Humility is only a week away… It’s been Kirby Smart’s mantra all season long when talking about the success that Georgia Football has had in 2017. Week in and week out, Georgia has taken care of their opponents with relative ease. The game at Notre Dame was tough, and South Carolina provided a tougher test than most thought they would, but other than that, it’s been smooth sailing for the Dawgs. Well, smooth sailing hit the eye of the storm in Auburn, Alabama on Saturday. The Tigers dominated the Dawgs in every way possible and proved that they have come a long way since blowing a big lead against LSU. Here’s what I saw from an awful performance from Georgia:
1. Well, it was a good start: I wanted to start off on a good note, because the only thing Georgia did well in this game was putting points on the board on their first drive. If you had told me this game would go the way it did after watching the Dawgs’ first turn on offense, I would have said you were crazy. Jake Fromm was 3 for 3 on the drive for 56 yards, including a big third down pass to Javon Wims. The two of them have developed a very good understanding of each other, and Fromm has become comfortable throwing jump balls to Wims because of his ability to come down with a bunch of them. Unfortunately, Georgia never came close to replicating the success of the first drive at any point during the rest of the game.
2. Complete and utter domination: After that first drive, Auburn took control of this game and at no point looked like they would give it back. The Tigers more than doubled up Georgia in terms of total yards and outgained Georgia on the ground 237 to 46 (net rushing yards). Kerryon Johnson alone ran for 167 yards while the trio of Chubb, Michel, and Swift only combined for 66 yards for the Dawgs. In the passing game, Georgia couldn’t keep Jake Fromm upright as he was sacked four times and pressured a bunch more. At times, football is a very simple game. If you keep your quarterback protected, hit/pressure the other team’s quarterback, and control the game on the ground, you’re going to win a lot more than you lose. That was the formula for Auburn in this game, and they executed about as well as I’ve seen any team in the country this season.
3. There’s a first time for everything: Two things that have been a hallmark of Georgia Football this season are discipline and fundamental execution. Unfortunately, both of those were essentially non-existent against Auburn. Georgia kept shooting themselves in the foot with dumb penalty after dumb penalty. One that comes to mind was a late hit out of bounds by Malkom Parrish, but the glaring one was D’Andre Walker’s leaping penalty while trying to block a punt. Georgia’s defense had done a good job to force the punt and get off the field. After the penalty, Jarrett Stidham would hit Darius Slayton on a 42-yard pass for a touchdown. These players are told over and over again what they can and can’t do in those punt block situations, so Walker’s penalty was extra maddening. Another thing we had not seen this season was Georgia missing tackles. Kerryon Johnson did a great job of making defenders miss and might prove to be the best back the Dawgs have faced/will face all season.
4. Second-guessing: One of the more talked about things from this game was the way the Dawgs handled the end of the first half. Instead of taking a few shots into the end zone, Georgia was content with settling for a field goal when attempting to put some points on the board before the half. At the time, Auburn led 16-7 and was going to get the ball to start the 2nd half. Georgia had good field position due to a good Mecole Hardman that put the ball at Auburn’s 26-yard line with about 22 seconds left in the half. Georgia then ran the ball with Sony Michel and spiked the ball to give Rodrigo Blankenship time for the kick, a kick that he would ultimately miss. I actually said to a few people near me in the press box that there was no chance that kick was going to go in. It just didn’t feel like it was the right thing to do in that situation. If you take a few shots at the end zone and then kick, it would have felt much better. It just felt like Georgia was resigned to taking the three, and that was disheartening.
5. Taming the savages: For me, this was the most shocking part of this game. Georgia’s defense has been DOMINANT all season long, but they were the exact opposite of that against Auburn. Auburn moved the ball seemingly at will against the Dawgs, whether it was through the air or on the ground. I’ve already mentioned how Kerryon Johnson could not be stopped, but neither could Jarrett Stidham. I was talking with Coach Donnan about this game, and he made a great point: It’s hard to have a consistent pass rush against a team that constantly runs RPOs (run-pass options), especially if you have a quarterback that is good a pre-snap reads. Stidham called a great game in that regard, and constantly had Georgia’s defense guessing.
6. Roadblock in Lee County: The two strongest elements of Georgia’s team this season have been the defense and the run game. I just talked about how Auburn’s offense dominated Georgia’s defense, and you can flip the words “offense” and “defense” there and the same held true. Two of the best backs in the country (Sony Michel and Nick Chubb) had no room to run against the Tigers. The offensive line was flat out horrible in this game. As soon as Georgia’s backs would hit the line of scrimmage, they were met with a host of blue jerseys. There just weren’t any holes for Chubb and Michel to operate in. D’Andre Swift has also been a big part of Georgia’s offense this season, particularly in catching passes out of the backfield. He had zero catches against Auburn and only ran for 18 yards on four carries (which resulted in a yards per carry average that was two yards better than either Chubb or Michel). When you’re a team that leads with the run and can’t run, it’s not going to be a good day for you.
7. Keep Chopping: Was this a bad result for Georgia? Absolutely. A lot of the national media had been questioning Georgia in the lead up to this game, and those doubters were given a lot of ammunition as a result of it. That being said, Georgia still has everything in front of them. If they win the last two games of the regular season against Kentucky and Tech and go on to win the SEC Championship, they WILL be in the College Football playoff. This is where Coach Smart’s “keep chopping wood” slogan comes in handy. Georgia just has to keep working hard and preparing well for each opponent. Even if Georgia doesn’t win the SEC Championship this season, they are still well set up to be in a good bowl game and are ahead of where I thought they would be at this point in Kirby Smart’s tenure as head coach. The future is bright for this program with the recruiting classes the Dawgs are building, but let’s not give up on this season just yet as a lot of different scenarios could still play out. During his press conference this week, Coach Smart spoke very little about the Auburn game, as he, his staff, and his team have moved on to Kentucky. I suggest all of you in DawgNation do the same. There’s still A LOT left to play for and that starts against the boys from the Bluegrass on Saturday.