One of the perceptions I had from the first meeting with Auburn — one that I think has been fairly widely shared — was that after the first quarter, Georgia’s defensive front had trouble pressuring Jarrett Stidham.
Not so fast, bacon breath.
Wait, wut? Georgia did a better job pressuring Stidham than any team Auburn faced not named Clemson, including Alabama? Now I’m confused. One reason may be because Stidham has handled himself about as well as Fromm has in those situations this season.
But I’m not forgetting the score, man. Georgia gave up 40 points. What gives? Welp, start with this little nugget.
[Checks notes]… um, that’s not good, is it?
Building off that, Bill Connelly notes that Auburn did a terrific job leveraging its intermediate passing attack off Johnson’s solid day running.
2. Auburn’s short passing game broke the Georgia defense
- On Auburn’s first scoring drive, the Tigers gained 13 yards on a pass to Nate Craig-Myers in the flat and seven on a screen to Ryan Davis.
- Third scoring drive: Jarrett Stidham completed a screen to Eli Stove for 19 yards and a pass to Chandler Cox in the flat for 17.
- Fourth scoring drive (and first TD): They completed a screen to Ryan Davis for 11 yards and a screen to Kerryon Johnson for 11 before going deep to Darius Slayton.
- Up 23-7 in the third quarter, the Tigers put the game away with a 32-yard screen pass to Davis.
Johnson took the headlines with his 32-carry, 167-yard performance against the Dawgs, but Auburn’s masterful creation of space for its receivers was, to me, what won both the Georgia and Alabama games.
Versus UGA, it appeared the Dawgs were very much preoccupied with the run, so Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey constantly used their momentum against them. They are in an incredible play-calling rhythm right now, showing exactly how you can use one advantage (in this case, Johnson’s strong running) to create three more.
Georgia got killed on misdirection as the game progressed. Bill’s point is that Johnson’s success running the ball made the defense susceptible to that. Some of that success — hell, a lot of that success — stemmed from poor tackling fundamentals. Auburn wasn’t making those mistakes very often and that contributed to Georgia’s failure to get its backs untracked. Obviously, once Georgia’s running game collapsed, there wasn’t a similar problem Auburn’s defense faced.
I mention all this because, as Bill notes, there are opportunities for Georgia to scheme around some of these problems. Some of it, obviously, calls for more creative playcalling. Some of it, though, comes down to better effort.
To move the ball, the Dawgs are going to have to get much better on first down. That might be the only way to keep pressure off of him — he was pressured on nearly 40 percent of his attempts.
UGA gained 34 yards in four first-down plays on the opening scoring drives, then gained 33 yards on six first-down snaps in a late garbage-time TD drive. In between: 14 plays, 15 yards. Every drive basically began on second-and-9.
That’s not going to cut it. Be it either with better early-down passing — Fromm was sacked on first downs, too — or, simply, better run blocking, Georgia has to avoid second-and-longs if it wants to avoid its QB running for his life on third-and-long. That might not mean a complete overhaul in tactics, but it will definitely have to involve better execution.
On defense, the discipline that went out the window at Auburn appeared to return against Georgia Tech. D’Andre Walker, for example, looked like a completely different player in those two games. If the Dawgs are going to have any chance to slow Auburn’s offense down, they can’t bite on the misdirection and lose contain, which also means they’ll have to do a better job slowing the Tigers’ down on the ground. The good news is, if they can make progress on that front, it appears they have the ability to pressure Stidham.
Planning and doing are hugely different things, of course. But I would argue at a minimum there are certainly ways available for Georgia to make the SECCG a much more competitive affair than the first meeting was. Gotta start somewhere.