Auburn Crushes Georgia!!!! (Grading Auburn’s 40–17 win over Georgia)
Let the celebrating begin!
(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
War Eagle everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on Auburn’s incredible 40–17 win over top-ranked Georgia at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Georgia started and finished the game with nice, lengthy drives that relied heavily upon the arm of freshman quarterback Jake Fromm. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the rest of the game saw them dominated to the tune of a 40–3 score. Auburn was tougher on both lines of scrimmage. While Georgia was making drive-killing mistakes, Auburn made clutch play after play.
As in previous SEC games, Auburn came at Georgia with a balanced attack, finishing the day with 237 yards on the ground and 251 through the air. With the Auburn defense playing well, Auburn spent the first half bashing away against a stubborn Bulldog bunch. The Tigers’ first 3 scoring drives all resulted in field goals, which was a bit worrisome. We’ve seen Auburn rely heavily upon 3-pointers in big games in the past and have seen it cost the Tigers, ultimately. This day, however, Georgia would be unable to take advantage. Near the half, a sensational touchdown grab on a deep ball by Darius Slayton put Auburn up 16–7. In the second half, similar to recent games, Auburn stomped on the gas pedal, swiping field position from the Bulldogs and punching in a couple of quick touchdowns.
In recent years, this coaching staff has been widely criticized for poor play calling in big games. That cannot be said about this game. There were at least a half dozen big-time, pour-it-on calls in the second half of this one, including a keeper for a touchdown, a blitz-beating hot screen, a fake punt-muff, and a throwback screen pass for a touchdown with a big lead. What was especially good was that Georgia could not get a handle on what plays Auburn would run just from the personnel in the game. Auburn threw successfully with heavy groups in the game and ran well with spread sets. Although it missed by a bit, Auburn had Ryan Davis again throw out of the wildcat, this time towards quarterback Jarrett Stidham. Auburn really kept the Georgia defense off balance and wore it out in the second half.
I was worried after the first Georgia drive when Auburn was able to stuff Georgia’s run game and force 3rd and long, only to see the Bulldogs sail up a couple of prayers for big yardage down the sideline. Georgia cashed that first drive for a touchdown, but the door was emphatically slammed after that one. The SEC’s leading rushing attack was stuffed all day long. The dreaded duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel was held to just 49 yards on 20 carries. The miracle passes dried up as Bulldog quarterback Jake Fromm was harried, harrassed, chased and dumped repeatedly by a dominant Auburn front. Timely plays were made in the back 7 of the defense as balls were swatted away and plays were strung out to the sideline for little or no gain.
If there was a negative to this game, it had to be the play of special teams’ punt and kick coverage. Auburn allowed 195 yards in the return games and had to resort to the tactic of squibb or pooch-kicking to Georgia’s upbacks and short-punting away from return men. Uncharacteristically, Auburn kicked off 9 times in this game and had no touchbacks. Daniel Carlson was reaching the end zone with his kicks, but Georgia just ran them out, to the tune of 25.3 yards per return. Carlson did nail all 4 of his field goal attempts.
Unit grades after the jump!
Defensive Line: A. This unit just destroyed the Bulldog offensive game plan. Auburn controlled the line of scrimmage and gave Bulldog runners nowhere to go. Nick Chubb’s longest run of the day was only 6 yards, and Sony Michel’s was only 7 yards. I’ve noted before that most defensive lines make about 10 tackles per game. This unit had 22, including 3 sacks and 5 official quarterback hurries.
Linebackers: A. The total tackles numbers don’t tell the true story of this performance as Auburn played linebacker-leverage. Time and time again these guys forced Georgia runners into traffic and waiting help. The linebackers only had 13 total tackles but were in the right place at the right time all day.
Secondary: B+. There was more sure tackling this week, and the Auburn secondary did not allow Georgia runners or receivers to get away. I’m not sure why teams keep throwing at safety Stephen Roberts. That’s just a sure way to get a pass swatted down. Pursuit was swift and sure. The secondary contributed 27 total tackles.
Punting: B. Aiden Marshall finished the day officially with 4 punts for a 39.5 yard average. One punt was wiped out when Georgia was flagged for roughing. Georgia had 43 return yards before Auburn figured out to stop kicking the ball to Mecole Hardman. I do have to give the punt team credit for jumping on a muffed punt to set up Auburn’s first touchdown of the second half.
Punt Returns: A-. Stephen Roberts had 4 fair catches on 8 punts 1 return for 5 yards. One of the punts Roberts did not catch turned into a pretty good trick play. Roberts appeared to lose the ball in the sun, selling an excellent dazed and confused act. While Roberts stumbled around like he had fumbled the ball, he tricked half the Georgia punt coverage into chasing him. Ryan Davis actually fielded that ball and picked up 25 yards to set up another Auburn touchdown.
Kick Returns: C. Auburn only had one opportunity, on the first Georgia kickoff. A short kick was taken by Noah Igbinoghene at the 11, and he only picked up 11 yards and was dropped at the 22. Return blocking continues to be a problem.
