Posted: 9:29 pm Saturday, November 12th, 2016
By Jay Black
ATHENS — Georgia wants to be Alabama.
Who doesn’t want to be Alabama?
On this Saturday, Georgia’s defense was an Alabama defense.
This is why Kirby Smart is here. This is what Bulldog Nation envisioned when the most successful defensive coordinator in this era of college football left the comforting arms of Nick Saban and came home.
On that December day, when this ball of energy in a 40-year-old body took the podium to accept his alma mater’s head coaching job, Georgia fans were hoping and nearly demanding for a snot-separating defense reminiscent of the ones Erk Russell lost blood over.
Bulldog Nation wanted to see Alabama with and red and black wardrobe. They wanted GATA in 2016.
This is what that dream looks like.
The 21st ranked offense in American college football gets 164 yards. Total. It’s head coach Gus Malzahn, driver of the Gus Bus, has never had fewer.
Ranked third in America with 300 rushing yards per game, Auburn gets 127.
In the final two quarters of football, a team that had hopes of crashing the playoff party manages 32 total yards. Eight passing yards. Zero first downs.
That’s a lot of digits just to spell domination.
“The sharks were swarming,” Smart told the UGA radio network after the game. “They were getting after it.”
To be fair, it’s easy to smother a team that’s missing the SEC’s leading rusher. Does Kamryn Pettway make the difference? Perhaps. But that’s a long way for one man to travel when his understudies can’t get a single first down in two quarters.
Did Malzahn and his sweater vest inexplicably throw the ball way too much in the third quarter? Oh yeah.
But the final score is 13-7 Georgia. The No. 9 team in this country goes down. Kirby Smart finally hangs a memory making victory on his wall and almost (save a win over Tech) moves this season from the bad column to the good one.
“That was more than a team-wide (win), said Smart. “It was university-wide and fan-wide.”
Smart said after beating Kentucky that “he needed” that win and so did everybody else. But this was the one that proves the progress that Smart was promising.
The last time Georgia was Between the Hedges, it couldn’t beat Vanderbilt. Three games later, it’s pulled off its first win over a top-10 opponent in three years and its first victory over an SEC foe with any ranking at all since Auburn was last here in 2014.
And it did all of that without an offensive touchdown. This team still has a long way to go before it reaches elite status. It still makes that one crucial mistake, penalty or turnover that sets it back.
UGA only managed 343 yards and has significant red zone issues. Two TDs in 10 trips over four games is kind of a problem. Everybody looks great between the 30s, but things keep getting a bit weird after that.
Freshman QBs and mediocre offensive lines can be blamed for that.
There were moments, though. Georgia receivers were finally getting open off the line scrimmage and giving Jacob Eason a chance to hit some bombs. Nick Chubb topped 100 yards again and helped lead that crucial last drive.
True it didn’t lead a game ending touchdown, but it ate up the clock and forced Auburn to do what it despises. Throwing.
“You talk about it being identity drive,” said Smart. “We talked about them being physical.”
Georgia’s offense still isn’t the physical specimen that Smart saw everyday in the state next door. But you can’t rebuild the whole house all at the same time. You’ve got to start with what matters most. And if the other guys can’t score, you only need to score a little.
There was so much hype coming into this season about this new era of Georgia football with a former Dawg leading the way. Then there was Ole Miss and that month of October and the band wagon had no band.
If you jumped off, I’m sure people will slide back over for you.
Kirby Smart doesn’t have what he wants quite yet, but Georgia people got a peak. Which is what this season was truly about. It didn’t need to be the whole pie, just a taste would do.
Eat up everybody.
Mr. Smart finally has his big win and shows his people what the hype was all about.