Georgia comes out of the Auburn game — a very big win for the Dogs — with the kind of mixture of positives and negatives that leaves fans somewhat optimistic but still with a lot of concerns.
Yes, the running game does seem to be developing nicely (if belatedly) this season. The one-two punch of Washaun Ealey and Caleb King was quite effective against the Tigers, and since Georgia finally settled on who’s playing where on the offensive line, the blocking has improved, though it remains a work in progress.
But let’s not lose sight of the fact that the Dogs had every reason to think they could run on Auburn, which ranks near the bottom of the SEC in rushing defense.
The fact that Georgia was able to move the ball and score without the services of the injured A.J. Green is impressive, but again let’s keep in mind that Auburn isn’t ranked very high in pass defense, either. The loss of Green really hurts, especially if he can’t return in time for the Tech game.
But the loss of Bacarri Rambo may be every bit as troubling, mainly because it means more reps for coverage-challenged Bryan Evans. Yes, the pass defense stepped it up at the end and kept the Tigers out of the end zone. Rambo was a big part of that before getting hurt, as was the pressure on the quarterback. But there were still several instances in the game where coverage was completely blown in the secondary. We’ll miss Rambo against Kentucky. Cross your fingers that he’s back for the trip to Bobby Dodd Stadium.
On the plus side, Georgia finally kept the penalties pretty much in check and flipped the turnover margin on somebody. If they could make that into a trend, it would perhaps be the single biggest factor in improving the Dogs’ admittedly slim chances of winning out.
On the negative side, the Dogs’ poor kickoff coverage isn’t getting any better. Auburn’s 99-yard return for a touchdown was on one of Jon Fabris’ beloved directional kicks in the corner, and the Tigers got good field position on other relatively short directional kicks. When Walsh kicked one into the end zone, it was only returned to the 24. How much worse could the Dogs’ chances of covering be if Fabris and Mark Richt were to allow Blair Walsh to go for the touchback every time? The Dogs’ punt coverage wasn’t much better, with no one close enough to the ball carrier to recover that Auburn fumble.
Another big plus was that Joe Cox didn’t have an interception, but that was more luck than judgment, thanks to a poorly thrown pass bouncing off the hands of an Auburn defender, allowing Orson Charles to make the catch.
Bottom line: The Dogs are still wildly inconsistent. It’s great to be able to come back from a 14-point deficit, but we’re still looking for that complete game where Georgia doesn’t stink the place up for a quarter. Let’s hope we get to see that.