Place Kicking: B-. Auburn had a great kicker but really shaky coverage once again. The Tigers gave up 142 kick-return yards, more than triple what the defense gave up to Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Daniel Carlson did not get any touchbacks but did drill all 4 of his field goal attempts. Carlson has not missed an extra point in his entire career at Auburn.
Offensive Line: B+. It was another week and another different line combination for Auburn. It didn’t matter. Auburn faced probably the most physical defensive line they’ll see this season and won more battles than they lost early on. As the game wore on, the Auburn line wore Georgia down. This week’s crew featured Casey Dunn at center, Braden Smith and Marquel Harrell at guards, Austin Golson at left tackle, and Darius James at right tackle as he returned to action. When James is healthy, Auburn can always pick up a few yards on runs to the right. James is a load as a run blocker!
Running Backs: A. This was mostly the Kerryon Johnson show at tailback. Despite complete determination by Georgia to take Auburn’s ground game away, KJ ripped off 167 rushing yards and added 66 receiving yards. Chandler Cox wasn’t quite as dominating this week as last, but Georgia is several gears faster than Texas A&M at linebacker. Cox had a nice 17-yard catch and run this week, too. Spencer Nigh continues to do well spelling Cox at times.
Receivers: A. I think there was one ball this week that could be ruled a drop against an Auburn receiver, and it took the replay booth and a questionable call to do it. There were some great catches this week and some great runs after the catch. Darius Slayton started it all, snatching a second quarter bomb out of the air and rolling over a Georgia defender for the score. That broke open a tight 9–7 ball game.
I’ve watched a lot of offenses over the years, able to quick-fire a little wide-receiver screen and easily pick up 10 yards, often a whole lot more, against Auburn’s defenses. I always wondered, why can’t we do that? This year, we can! Ryan Davis seems to turn one of these balls into a score every week, and he repeated that against Georgia. Davis now has 52 receptions in 10 games with at least 3 more games to play. The single season 60-reception mark set by Darvin Adams back in 2010 is in serious jeopardy! I’d also like to give a shout-out to Eli Stove, who is clearly a running back in receiver clothes. On the season, Stove is averaging 9.2 yards per carry on sweeps. His success really clears the way for Auburn’s more traditional running plays. Finally, tight ends haven’t been targeted much this year, and we fans get sucked into coach promises that they’ll be more involved each year. Has yet to happen. However, we have a couple of dominating blockers on the heavy sets, Jalen Harris and Tucker Brown. Auburn is much better in converting on short yardage this year, and those guys are part of the reason why.
Quarterback: A. This was a game that could have easily derailed a quarterback. Georgia brought the house, and Jarrett Stidham faced a ton of pressure. Stidham took only a couple of sacks, threw the ball away when he had to, and took off when it was prudent. When he had time he was deadly, to which we’ve become accustomed!
I have to give a shout-out to the Auburn faithful for the atmosphere in this one. I was only able to listen to a few plays here and there on the radio, and later watch highlights, until I watched the replay this morning. The noise was incredible! I have to feel that the crowd forced a number of Georgia errors. If this continues on Iron Bowl weekend, I like Auburn’s chances!
I’m still having a hard time getting my mind around beating a top-ranked Georgia team this badly. In my lifetime, Alabama and Georgia are Auburn’s top rivals, year in and year out. Auburn has never beaten either during my years, by more than 23 points. We had the 49–26 beating of Bama in 1969, and Auburn trashed Ray Goff’s second team 33–10, in 1990 during Stan White’s first season. Neither of those teams had the record or the standing of this Georgia team. And Auburn mauled it, 40–17!
The season is not over. Auburn has a game next weekend in the early time slot against Louisiana Monroe. Monroe is improved this season on offense, but its defense is suspect. Unless Auburn really regresses in the play-calling and turnover department, yards and points should rain aplenty. I’m figuring a result on the order of 52–10.
Then comes the Iron Bowl in Auburn. Alabama is a wounded team, but it very much showed that it is dangerous last night. Mississippi State seemingly had the Tide on the ropes and was looking for a killing score in the 4th quarter. At first, it surely looked as if the Bulldogs would score a touchdown to go up by 14. The Tide rose, and MSU had to try a field goal and missed. The Alabama offense then went through the MSU defense like a red-hot knife through butter. Alabama won it, 31–17. Auburn has the players to hang with Alabama this season, will have the home-field advantage, and has had better injury luck, to date. However, Alabama will do everything it can in the next couple of weeks to get the wounded healthy as will Auburn.
Much ado will be made this week over shifting playoff rankings, but Auburn must shut all of that out. Auburn is a 2-loss team and will need help to get into the playoffs by other top teams losing. Some will, thanks to the schedules. Auburn must not worry itself. All that matters is beating Alabama. If Auburn wins that one, then a rematch with Georgia is in the offing. On the artificial turf in the new Atlanta stadium, I like the chances various speedy Auburn players give the Tigers in an SEC title game against Georgia. If both objectives are accomplished, then we’ll worry about the playoff. However, in any season, the most important thing is to beat Bama. Period.