he finally seemed to try to scheme around his offensive line deficiencies. Maybe going to the box was the best thing for the offense. Smart and Tucker are building what could be a defense that could rival … is it too early to say this? Alabama.


    • Irwin R. Fletcher

      Emergence of Ridley and Wims from green to SEC caliber performers on the outside has made so much difference in what they can call. The O-Line played hard…and frankly, they played well enough to overcome the gap in talent between them and the Auburn D-Line. But you know…the way I think about this is you can scheme around one hole in your talent pool, but when you are looking at two, it makes it so much harder. Wims’ and Ridley’s emergence…along with Nauta’s development…are the keys in my mind.

      I did think about the ‘playcalling now that they have a reliable kicker’ post from last week. I think the two WR throws probably puts that question to bed, right?


  2. Spike

    Defense! Special Teams! Who’ da thunk it?!?


  3. On top of all that, but all accounts we slayed with recruits at the game.

    Awesome day all the way around.


  4. roswell dawg

    For the past five games I have been saying, the best play we have is the tight end or slot receiver slant over the middle, underneath the LB coverage, and usually good for 8 to 15 yards. Jacob and his receivers are gladly on the same page in that play. In the gun, with a minimum drop if any and Eason seems to get it done. And, it has been effective because the opponents don’t seem to be able to stop it. What has me scratching my head is that we don’t see this play called enough. You know, the old saw, keep doing it until they stop it. Oh and I think Jacob is getting better at the sideline out route, even when we are lined up on the opposite hash. Shades of Aaron Murray, who was one of the best I have seen at that throw, an NFL must have if you want to play in that league.


  5. Gaskilldawg

    Just under 11:00 to go in the second quarter Franklin gained 7 on a first down run, and Verne said, “Auburn’s moving the ball at will!”

    Beginning with the very next play Auburn’s total offensive production over the final 40 minutes was a mere 27 yards!


  6. Buster

    That’s what I’m talking bout. More than a baby step.


  7. Uglydawg

    Didn’t need my second cup this morning after reading these “Observations”.
    As to your observations of the O line play.. There was at least one late hit on Eason…came right up the middle…that was brutal. I was pissed when it wasn’t called. Reminiscent of Fairley abusing AM while the Refs stood scratching their asses.
    I still look at the second half of the Kentucky game as the turning point for this team. That’s why I thought we’d win against AU.


    • Silver Creek Dawg

      That was the long completion to Wims that was negated by a hold. Auburn #4 hit Eason in the head as he tackled him; it should have been offsetting penalties. Also, about 3 plays earlier, Trigga Tray tackled Sony at least 3 yards out of bounds with no flag. Add in the obvious PI against Riley Ridley and there’s 3 15 yard penalties missed.


      • dawgtired

        The ‘out-of-bounds’ hit was the worse I’ve seen…and no call! Both players were out of bounds when they made contact and the second was, as you say, 3 yards out…unbelievable blind or apathetic or biased refs!


  8. Mr. Tu

    “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.”
    What did I miss?


  9. Chopdawg

    A couple more observations: twice, Auburn jumped offside while Eason checked at the line of scrimmage. The fans around me were fussing at Eason for not getting the ball snapped while Auburn was offside, but both times he checked into a running play that went for big yardage. Also, we worked the reverse a couple of times, with the flow going to one side of the field and a pitchback to the RB who fled quickly to the other side, & got good yardage out of that.

    Maybe moving Chaney upstairs was a good move, I’m assuming he was upstairs Sat nite.


    • LamontSanford

      I noticed them jumping off too. Honest question–Isn’t on the center notice and snap the ball when someone crosses the line? If so–maybe the coaches don’t want the center to do that with Eason still learning so much.


      • Russ

        Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking too. The coaches have Eason on a strict schedule/plan and that doesn’t include things like this. But I’m sure they have all noticed and will give him/Kublanow the green light some day.

        Of course, with the officials we had Saturday, I wouldn’t be confident that they would actually make the call. We’d probably get stuck with a wasted down and a 1 yard loss.


        • Uglydawg

          Doubt that’s it…Even if Eason mishandled the snap, it would still be a five yarder on the defense…plus it’s a free play, should be a designed deep ball..Most likely, Kublanow didn’t notice.


  10. Macallanlover

    Like roswell dawg above, I think we have been wondering about the slants from TEs and slot receivers, why wouldn’t that be an obvious call given out OL problems and the talent we have? Sure can open up the run and loosen that defense up for many different passing plays. Doesn’t take much blocking and we have guys who can bust those for long yardage.

    Won’t dwell on the silly trick plays in the red zone but they were only a consideration because of our total fail all season long when we get close. There has to be offensive sets, or motion, to get receivers open for the split second it takes Eason to fire a fastball. Those short passes to Mitchell and Bennett for TDs seem a distant memory now, dust off the videos, please.


    • Snoop Dawgy Dawg

      Man, you ain’t kidding. I still say our WRs are light years better than the way they’ve been described in comments here and elsewhere all season long. But you have to call plays to their strengths, and their quickness is that strength. With Eason’s arm, how murray used to attack those quick strikes in the red zone needs to be reviewed and replicated. Adds a HUGE dimension to the offense and helps give Chubb/Michel some space.


  11. paul

    Early on it appeared to be a game of ‘more of the same’ as the offense stopped itself on a couple of drives. But once Georgia found their groove it was the most enjoyable and watchable game since the opener with UNC. Erk would have proud of the defense.


