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Nerd’s Take: Beat the Dog Crap Out of Em

Yes Gus, yes we did.

NCAA Football: Georgia at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing has been more infuriating the last decade than Auburn’s incompetence when it comes to Georgia. Too many times good to great Auburn teams have lost to ok to terrible Georgia teams. The last two years especially have been painful. The Dawgs scored a grand total of 1 offensive touchdown in the previous two meetings, yet won both contests. That makes absolutely no sense....

So Saturday night, it just felt right that now that Georgia is actually supposed to be good, that they would arrive at Jordan-Hare with a shiny #1 ranking and leave with one of the worst beatings of their lives.

I was there and it was glorious....

I don’t think I have seen a visiting fanbase as cocky or as confident coming to Jordan-Hare in sometime as this Georgia fanbase. There was a rowdy UGA section next to where I sat who proclaimed that you can take it to the bank, 14 point Georgia win. The Georgia fan that sat next to me and my father was extremely chatty before the game and during the first quarter. He informed us that the last time he had been to Auburn was in 2004 when Reggie Brown had almost been killed. But you know, UGA still won the game (they did not). He also enlightened my father and I that the video on Kerryon Johnson’s outstanding performance this season was a “misleading stat” because Georgia running backs have to share their carries...

Here’s what that section next to us looked like midway through the 4th quarter.

And our “misleading stat” Dawg friend? He left at halftime. I love Dawg tears...

I can say without a doubt that this was one of the top 5 atmospheres I can remember at Jordan-Hare. Props to whomever decided to give Nick Fairley a call to be the honorary captain. That was the loudest UGA fans were all night. Auburn also trotted out more AU/UGA heroes honoring Pat Sullivan, Terry Beasley, Carlos Rogers and Devin Aromashodu. Props to the DJ who picked the exact perfect time to exact Auburn’s revenge for 2007. And props to Gus Malzahn for letting his team play loose and he himself show some real emotion for the Auburn family. We like this guy. This was the guy we thought we hired back in 2013.

But most of all, props to this football team. It could have been really easy to give up after LSU. Heck, plenty of Auburn fans did. But instead, the Tigers used that game as fuel. Auburn has come out hungry the last 3 weeks and absolutely trounced three SEC opponents and have left no doubt in any of the contests who the superior football team was on the field that day. Georgia made their handful of mistakes but so did Auburn. The difference was not a muffed punt or a boneheaded personal foul penalty. Those only accelerated the inevitable. The difference was Auburn’s offensive and defensive lines were determined to enforce their will on Georgia and Auburn’s coaching staff did their job putting players in a position to succeed. Enjoy this win Auburn family, it was well earned.

Keeping Kirby Off Balance

Kirby Smart is a really good defensive coordinator. He helped build the monster in Tuscaloosa and is working on trying to construct one of equal ferocity in Athens. But something that has become clear over the years is that if Gus Malzahn has a functioning QB at his disposal, he knows how to keep Kirby’s head spinning. In contests against Smart where Malzahn is not using an emergency or broken QB, just look at the offensive numbers:

  • 2009: 21 points | 332 total yards | 213 passing yards | 151 rushing yards
  • 2010: 28 points | 324 total yards | 242 passing yards | 108 rushing yards
  • 2013: 34 points | 393 total yards | 97 passing yards | 296 rushing yards
  • 2014: 44 points | 630 total yards | 456 passing yards | 174 rushing yards
  • 2017: 40 points | 488 total yards | 251 passing yards | 237 rushing yards

It doesn’t always mean he will win but you can bet that if Gus has a QB he trusts, he’s going to move the ball on Smart’s defense. That proved true Saturday night as well.

Of course, it doesn’t matter who your quarterback is if you are getting the type of push up front Auburn was getting in the second half. Just look at these two second half plays and you get a feel for what was happening at the line of scrimmage.

And then it seemed just when UGA had adjusted or were ready for Auburn’s power run game, the Tigers would pop one outside for a big gain.

There was also a good mixture of RPO to keep the UGA defense honest as well. Every time they overloaded the box, Auburn got the ball to the perimeter for a nice pickup.

It’s apparent the offensive coaching staff was set on making sure Auburn stayed balanced and took what the defense gave them. Auburn’s dominance up front helped the interior run game stay a threat but by consistently attacking the Dawgs on the perimeter, it forced UGA to respect the whole field which in turn allowed Auburn to continue running the ball up the middle. When this offense is clicking it can look downright unstoppable at times.

Also, when you have a running back that can make moves like these:

Well then your running game is gonna be pretty sick too. There is a lot of experience and talent on this UGA front 7 but they consistently looked overwhelmed and inferior to Auburn’s offensive line and ball carriers.

