Another one slips away from the Tigers.
War Eagle, everybody. It's time for an abbreviated Acid Reign report on Auburn's 31-24 loss to Georgia. For one quarter, Auburn dominated the Bulldogs. For the remainder of the game, it was an uphill battle. One thing is evident. No matter how overmatched, this team never quits! Prior to the start of this season, I worried about the strength of Georgia's lines. That worry proved to be on the money. When Georgia settled down, they dominated up front on both sides of the ball. Auburn continued to find a way to stay in the game till the end, but the game was tough to watch, for this Tiger.
Auburn continues to run the ball well, but a lack of an explosive downfield passing game hurt. Darvin Adams is a good one, and with continued development, both he and Terrell Zachary might be great. Still, it took a horrible defensive bust to get a touchdown pass to Zachary. The running game continues to confuse, but never really picked up consistent yardage. On Auburn's three scores, the first was a sandlot play that happened when Georgia rushed themselves out of contain. Todd found Burns on that one. Then there was the awful bust. Auburn's third score was on a kickoff return. We've known all along that Chris Todd does not have a gun for an arm. The most disappointing aspect in this one was the offensive line getting whipped. Not even LSU was able to massacre us with a four man rush like Georgia did. All I can figure is that 11 straight weeks have taken a toll.
Past a few first quarter stops, the defensive line looked tired. There were a couple of hold the ball sacks of Joe Cox, but Auburn had to blitz to get pressure, and linemen were left chasing Georgia backs downfield, especially in the second half. Walter McFadden continues to play well, but receivers on other Dbacks get open at will. When the other team loads up jumbo, and runs over you for 169 yards per game, there's not much you can say. We were not man enough up front to handle the veteran Bulldog line. Georgia's 4.4 yard per carry average is exactly what Auburn has been giving up on the year.
In the midst of this disappointing loss, Auburn posted the best special teams effort of the season. Yes, Demond Washington fumbled a punt. We do that every game, I suppose. Nothing new. Auburn did get it back. At least Washington went forward when he got the chance! All four of Auburn's punts were downed inside the Georgia 20, including another Chris Todd pooch job that was killed on the 3. Clinton Durst was consistent, hitting for 44 yards per punt. Kickoffs were again weak, but Georgia was contained pretty well on the return. Auburn's kick returns were the best of the season, including a desperately needed 99 yard touchdown by Demond Washington. The biggest negative was on the 20 yard Mario Fannin return. Georgia had totally blown their coverage, lost their lanes, and there was nothing but green grass on the left side of the field, with a couple of loose Auburn blockers. Fannin seemed headed that way, but for some bizarre reason, he cut back into traffic to the right, and ran right into the first man and fell down. When the offense couldn't block, we NEEDED another touchdown, there!
Unit Grades, after the jump.
Defensive Line: C+. At times, this unit was blown off the ball, but they slid and still made tackles. It was probably the best game of the year for a tackling standpoint, highlighted by Mike Blanc's nine solo tackles. We were trigger happy too much, taking repeated offsides flags. Coleman, Carter, and Zach Clayton were all flagged.
Linebackers: D. When a team runs right at you 38 times, and your outside linebackers only tally 10 total tackles, you're going to give up yards and points. Auburn's problems here are not new. Georgia tight ends and fullbacks got to the second level , and drove us back repeatedly.
Secondary: D. Outside of Walter McFadden, we were pretty anemic. That's to be expected with three very young players in the starting four, and even less experience among the backups. Neiko Thorpe still has a ways to go, and the two safeties had difficulty following the ball. Georgia didn't throw much, but when they did, they were quite effective, averaging over ten yards per pass.
Punting: A+. It's hard to find fault, here. Auburn gave up one three yard return, and nailed all four punts inside the Georgia 20. Clinton Durst had a marvelous 54 yarder die at the three yard line.
Punt Returns: C. With yet another fumble, the outlook remains grim, here. Demond Washington had a decent fair catch, and an excellent 19 yard return. Then there were two punts Washington let go, and one was downed at the Auburn 12.
Kick Returns: A. We're starting to make blocks on these, and it's paying dividends. Georgia looked undisciplined, and Demond Washington made them look bad. His shortest return was 23 yards, and his 99 yarder for a TD came at a critical time. Points off on Mario Fannin going the wrong way on his one return. And on that last Georgia kickoff, where was Washington? He had 202 kick return yards, at that point. His last one went 99 yards, and you sit him down on the bench with the game on the line? Who was responsible for that?
Kickoffs: C. When you have to squib kickoffs, that's bad. A 56 yard kickoff average is poor. I suppose it was good strategy, though. Georgia managed only 17 yards per return, and Auburn tackled pretty well. A 39.8 yard net kickoff average is one of the better scores of the season for Auburn, unfortunately.
Offensive Line: D. Lee Ziemba got caught jumping at a critical time at the end, but he played better than the rest of the line. We got torn apart on the other side, on the pass rush. We got several holding calls, and were totally unable to move the Georgia line past the first quarter. Bulldog tackles slid with impunity down the line, and filled lanes. Auburn backs had nowhere to go but to the corner. While I'm picking on the line, it's time to criticize the scheme a little bit, too. On short yardage, we need to STOP pulling linemen! I don't know why we do this, and then run Ben Tate right into an unblocked tackle! WHY? On third and short against the 10th rushing defense in the SEC, you drive block! DRIVE BLOCK! Get the first down! OK?
Receivers: B. Auburn men did get open, and mostly made catches. Points off on a crucial holding flag on Tommy Trott. You can always count on a Trott hold, and a Ziemba false start, every game. Again, Trott's probably a victim of offensive design. He's split out, and is a lot more visible than the average tight end. No grabbing, or they'll surely see it! Auburn's biggest problem in the receiving corps is that no one but Adams is consistently getting separation. While we blame Todd for locking in on Adams, he's got to go to the open man. I'd be looking Adams' way, too!
Running Backs: C. Blitz pickup was absolutely horrible. We routinely used a blocking back, and they were not up to the task of handling a loose Bulldog defensive end. Lead blocking wasn't much better, and our power running game went nowhere. Ben Tate got most of his yards on his own. Onterrio McCalebb brought a spark, but he's clearly still not 100 percent. We've got to do better, against Bama. Saban will be sending blitzers all afternoon.
Quarterback: B. Todd didn't have much time in this game. Sometimes, he just had to chunk one up and see what might happen. Got a couple of picks, but we had to take those shots. Todd was off target on his deep balls, with a tendency to overthrow. On the last Auburn play, Darvin Adams made a heck of a move to split two defenders. We might have had overtime, with a better throw.
I missed most of the live game broadcast, but got to watch the last drive. Other fans in the room with me were SCREAMING when Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo went down on that post to Fannin throw at the goal line. They thought he was faking, to buy a tired Georgia defense time. After watching the replay, I'm of the opinion that Rambo took a serious shot. I know I'd not relish a collision with Mario Fannin! Still, if I were coaching defense against the Malzhan offense, I'd have some "fall-down guys" lined up to send in. It's something to think about. Georgia ran right around Ziemba and McCain on the next play, for an easy sack.
In the end, the Bulldogs were too strong for the Auburn lines. Auburn fought valiantly on the road, but took a fourth consecutive loss to the Bulldogs. You definitely can't say that the Tigers quit, though. Here's to a well-deserved week off, for the Tigers. And we hope they come back with a spring in their step Thanksgiving week, and give the Tide all they can handle!