In what was described to me that night as “the moment the tide turned for Kirby Smart at Georgia,” the Georgia Bulldogs defeated the Auburn Tigers between the hedges Saturday, 13-9.
Despite the slight margin in the score, Georgia played an impressive game and, as has been their pattern this season, they went back to the drawing board on defense and stopped one of the best running games in the SEC. Admittedly, Auburn was down their best weapon on offense, as running back Kamryn Pettway was still nursing an injured leg from the Tigers’ previous week win over Vanderbilt. But Georgia’s defense was still solid enough to make Kirk Herbstreit’s #3 “Best Player” spot for the week:
My top PERFORMANCES of wk 11
— Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) November 14, 2016
SMART TACKLES DEFENSE
Coach Kirby Smart has been consistent all season in addressing each underperforming element of his inherited team and coming back stronger every week. This week is was a renewed defense that shut down the Auburn running game after allowing the Tigers one touchdown early in the first. Auburn, a team that had been averaging more than 500 offensive yards a game, only managed to gain 32 in the second half against Georgia. Of course, the UGA fan base, emboldened as it was to be winning at home during a tougher than usual season, helped shut down the run a bit:
— UGA Football Live (@UGAfootballLive) November 14, 2016
OFFENSE BOOSTS DEFENSE
The defense also got a big boost from a rapidly improving offense, a line that has taken a lot of heat this season. The Bulldogs had a total yard output of 343, while holding Auburn to only 164. Additionally, Georgia finally learned how to drive down the field, with several of those drives going 10 plays or more, and the final drive, the one that ran out the clock, looking like a slow and steady strategy worthy of the NFL. Auburn’s likes to move fast, eschewing huddles, and by the end of the game, they were spent.
“Our defense got to rest. Going into this game that was my major concern, was not getting to rest because of their tempo,” Smart said post-game, praising the offense. “You negate tempo when you eat clock with your offense and you’re able to get some first downs. Even if you don’t score, cash in, get in field goal range and get knocked out, all the things that we did wrong, we possessed the ball.”
BLACKOUT SANFORD STADIUM SATURDAY
It worked, despite two unsuccessful trick plays (one an interception in the end-zone) that will hopefully be tried again. This week’s game at Sanford Stadium in Athens might be the time to try again, in fact, as Georgia takes on 4-5 Louisiana-Lafayette in the first “Blackout” game of the season (where the players and the fans wear black). The Bulldogs haven’t had the best luck with blackout games, so the added risk of trick plays might be a bit much Saturday. Either way, the Bulldogs are fun to watch again. And it didn’t take Coach Kirby Smart very long.