Coming into this game everybody thought it would be a close one. Georgia had the momentum coming in as winners of seven straight but had a lot of question marks. Georgia had been winning games but not impressively until they put away New Mexico State last week by putting 63 on the scoreboard. Before this game, the SEC East was win-less against SEC West teams not from the state of Mississippi. Auburn came in winning 4 of 6 with their two losses being to Top 10 teams. Most thought Auburn was headed in the right direction and Georgia was winning with smoke and mirrors. So how did it play out?
On offense Georgia basically did what they wanted, when they wanted. Georgia punted just once in the game and turned it over twice (once Georgia shooting itself in the foot and a second time a combination of a good blitz call and missed blocks by Georgia) but Georgia really just executed when they needed to and Auburn could do little to stop them coming down the field play by play. In the first half it was a combination of the pass sprinkled in with Carlton Thomas getting some good yards on the ground. Aaron Murray was dynamic for the second straight game. His passes weren't always right on the money but it felt like Murray and his WR corps have finally gotten on the same page and are starting to get the feel of playing together. Remember, Murray lost AJ Green and Kris Durham to the NFL this year. What's so impressive is that three of Georgia's leading six receivers are freshman. The Dawgs got true Freshman Malcolm Mitchell back this game (after missing three in a row) and he was dynamic. Mitchell provided Murray with the deep threat and with the threat of yards after the catch (Mitchell caught three passes for 85 yards and TD and is Georgia's leading yardage receiver despite missing three games). Red-shirt Freshman Michael Bennett provides Murray with the Kris Durham/Brian Finneran like possession receiver who can also double as a stunt man. Bennett made a fantastic grab in the Florida game on 4th down for a TD and maybe out did that in this game with a diving catch in the end zone on a 27 yard TD. The receivers have provided Murray with the confidence that they will make the catches if he puts it in a decent position and Murray has been delivering much more consistently because of that.
The real story of this game on the offensive side of the football though was Georgia's offensive line. Georgia's OL has been an issue this year but are they finally starting to come together under first year coach Will Friend? The protection in the first half for Murray was noticeably good as Murray had time to throw and make the right reads. When Auburn did get a good rush against him it wasn't a jail break so he was able to react and make plays with his feet. The OL also simply dominated Auburn in the second half. In the second half Georgia had two drives that totaled 21 plays and took a combined 13:38 off the clock. Both drives ended with TDs, the later of the two drives was all done on the ground. The OL paved the way for Georgia's Carlton Thomas (127) and Isaiah Crowell (132) to be the first tandem to run for 100 yards in one game since 2009 against Georgia Tech. I looked at Gene Chizik funny when he said his team was doing good against run in his end of half interview (Carlton Thomas already had around 60 yards at that point). In the second half Georgia took the ball and shoved it down his teams throat with little resistance. Georgia finished with over 40 minutes in time of possession and the score could have been much worse if Georgia didn't make the decision to grind it out and run down the play-clock in the second half.
Another story of this game was Georgia's defense. Auburn came out on their first drive and went 76 yards in 2:44 and put the ball in the end zone. It felt like it was going to be a shoot out. Then the Georgia defense showed up. After their initial drive, Georgia only allowed two drives of more than 20 yards the rest of the game. Auburn came into this game averaging 354 yards per game and Georgia held them to just 195 (119 after the first drive). Auburn had been averaging 191 yards on the ground and Georgia held them to just 51 yards on the day. The highlight of the day for the defense was Bacarri Rambo's 24 yard INT return for a TD where he weaved in and out of the Auburn tacklers on his way to the end zone. This play made it 28-7 and was Georgia's second TD in under a minute. It pretty much broke Auburn. The real story of the defense for me was Alec Ogletree. Ogletree went down early in the Boise State game with an injury and didn't play again until Florida. Now he has three games back under his healed leg and he's making noise. I don't know what the stats will show but he was making plays behind the line of scrimmage, caused a fumble and was just generally blowing guys up and causing issues for Auburn. Couple him with the havoc Jarvis Jones has wreaked this year and Georgia has one of the most dynamic LB tandems in the Nation. Georgia hasn't played any elite offenses this year but the defense is not just stopping teams, now it's making plays and helping turn the tides of games.
Special Teams was also much improved for Georgia. The biggest issues have been FG kicking and kick-off coverage. Kick-Off coverage was excellent today as Georgia kicked it off a bunch (I lost count but scoring 45 points means you kick off a lot) and the longest return for Auburn was just 25 yards. Quintavious Harrow, most well-known as the guy who may or may not have been a package deal with Isaiah Crowell in recruiting, just absolutely blew up an Auburn guy on a return early in the game and that set the stage for Special Teams for the game. He also got a call out from Coach Richt when asked what Georgia did best in the first half. Georgia only had to kick one FG so we really don't know how much improved the kicking was but Brian Bogotay did hit a 26 yarder late in the game. The kickers did a better job putting the ball into the end zone for touchbacks as well.
All in all, this was Georgia's most complete and impressive win of the season. Is Georgia for real? They were on this day that's for sure. I will have more thoughts up later this weekend on Crystal Ball Run on how this win will affect the rest of the season for Georgia.