I don’t think there are many people who would have predicted that after the first quarter of Saturday’s Georgia-Auburn game that Mark Richt’s 5-5 Bulldogs would be leading the No. 2 team in the country by two touchdowns.
While Auburn’s sensational Cam Newton led his team in a quick scoring drive to open the game, the Tigers generally played tight in the first quarter and made mistakes that Georgia capitalized on in answering with three scores.
Unfortunately, the Dogs, who had not been out in front of a good team all season, didn’t quite seem to know how to handle their early success, losing some of their spark offensively in the second quarter as the Auburn offense continued to pound away at a Georgia defense that clearly could not stop Newton consistently.
Still, thanks to stellar play by quarterback Aaron Murray and receiver A.J. Green, the Dogs managed to stay in the game for three quarters, even after Auburn stunned them with an audacious on-side kick to open the second half. But when the Dogs had to settle for a field goal in the back-and-forth scoring, the odds against them pulling off the upset grew long.
And while Georgia still could have gotten back into it when trailing by 11 points, their fate was sealed on the fourth-quarter series where on a third-and-four play Mike Bobo inexplicably again had Murray standing back there looking for the long ball in the face of an Auburn blitz instead of going with a quick slant, resulting in a sack. On fourth-and-13, Murray was hit again as he threw and the ball was incomplete. And that was pretty much that.
Except for the ugliness that characterized the final minutes, thanks to the SEC officiating crew looking the other way throughout the game as Auburn headhunter Nick Fairley continually hit Murray late and tried to hurt him with his now infamous body slams.
Georgia’s players had good reason to be irate after Fairley took Murray out of the game by driving his helmet into the quarterback’s legs long after he’d let go of the ball. There’s a reason the NFL fines dirty players for that sort of thing. Despite CBS’ Gary Danielson trying to make a case that Fairley was partially blocked into Murray, the replays clearly showed that wasn’t true. And it was only one of a number of such plays by Fairley.
In the ensuing scuffles that saw the officials lose control of the game, two Auburn players were ejected for throwing punches while their classless coach, Gene Chizik, continued to try to ramp up his players’ emotions on the sideline and Fairley strutted around like some sort of playground bully. He should have been the one kicked out of the game.
So Georgia looks to the Georgia Tech game to become bowl-eligible while Auburn still has Alabama and then the SEC championship game and possibly the BCS championship game.
Chizik and company have rolled the dice by playing Newton despite the questions about his eligibility and so far it has paid off. Maybe it will continue to pay off for them; there’s a good chance that in the long run it won’t. And if it doesn’t, I can’t say I’ll feel much sympathy for them.
I’ll be back Sunday afternoon with more thoughts on the game. Until then, I’ll leave you with two last words:
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