What a difference two years can make.
The 2010 Georgia Bulldogs lost a tough, bruising, ill-tempered game to a Gene Chizik Auburn Tigers team that was on its way to a Cam Newton-led undefeated national championship season.
The 2012 Dawgs returned to Jordan-Hare Stadium with the scenario not completely flipped, but close enough, as Georgia hammered the Tigers 38-0 in taking their second consecutive SEC title and notching their fifth trip to the conference championship game in the past 11 years.
Maybe the been-there-seen-that crowd that constitutes a vocal minority of the Bulldog Nation and measures the worth of a program strictly in how many crystal footballs you’ve won doesn’t find that particularly impressive.
But while Georgia might face long odds in their hopes of making this year’s BCS game, even if they win out and beat Alabama in the Georgia Dome, I think anyone who doesn’t consider this already a successful season for Mark Richt’s Dawgs should be sentenced to having to serve frustrating time in Tennessee fandom.
There was none of that messing around in the first half that has plagued Georgia at times this season, as the Dawgs jumped on Auburn hard from the start, scoring on their first four drives. Aaron Murray was superb, completing 18 of 24 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns (despite his two top receivers being lost for the season). And he did it the hard way in the three quarters he played, taking numerous hits though he was sacked only once.
Murray also did a good job of getting Georgia into the right plays, with Richt noting after the game that Marshall’s long touchdown run came on a play where the UGA quarterback changed the call on his own. Murray’s evening was, as his head coach put it, “some clinic reel stuff.”
Georgia’s offensive line might still need to work some on protecting its QB, but they did an excellent job of run-blocking against Auburn, resulting in the Dawgs’ “Gurshall” tandem again both topping 100 yards, with Todd Gurley getting 116 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, with a long run of 49 yards and an average of 10.5 yards per carry. Keith Marshall electrified the Georgia fans who made the trip to Auburn with a 62-yard touchdown run that saw him again turning on the after-burners once he hit the secondary. He wound up the evening with 105 yards on eight carries and a 13.1 yard average per carry.
Despite Mike Bobo pulling his offensive starters and emptying the bench in the fourth quarter, Georgia racked up 497 yards of total offense, with 289 yards on the ground and 208 in the air.
Meanwhile, Todd Grantham’s defense was stifling and notched the shutout that the defensive coordinator obviously wanted badly, since he kept his starters in the game through the fourth quarter. Or perhaps that was a bit of payback for Chizik and company from the ugly end to the game two years ago.
Led by freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace, the Tigers wound up with 238 yards of offense, with just 57 on the ground. Alec Ogletree led the Dawgs with 10 tackes, a sack and two tackles for loss and Bacarri Rambo had eight tackles and an interception. Jarvis Jones got another couple of sacks and a piece of a third.
Georgia still doesn’t have a punt return game to speak of, with a zero yards of return, a couple of balls hitting the ground and a couple more awkward fair catches on which the receiver fell down. But otherwise the Dawgs’ special teams play was excellent, with Marshall Morgan making all his PATs and a field goal and Collin Barber having another fine game punting, averaging 47.3 yards on four kicks and downing three of them deep inside Auburn territory. In fact, Barber and company kept the Tigers backed up most of the second half, even after the Dawgs offense had checked out for the evening.
What more can you say about a game where six different Georgia players scored and the Dawgs had only three penalties and no turnovers, except it was a complete performance. Let folks in Columbia gripe all they want. This 9-1 Bulldogs team deserves the division title it once again secured at Auburn — against whom, for my money, all Georgia SEC East championships should be won.
Now, it’s your turn. Feel free to share your views of another terrific Saturday night to be a Georgia fan.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg