Making a game of the championship game

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.

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20 Comments

Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands, Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

20 responses to “Making a game of the championship game

  1. These teams are evenly matched. If it were a mismatch, the spread on a neutral field wouldn’t be Auburn -2.5. The last meeting was the result of better Auburn execution and then Georgia mistakes that sent the snowball down the hill. It was like LSU 2004.

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    • Dylan Dreyer's Booty

      I hope – hell, I pretty much believe – you are right. But, this is a game where the support staff (analytics, etc.) need to earn their dinero. That, and the obvious execution. We’re in it until we ain’t!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Cojones

    If the holding and other WR checks beyond the line of scrimmage is watched closely, it will give us another small brick to add to the wall.

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  3. mdcgtp

    As painful as it was to do, my biggest observation is how different we played against Auburn than we did against other team all year. Forget the result for a moment, between the missed tackles, Fromm lacking his usual pinpoint accuracy, lack of physicality on both sides of the ball, and overall energy level, we did not do things we had done with consistency all season. Certainly, Auburn deserves credit for disrupting our performance, but I wonder how different the game flow might have been had we played to our standard.

    All of us here know what a snowball game looks like, and our Auburn game was as good an example of a game that just breaks open without a response from an otherwise good team. Obviously, there are a range of outcomes that we can all envision, and I am not sure I am rational at the way I rank order the probability of such in my brain, but I firmly believe we will play better. Auburn is obviously on a roll, and Auburn’s offense is a bit like a boulder rolling down hill gathering more speed as it goes. That said, when it slows down, Gus has a tendency to get impatient. If we can disrupt their offense just enough, he might help by making their situation worse.

    In terms of Xs and Os and strategy, we have to be who we are. Run the ball inside and out. Contrary to popular belief, Nick and Sony did not get hit in the backfield a lot and our play calling was more varied than one remembers. I believe fans tend to remember failed runs up the middle more than toss sweeps and incomplete passes because the latter plays take longer to fail.

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  4. 69Dawg

    You’ve got to give it their running back Johnson, he was a force. A lot of those missed tackles were just run through by him. They use as much misdirection as GT but with 100 times better personnel. We have to hold the gaps and jam their WR’s or we are in for another long night. It is an offense not based on many reads but if we can throw off the WR’s routes it will slow down their passing. The Dline must not be moved.

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  5. Hillbilly Dawg

    I really hate Awbarn. No. Really. I hate em.

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  6. WarD Eagle

    I think Kerryon breaking tackles is part of it. I also think the passing game was enough to keep the safeties and corners hesitant.

    Conversely, I’m surprised how hard it is has been to run against 6 in the box vs Auburn these last two games. Steele is basically playing base alignment and telling his guys to make plays and surprisingly, they’re doing it. Gus & Steele are playing balls out – win or lose – and it’s been fun. If the UGA run game can figure out how to crease or soften the AU front six, I suspect Chubb & Michel performances more similar to the norm.

    There’s no getting around the incidentals – fumbles, penalties, etc. especially the timing of such.

    And, of course, Auburn cheated.

    Let’s hope it’s entertaining.

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    • Sam Johnson

      “Conversely, I’m surprised how hard it is has been to run against 6 in the box vs Auburn these last two games.” – This is the problem as I see it. Auburn’s front has been stout against two of the top rushing teams in the country. The personnel will be the same again Saturday. I think we’ll fix our D issues and play well on special teams, but I’m not optimistic about our O.

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    • AusDawg85

      And, of course, Auburn cheated.

      I KNEW IT!!!!

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  7. JT

    Auburn shot all their bullets getting to the game, both emotionally and physically. Auburn had much more to play for in game one and the excitement of the home ground providing them with a different energy level. I think UGA at that time was going through the motions. I expect a much different game this Saturday.

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  8. paul

    So what he’s saying is that Auburn executed Georgia’s game plan more effectively than Georgia could. I still think that at least for a while we’re going to have to be a pass first offense this time around. Use the pass to set up the run. Lots of RPO’s early where the default is to focus on the pass . Once we get them thinking that way Sony and Nick can start to grind them down.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Saltwater Dawg

    The opportunities are going to be there. I haven’t yet taken a close look at our defense from the last Auburn game, but did go through all of our offensive series today. As strong as the AU defensive front got late in the game, we really did miss some golden opportunities. After taking this closer look, I think the crowd noise had as much impact as anything else.