Dominating Defensive Performance

Auburn’s message on defense was clear to Georgia’s offense: we don’t respect you. Auburn spent most of the day in 1 high safety looks, trusting their corners to hold up in press man coverage. They rolled the extra safety down into the box, determined to not give an inch in the run game. They didn’t.

It was a dominating performance, top to bottom on defense. This wasn’t 2010 where a herculean effort by Nick Fairley would get the defense off the field or 2013 where a perfectly timed Dee Ford sack would save the day. This was 11 men consistently whooping the 11 men in front of them.

I was also incredibly impressed with Auburn seniors Stephen Roberts and Tray Matthews who time and time again showed up out of nowhere to stuff a Georgia ball carrier or knock a pass out of the air. The pair have been a steady force for this Auburn defense and Saturday was their crown jewel in term’s of performances this season. Just look at a few of the outstanding plays the two made Saturday.

Just sick.

But where Auburn really excelled Saturday was rushing the passer. Jake Fromm is a former 5* with plenty of ability but he spent a lot of the game Saturday on his back. The youngster got no help from his offensive line and when he did get the ball out, it seemed like his receivers just couldn’t make a play. Outside of Javon Wims, this Georgia receiving core had a real rough night.

In total, Auburn had four sacks on the night. Here’s every beautiful one of them.

But Fromm wasn’t just getting sacked. Even when he did get the ball away the pressure was so intense he still ended up taking shots. I have no doubt the young man woke up very sore Sunday morning after a night full of nightmares about this Auburn pass rush.

While Gary Danielson was quick to harp on Georgia’s mistakes and I have seen plenty of Georgia fans play the “what if” game, it’s important to point out that Auburn’s defense still wasn’t perfect. That supposed missed TD opportunity for the Dawgs was only open because Carlton Davis fell down. Fromm hit two wide open WRs on coverage busts. The Tigers dropped an interception late in the game that would have prevented a final score. A Jeff Holland penalty kept an UGA drive alive after Auburn got a quick stop.

Bottom line is both teams made mistakes but only one team brought it every snap. You can excuse away as much as you like but when you really study the film one thing becomes very clear, Auburn really is much better than Georgia. The Dawgs could not move the ball at all on the ground, could not protect the QB long enough to throw it in the air, could not consistently get enough pressure on Stidham to disrupt the passing game and could not stop Auburn’s rushing attack. Auburn was at least two scores better than Georgia Saturday night, end of story.

Oh and how about this stat?

Touchdown Auburn

Let’s just take a moment to bask in the fact that we have four touchdowns to breakdown this week. All last week, we heard and read about this elite UGA defense that Auburn wouldn’t be able to run the ball against. About that... But it was the passing game that put points on the board as the Tigers’ success running the football helped setup the big play through the air. Let’s enjoy.

Yes I included 4 different angles of this play because it was just too beautiful not too. This play has long been a staple in Malzahn’s arsenal complete with him hollering “GET IT TO HIM” as our good friend WarRoomEagle has well documented. Saturday, the play finally worked as the screen drew in the boundary safety leaving Slayton 1 on 1 on the post route and he made a spectacular grab for the score. If you want to hear a real expert break this play down, check out (possibly future Florida coach) Chip Kelly’s take on Auburn’s touchdown.

The Tigers second touchdown score came on another ole reliable, the read option. Auburn shows split zone on the play which typically means Chandler Cox blocks the end man on the line of scrimmage. Instead he “bluffs” and Stidham reads the defender. Davin Bellamy (who got whooped all night on the edge) turns his shoulder inside signaling to Stidham to pull the ball. He does and gets two great blocks from Chandler Cox and Darius Slayton. Touchdown Auburn.

Earlier in the game Georgia showed this same look and did a little half roll into it that resulted in nothing. This time though the Tigers either had the screen play called or checked to it. With UGA defenders coming quickly, Stidham gets the ball out in a hurry to Ryan Davis who then makes the rest of the Georgia defense look stupid on his way to the endzone. That defender lying on his back after grasping air at the start of the play? Roquan Smith.

Finally, the most wonderful screen play you will ever see. Auburn had been pounding the ball between the tackles or hitting UGA on the edge for basically 15 minutes of gametime. So on 3rd & short, Auburn once again lined up looking to do something of the same. This time though Auburn fakes action to the far side and Stidham throws back to Kerryon Johnson. Between Ryan Davis’s motion, Nate Craig-Myers’s route and all the action heading the other way, all of Georgia’s defense is heading the opposite direction of where the ball ends up. Kerryon is able to coast behind his blockers before accelerating at the last second into the endzone for the score. Once again, Chip Kelly can give this play way more justice than I ever could. But we can all agree that this was one sexy football play.

A Parting Gif

War Eagle!