    • JT

      Good observations, I would just add the problems in the red zone I wouldn’t put on coaches most of them just player lack of focus. I am finally getting excited about this staff. Two weeks in a row we finally have seen improvement. I read a comment by Smart, something about the players “who have bought in”. I think some of the lack of progression of this team has been from upper classman maybe not doing it the staffs way.


  12. Snoop Dawgy Dawg

    easy to say this after the win, but this was the performance I’ve been hoping from this team all season. Attention to detail, aside from a few mental mistakes, effort, and creativity. Even a loss would have left me confident that things were moving in the right direction for Smart.

    That he pulled out the win just amplifies that confidence. Again, the win makes this easier to say, but the team effort and coaching was what I’ve been hoping to see with the team and staff showing signs for what is being built for the future.

    Also, those trick plays were just bad. Chaney got too cute there, but generally, he did a fantastic job to help the O-Line hold their own against a fantastic front 7.


    • Sanford222view

      The play to Eason just needed Eason to complete the catch or the pass to be a bit lower. I didn’t mind that call really.

      The first one looked terrible but part of the problem there was our intended receiver was taken down. It wasn’t a penalty because the throw was after he was knocked down and then, so far from him it had to be deemed uncatchable I would assume. Still, Godwin has to know to throw that away there.


  13. The Truth

    Great to have two NFL Hall of Famers in Hines and Champ at the game. About the time I die it might be four if Nauta and Trenton Thompson stay on their current trajectory.

    Nauta might be Gronk if he had a chance to play a career with Tom Brady.


  14. doofusdawg

    The delayed crossing routes, the quick outs, the quick passes to Sony in the flat, the consecutive toss sweeps to alternating sides of the field…. damn… sitting at 6-4 wondering what could have been this year.

    I wonder if this weekends offense will resemble Saturday’s or if we will revert to… well.. you know.


  15. CB

    I recall a sequence in which Michel had two huge gains only to be subbed out and have Chubb run the ball twice for a total of -3 yards. At some point we’re going to have to acknowledge that Michel is now the better back. The yards per carry speak for themselves.


    • Russ

      Sony has been money this year, but Chubb is no slouch. They also subbed Michel for Chubb after Nick hit some nice runs. I think it was just a plan to keep them both fresh. I’d prefer to leave one in for a drive, and then sub on the next drive but I’ve never been in the arena.

      Verne and Gary commented on how Nick was subdued in his interview with them before the game. I’m sure he’s disappointed in this season but he needs to shake it off.


      • CB

        I’m not down on Chubb, but he is getting twice the number of carries when Michel has clearly been more productive over the last month or so. There needs to be a role reversal.


    • Is Chubb’s performance due to line deficiencies between the tackles? He had very little problem getting to the edge and making positive yardage. They’re both damn good running backs. We’re fortunate to have them both.


      • CB

        The line has deficiencies and both backs are running behind the same line. One of them is performing better both between the tackles and outside, but for some reason is getting less carries. We rode Michel during the 4th quarter against Kentucky and because of that I fully expected him to start the Auburn game. Doesn’t make sense to me.


      • Got Cowdog

        Best part? I think we will have them both for another year. I also have a sneaking suspicion CKS is sandbagging a little bit with the O line.
        Next year could be interesting.


        • Chubb should be heading out and minimizing the wear and tear on the knee


          • Bazooka Joe

            I think both of them head to the league – for that very reason – they only have so many reps in their body. I am not sure either increases their draft stock (maybe Chubb by showing is fully back but I do not see Sony as having anything to prove) Get paid as soon as possible if you can (I know I would).
            The good thing is, I think we are in pretty good shape at the RB position based on what we got last year, and what we think we will get this upcoming year.


        • CB

          Highly doubtful both come back. If either


  16. Russ

    Eason’s deep balls were much better this game. He’s been under throwing all season but it seemed like he finally decided to trust his receivers to go get the ball in this game. He’s going to be a great one.


  17. Dylan Dreyer's Booty

    “It’s also worth noting he [Eason] 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.”

    As Buck would say, “Boy, Howdy”.

    I am glad Fromm is coming, but I think even he knows he isn’t going to come in and just take the job. He’ll have a little learning to do, and luckily for him (and us) he will have an opportunity to do it. I just hope we can keep Eason upright through the rest of the year. I am stunned at how tough he has been. We are lucky to have him.


    • 69Dawg

      Yea the kid can take a hit. The double hit on one of the sacks was brutal but he just got up and continued. Tough kid. My wife thinks he is too pretty to be so tough but what does she know.


      • Macallanlover

        Mine thinks he needs a haircut. But he has taken a few shots, and has gone after a couple of fumbles wioh enthusiasm.


      • The Dawg abides

        I watched the game again today. On the play you are talking about, Adams had Eason wrapped up and Lawson led with his head and made helmet to helmet contact. Eason’s helmet came off. Another blown call. If being in a bear hug by Adams doesn’t make you a defenseless player, then I don’t know what does.


  18. Mayor

    Senator, I think you are being too kind about the game officiating. Somebody was trying to help Auburn win although it probably wasn’t the entire crew. We need to identify who those officials are, file formal protests and keep them from officiating future Georgia games. It is not just referees, it is Hs, SJs, HLs, Us, LJs and BJs too.


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