Monday, November 13, 2006

Georgia-Auburn 2006: Anatomy of a Pantsing

Beating Auburn is like pouring the new Beaujolais. It’s not nearly enough to merely consume this seasonal treat. You must savor it fully; really give the palette a workout and make sure you capture the full bouquet.

This year’s edition – Georgia’s 700th win all-time – was a 37-15 undressing, capped by Georgia taking a knee at the Auburn 7 with just under three minutes remaining. Georgia’s triumph on the so-called Loveliest Village on the Plains was the Bulldogs’ most emphatic thrashing of a top-five team in 64 years.

And yet, while Mark Richt has shown a penchant for last-minute wins that shred Larry Munson’s vocal chords, Richt is usually good for one of these types of wins every season as well. By “these types of wins,” I’m talking about an out-of-the-blue, lightning-in-a-bottle asskicking of one of our biggest rivals. These are historically competitive series on which commentators typically pile on the “throw out the record books” clichés, yet are shockingly over by halftime.

In 2002, it was hanging a half-hundred on a beleaguered Tech. In 2003, Richt hit a trifecta: 30-0 at Clemson, 41-14 at Tennessee and 26-7 against Auburn. In 2004, it was the 45-16 Greene-to-Gibson clinic against LSU. Boise State, which Georgia pounded 48-13, wasn’t a rival, but they were the preseason’s most fashionable upset pick.

Unlike last year’s track meet edition, in which the winner was the last team with the ball, this year’s tilt was a grinding affair defined by scoring drives that seemingly took weeks to complete, punctuated by a few Stafford smart bombs to Martrez Milner A.J. Bryant, Kenneth Harris, Mohamed Massaquoi and Mike Moore.

That the winning team posted 227 rushing yards should come as no surprise, given the schools’ output of tailbacks such as Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson, Stephen Davis, Garrison Hearst, Carnell “Cadillac” Williams and Terrell Davis. Still this statistic is immensely gratifying to Georgia fans, who have been lectured ad nauseum by Auburn fans and their coach about our supposed lack of commitment to running the ball.

Indulge me with a few more game stats, because, if you’re like me and grew up in West Georgia during Bo Jackson’s blitzkrieg, the pleasure that comes from this kind of demolition is ecstasy. And, really, any Dawg fan who’s suffered through this season is going to be swishing numbers like these around in his mouth for a while:

Georgia ran 66 offensive plays, compared to Auburn’s 37. Georgia held the ball for 38 minutes and 12 seconds, compared to Auburn’s 21 minutes and 48 seconds. Georgia racked up 446 total yards to Auburn’s 171.

In a sense, Georgia did to Auburn what Auburn usually does to its opponents: sits on the ball for an eternity and smothers the opponent during the infrequent lapses when the ball isn’t in their possession.

Auburn? Auburn! You got knocked dafuggout!

But there was a lot more sweetness to this win than Georgia merely drowning Auburn in its own medicine, although that alone would’ve been plenty.

For starters, we got the best glimpse yet of the arriving promise of Matthew Stafford, the full-bodied Texan who flicks the long ball and peels off long runs with deceptive ease. We saw yesterday Matthew Stafford do the things in a Georgia uniform that we drooled over him doing in a Highland Park uniform. In place of interceptions, Stafford hit his own receivers with the touch and authority of an underclassman who’s finally growing into his silver britches. After one long run was marred by a fumble, he showed his learning on a subsequent run by diving after crossing the first-down marker. Sure, he left a few yards on the table, but, almost veteran-like, he knew when to leave well enough alone. Along those lines, while humming along to a 70% completion rate, Stafford had the poise to “burn it” by throwing one out of the end zone instead of forcing it. He scored on the next play. The growing up in public of Matt Stafford appears to have reached its apex.

Of course, Stafford was helped considerably by a patchwork OL (led by the injured, but sucking it up heroically Ken Shackelford) that treated Auburn’s DL like a Zen rock garden, pushing around a blitzing-off-the-bus Auburn defensive front to allow the passing and running games do whatever they chose.

Hamstrung all season by brick-mitted receivers, Georgia’s offense looked Saturday as though it had wrapped the field in flytrap tape. That goes for defense, too, given the pick party that Tra Battle and Paul Oliver threw at Brandon Cox’s expense.

After Georgia stoned Steve Spurrier and South Carolina in Columbia, I said I was done complaining about Willie Martinez. And that lasted about a week.

Well, it’s funny how good your defense looks when your offense isn’t turning the ball over five times a game, and I don’t mean that to sound like faint praise. Holding an Al Borges-coached offense to less than 200 yards is a hell of an accomplishment, particularly when that offense includes former Heisman hopeful Kenny Irons, who probably accounted for more offense by himself against us last year. Right now, Brandon Cox is making Ray Gant a sandwich and ironing Tra Battle’s shirts.

Labels: ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right on Man. Preach the gospel like the late Lewis Grizzard.

7:03 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home