    Some of what I’ve seen:

    2nd drive, 3rd play (1st and 10). We run under 21 set, but Sony is 8 yards deep. Fromm actually has to run back to hand the ball off. Looks like the B gap was there if he was 3-4 yards closer to LOS.

    4th drive, 1st play. We run shotgun 10 motion to 11 set, play action, and Ridley drops wide open, 30+ yard pass. The play action worked.

    5th drive, 2nd play (2nd and 3) We run under 21 set with both TE on left side, Chubb follows 2 TE to C gap, but cutback lane was HUGE. Would have been 1 safety to beat for TD. He should have been reading the tackle and not the TE, and seen the way the guard squared to the inside. Not like Chubb to miss that.

    Very next play: We run shotgun base 21 set, play is a QB read. The snap may have been a bit high, but the whole play seemed awkward. Chubb ran too inside a lane, handoff was early/high, play just never developed. Also, Fromm missed the read – keeper was an easy first down.

    6th drive, 4th play … the flea flicker. The flea flicker wasn’t needed – simple play action would have probably been a TD (assuming not another drop)

    2ND HALF

    8th drive, second play: We line up shotgun 11, and run fake jet, option pitch, and then Fromm throws a shuffle pass to TE for a couple. I don’t know how often we practice the option, but the pitch to the RB would have been a big gain. There was no outside contain on their line, and the receivers were engaged solid.

    9th drive, first play: We line up in under 21 set, both TE to left, and Chubb ran to the right side. The RT had squared to the outside, but the RG had no inside leverage. Play direction should have been to left.

    Same drive, first down after the big Wims compltion: We line up in shotgun 11, run fake jet, and Thomas completely misses his assignment and double-teams the DT. DE is just untouched and breaks up the play.

    Last play of same drive before the punt: I think this was pretty much the end of the game. 3rd and 9, we line up shotgun 11 for straight pass play. Woerner at TE completely misses the blitzing DE/LB who is lined up right across him, doesn’t help with the DT, and then misses the stunting LB. Sony’s assignment may have been to route to the right flat, but stops and tries to pick up the DE/LB but is too late. Fromm throws it away, but at this point we have 4 OL and and a TE engaged with no one.

    Summary from this: I just don’t see us consistently making mistakes like this in the dome. AU will be ready and will play well, but last time our own mistakes were just as damaging; and I haven’t even mentioned the dropped punt.

    Also, Chaney just has to get more balanced with the sets and the playcalling, and use our best weapon more often – play action. In the last game, we ran 5 play action plays:
    1st series: Shotgun to TE for 2
    1st series: Under to Godwin for 26
    4th series: Shotgun to Ridley, incomplete but he was wide open for 30+
    9th series: Shotgun to Godwin for 6
    12th series: Shotgun to Ridley, incomplete to open Ridley but slighlty overthrown. Ridley also tackled but no-call

    There were no disaster play action plays. As good as the AU defensive front played, I would argue that the safety play was just as important in stopping our running game last time. Play action is a great weapon to use against them overcomitting the safeties to the run.

    We also went under center only once in the entire 2nd half of the game. I think we are going to need to be closer to 40-50% under center to win on Saturday.

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  10. AusDawg85

    If Jake looks a little jittery during warmups, I hope R goes over and tackles him. Just to get his head in the game.

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  11. Eldawg

    No 7 & 17 (Carter & Bellamy) need to show up for this game.

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  12. Mayor

    Auburn knew what play was coming all day–particularly from our D. I think they got our signals somehow. We better figure that out first.

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  13. WarD Eagle

    I still think Fromm offers the best chance to win, but I’ve wondered if there was ever any consideration of throwing Eason in for a series or two.

    I still think Eason is too slow to read & react and would likely get sacked with a good rush, but given the right plays he does throw it well.

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