In 114 renditions of The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, Georgia had outscored Auburn by 38 points.
In the 115th, Georgia outscored Auburn by 38 points.
The final score shall remain illuminated in the minds of the Bulldog Faithful for years to come, because 45-7 just doesn’t happen in this series.
Sixty-five years ago, the 1946 Georgia team led by the great Charley Trippi, defeated Auburn, 41-0. In the entire history of this storied series, that remains the only Auburn defeat more lopsided than the one the Dogs administered on Saturday.
That’s what makes 45-7 so mind-blowing. Did anyone see this coming? Most observers were amazed that the professional prognosticators had installed Georgia as a 12 ½ point favorite. Turns out, you could have tripled that line, and the Dogs still covered.
We’re witnessing the evolution of a team that got decked twice, picked itself up off the canvas, steadied itself, gathered strength, and now looks ready to knock out any team in its path.
This team could have packed it in after those two opening losses. Yet this group took the opposite path. These Dogs chose to use those two losses as a springboard to success. They pulled together, became a true team. Often esprit de corps is overlooked when analyzing a team.
Sometimes it’s the most important ingredient.
Coach Mark Richt intimated as much right after the loss to South Carolina. “We’ve got the ingredients to be a very fine football team,” Richt told the press that day. “I believe in these guys and these coaches. Let’s let the season play out and see where we go.”
You get the sense that this team loves playing together. Though each game proved a struggle, the wins started coming.
And the defense started playing like a classic Georgia defense, not a sham Willie Martinez version.
The defense stepped up and throttled Florida, while the offense did enough to secure the win. Suddenly, the Dogs had something else going for them: confidence. The pot boiled over with a rousing performance a week ago, but that was New Mexico State, after all.
Saturday, the Dogs turned in the same performance against Auburn, and that cannot be dismissed.
The first half ended with Georgia ahead, 35-7. Mohamed Massaquoi, the permanent captain of the 2008 Dogs, felt compelled to send a text. To paraphrase, he said, “Wow! The Dogs are really playing ball today!” That summed it up beautifully.
Richt relieved Martinez of his duties after the 2009 season, and Todd Grantham looks like the second coming of Erk Russell. His defense now ranks fourth nationally in total defense, fifth against the run, fifth in passing efficiency, and has enabled the team to rank ninth in the nation in turnover margin.
Auburn strolled into Athens with the second-best rushing attack in the SEC, averaging 195 yards per game, and they didn’t even try to run on Georgia! Auburn’s opening drive consisted almost entirely of assorted misdirection, reverse and gadget plays. Once offensive guru Gus Malzahn ran out of those, Auburn had no way to move the ball.
At the half, Auburn had amassed -12 yards rushing. At one point, quarterback Clint Moseley had no recourse but to tuck into the fetal position, awaiting the pending sack.
Before this season, Richt made another change, installing Joe Tereshinski as director of strength and conditioning. Suffice it to say, Georgia is no longer getting beaten on both sides of the line of scrimmage. In fact, Georgia lined up and ran the ball all over Auburn for the entire second half.
Part of Joe T’s program was improving stamina for the fourth quarter, where Georgia failed so often a year ago. Perhaps added stamina also prevails over the fourth quarter of the season. Over its last 10 quarters of play, Georgia has outscored its opponents 122-26.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik correctly noted after Saturday’s game, “We got physically dominated on both sides of the ball.”
Even Joker Phillips, coach of this week’s foe, Kentucky, told Chris White of the Athens Banner-Herald, “We got to see a little of them, and how physical they were up front on both sides of the ball.”
How far has this Georgia team come? Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald asked Moseley to compare Georgia to LSU.
“Both teams know how to play defense. I don’t want to cause anything by making a prediction, but it will be a great game.”