Sometimes these little things are fun to write; sometimes they're not. And every now and then, they are a LOT of fun to write. Auburn finally exorcising their uga demons has given me an incredibly pleasant weekend.
Going into the game, I hoped the pressure of being ranked Number One would weigh on Georgia, and Auburn would come out pressure-free and have a good time playing football. That appeared to be the case.
I held some hope for the win based on the fact that Georgia hadn't really played anybody, and it was a certainty that the AU defense was the best they had seen. But I also thought going in that Georgia was better than they turned out to be. Auburn dominated on both sides of the line of scrimmage, but the domination by the Auburn defensive line was beyond anything I imagined. To. A. Man., Georgia's offensive front was whipped play after play. And I don't mean whipped in the eyes of some imaginary "judge." I mean just flat-out WHIPPED. Over and over and over.
Now that I've wasted your time re-hashing my feelings on the game, here are some things I think I saw.....
The top rushing offense in the SEC had 21 running plays for 19 yards in the first half. As a player, that kind of domination by your opponent gets into your head. You know that something is not as it should be, but you get frustrated trying to figure out what it is and how to fix it.
Chandler Cox has been dominant the past two weeks. An exceptional athlete, Cox has struggled with the technique of blocking in space since his arrival at Auburn and his subsequent assignment as THE H-back. Blocking in space requires getting there in a hurry, but coming under control just before contact, so that you don't miss.....then accelerating into the contact at the last instant to generate the necessary force to knock or drive somebody out of the way. Cox appears to have figured that out, and his blocking has been a major factor in Auburn's recent success in the running game. He is fun to watch.
Darius Slayton is rapidly becoming a big-time wide receiver. He's dropped a few passes over the course of the season, but he's caught some good ones, and made lots of plays. His TD catch was a thing of beauty, both in terms of body control, and understanding what had to be done to keep the defensive back's hands away from the ball. Slayton actually pulled his own arms and the ball out of the way as he caught the ball, so the DB had no chance to rake the ball out. And Slayton had a key block on Jarrett Stidham's touchdown on a zone read play. A wide receiver who has speed, can catch the ball in traffic, and can block is a genuine treasure. And Slayton is only going to get better with age and experience.
Georgia fooled our secondary a couple of times.....three times, actually. But they were only able to execute once.. The flea-flicker they ran was open for a touchdown, but there was enough pressure from the AU front that Fromm couldn't get the pass off and ended up taking a sack. Still, there were at least three busted coverages in the Auburn secondary, and that's too many.
Linebacker Darrell Williams stood out to me as making a number of big plays. Williams has impressed me with his knowledge since arriving at Auburn, and did so again yesterday.
The call (by Jarrett Stiham, or the sideline) on the screen play to Ryan Davis for a TD was beautifully done. As Alabama has done for years, Georgia showed a blitz from the wide side of the field. The first time they ran it, Stidham ended up keeping the ball for a small loss. The second time, he chose the pass part of the play, and got the ball to Davis, who took it in for a TD.
No way I will be able to cover all the defensive players who had an outstanding game this week. One who surprised me, as I hadn't seen a lot from him recently, was Dontavius Russell. He was a brute at defensive tackle, throwing blockers aside and making plays on the Georgia running backs. He was also a factor in the fierce Auburn pass rush. Kudos to that Georgia kid for stepping up against his home--state school.
Marlon Davidson was outstanding, but that is the norm for him.
Jeff Holland is no doubt in Jake Fromm's dreams. He was, as he has been all season, a constant in the Georgia backfield.
Speaking of Georgia kids shining against opponents from their home state, how about Derrick Brown? He stepped up his already formidable game this week, and refused to be blocked by what had appeared to be a decent uga offensive line.
Due to dependency on the network TV crews (in this case, CBS), it's tough to get much of a look at the sidelines. But I did catch a shot of two uga players shoving each other near their bench, and the sideline reporter observed that "the Georgia players are fighting among themselves." When it gets to that point, you know you are dominating the game.
Once again, Mike Horton was unavailable at left guard, and also once again, Darius James had to leave the game. I think at this point in the season, Auburn's best offensive line includes Tega at left tackle, Dunn at center, Golson at right tackle, and Harrell at left guard. Harrell has improved a great deal over these last three weeks, and Tega has improved well beyond what I'd consider reasonable expectations. He is incredibly quick and athletic, and once he truly knows what to do, he is going to be a genuine stud left tackle. I'm impressed with what he's accomplished since moving to OL.
Braden Smith is just a beast. I don't really know how we ended up getting a highly-regarded kid from Kansas, but I'm sure glad we did. He just mauls people like no one else we have.
Noticed that we stole a punt return technique from Texas A&M, who ran it against us last week. Two return men back, and one *pretends* he is running to catch the ball on one side of the field, while the other casually positions himself to actually field the punt. Covering a punt is difficult, because you are not certain where the ball is, or where it's going. The easiest way to get yourself to the right place is to watch the return man until the ball comes into your peripheral vision. With the little scheme that aTm ran (and we stole), you are running to the wrong place. I noticed aTm do that last week, and no less than FIVE of the guys covering the punt for Auburn went to the wrong return man. Anyway, AU ran that play yesterday, and Ryan Davis got a 26-yard return out of it. A personal foul penalty on Sony Michel added another 15 yards, so the net was 41 yards.....a big play in any football game.
Eli Stove has become a huge factor in Auburn's running game. Credit to Chip Lindsey for finding multiple ways to get Stove the ball on the perimeter. I love a running back with great speed, and that's essentially what Stove provides us. Last I checked, he is averaging around ten yards per carry.
How could anybody talk about "what I saw" without mentioning Kerryon Johnson? When he was being recruited as a high school kid, I thought KJ was going to make us an excellent all-around back. He is a LOT more than that. The patience he has in waiting for blocks to fall into place, and the burst he attacks the hole with are both remarkable. What an incredible football player!
I'm reminded every week of what a gift we got when Casey Dunn transferred to Auburn. He is not a road-grader, and he is not going to move any buildings, but he is a football player, and having him to take over the center position, allowing Austin Golson to go wherever he is needed has been huge for Auburn's offense.
Noticed little Jeremiah Dinson making plays yesterday. Great to see that his skinny body has recovered from the horrendous injury he suffered two years ago. He is the consummate dime back, and is always willing to sacrifice his body to make a play. Love that kid.
Auburn played a lot of the time yesterday with a single safety, although they often made it appear they were using two. Playing a lot of press man with a single safety, Kevin Steele used Stephen Roberts as an extra run-support guy. Roberts did it very well, lining up as a safety, and drifting toward the box as the snap was about to come.
Tray Matthews had to be happy with the game he had. He got some big-time licks in against his former team, and made some key plays. Thank goodness he is back in the lineup in time for Amen Corner.
Noticed young T.D. Moultry a couple of times yesterday. He looks really natural and instinctive. Good things to come for that young man.
Our QB is getting better every week. Stidham sold the throwback screen to KJ perfectly, never looking back until he was ready to throw the ball. A brilliantly conceived play, it was executed to perfection. I'd be willing to bet Chip Lindsey has watched it a hundred times already and will watch it a hundred more this week.
In a great game like this one, I'm sure I've left out things that should have been mentioned. For that, I apologize. This was a gigantic win, for reasons Auburn people don't need reminding of. I felt like if we couldn't beat Texas A&M, we probably couldn't beat Georgia. Well, we did, and we did. I have also felt like if we could beat Georgia, we could beat Alabama. None of that has any logic or substance to it, but I like the way it sounds. If you made it this far, thanks for taking the time, and WAR EAGLE!!