As I talked about publicly this summer in the preseason, it was only a matter of time until Georgia and Auburn met for an SEC championship. I actually picked correctly, then, the outcome of every single Georgia, Auburn, and Alabama football game.
I picked Georgia to avenge over Auburn in Atlanta, too, with Georgia claiming the SEC.
Coming into this year’s first go-round of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, Auburn had dropped 11-of-15 total to Georgia over a full decade and a half. The series had been easily owned by Georgia since 2006, the Dawgs dropping only two games to their oldest rival since, both in unusual circumstances that catapulted Auburn into national title contests. The first, they won by starting an undergrad professional quarterback, which resulted in rule modification to increase scrutiny on clearly corrupt families on the take who actually shop their athletic offspring to colleges for money, in Cam’s case repeatedly, before and after he was kicked off Florida for being a crook. Cam got a statue built at Auburn, where winning is valued above all else. I’ve repeatedly heard the value of cheating openly praised by their fans and former football players. The second, the Prayer at Jordan-Hare, was a Georgia defensive bust in Richt’s least fortunate year of his fifteen in Athens. That time, Auburn went on to upset Bama in a similar fashion and then blow the conference national championship streak to FSU. They ran out of luck.
The seniors on Auburn were winless versus Georgia. It was a home game for them. We were, uncomfortable by lack of experience at top-tier success, number one. We had easily clinched the SEC East and played our way into the College Football Playoff, with a mulligan. We had been tested in only one game. Our defense and running game and coordinators calling plays were overconfident, unwilling to modify what had worked. Nothing aligned for the Dawgs to win that football game, unless we were so much better than Auburn that winning was inevitable.
It wasn’t. We weren’t. Auburn was destined to win the SEC West and was the best team we played against.
Let’s take a peek at the Georgia debacle on the plains in anticipation of cleaning up our messes in all three phases of the complete game. We can beat Auburn!
We lost by twenty-three points that dark day. After, our team knew too well, “Everything is in front of us.”
Let’s go special teams first. We especially failed in that third, that day. Auburn made four field goals, while we missed the key kick to end the first half. So they are plus-3 on one big play, not counting their makes. That’s down to 20 from 23. We muffed a punt, which led to a quick touchdown. That’s down to 13. We vaulted the wedge on a punt rush, in a correct call implemented to increase player safety. Quick touchdown, that’s down to 6. Nothing else, except finding a way to keep them from making two field goals on us instead of four and the game is tied.
Perhaps we catch one of the two potential touchdown passes egregiously dropped or Fromm doesn’t fail to see the guys that are streaking to the end zone, twice. Make one of those four plays, and that’s the (mythical) winning margin. Bookended by hard-nosed opening and closing touchdown drives, we gained 86 yards on 10 drives. Not so number one in the country sounding, is that? With the now-number two and three rushers in school history healthy, we were held to under 50 total yards rushing as a team. Both of our guys will get 100 on a good day, or at least their total will be around 200. The passing offense was unwilling or unable to work a wide open middle of the football field, with the box loaded with defenders. I just watched “SEC Replay” to ensure what I saw was what I saw. Yeah, quick-hitters over the box were there all day long. We will have to work the middle of the field to soften the box.
Kerryon Johnson did almost all of their damage, with 167 yards rushing and 66 receiving. His crazy 233 yards came on a day when he had a career record in total carries. He leads the SEC in carries per game after sitting a few out early in the season, and it caught up to them. Selfish coaching and winning now at all cost, Kerryon has taken years off his pro career and has a garbage shoulder right now, which isn’t then. This won’t be another home game in the jungle (which is the geographic opposite of plains, by the way), Gus. This game will be played in Georgia.
My old garbage shoulder from years of going over the middle and undersized rebounding and wrecking skateboards and bikes on the pavement has returned, too. Trust me when I tell you, it’s extremely uncomfortable having even a lingering shoulder injury. When you are willing to fumble the ball and throw yourself down on your home turf in the biggest game of the year, you aren’t coming back all the way well the next week. Maybe never.
Kam Pettway was their leading physical runner last year. He is unhealthy and won’t play. Kam Martin is a 180-pound sophomore runner with a tweaked ankle who may get the bulk of the carries…against an angry and embarrassed NFL-quality defense.
Gary Danielson said, “It has been a perfect night for the Auburn offense,” speaking rightly of the vast improvement since they were blanked in the second half at LSU, after they had yielded 11 sacks in another loss at Clemson. I’m not seeing a top quality win on their schedule away from home, folks. But they beat the top teams in the country in back-to-back SEC games, at home, with a cupcake scheduled in the interim. They did what they had to do at home to simply catch up and get in. They’re done, I hope.
Kirby Smart is undefeated in revenge games as a head football coach.
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