by By Brendan Collins
The ball bounced harmlessly off the hands of Auburn’s Ben Tate. Game over. That simple. Georgia secured their 51st win in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry and won their third straight in the series. Before the season, I don’t think too many people predicted that this game would have nothing but pride on the line.
Interestingly the game itself has bizarre coincidences to the seasons of both teams.
For Georgia, they left a lot of points on the field, and have to feel that they could have taken advantage of a lot more opportunities, something that has plagued them all year. They also committed penalties. A lot of them, and for example one Auburn drive was given a boost to the tune of nearly forty yards in penalties. Penalties have plagued Georgia all year and this game was a perfect example as they came in too many costly situations and came far too often. In the end, the game was far closer than it should have been and with the talent Georgia has been fielding all year; they should have had a much more productive season than they did. Auburn could have been put away much earlier in the game but drives stalling out from inefficiency have been par for Georgia’s course this year. Georgia got the win, yes, and it is a rivalry game. At the end of the day, however, their performance convinced very few that they were truly the better team on the field and certainly not the more disciplined one. All year Georgia has struggled to prove themselves as the team people thought they were to start the year and this game reflected that perfectly.
On the Auburn side, the game was very symbolic of the entire season. It left a lot of people scratching heads and asking questions. Of Auburn’s seven losses on the season, five have been with 10 points or less separating the two teams. Inefficiency and inconsistency has been the name of the game on offense; while injuries have crippled the defense throughout the season. The unsuccessful transition to the spread offense aside, Auburn has not had the offensive pieces to win SEC games this year. Kodi Burns is too young at the quarterback position right now to win close games and Mario Fannin needs more touches. The good news for Auburn is that both these players are sophomores and have plenty of time left on the plains; the bad news is what fans saw this entire season. Buoyed by Georgia’s poor play, a more efficient team would have won this game in the third quarter. Auburn, however, was unable to mount a sufficient drive until late in the game and simply ran out of time. Another reflection of the season was Auburn’s inconsistency in the kicking game. A bad snap on an extra point and a missed field goal are reminiscent of issues that have occurred all season. The defense deserves better and with the exception of two games has truly kept Auburn competitive all year and maybe made games look closer than they were. This game was a perfect reflection of Auburn’s season in that it appeared the difference between victory and defeat was a dropped pass in the back of the end zone by Ben Tate; but in reality there were far more serious issues that caused the game to even come down to one play. That has been the case all year as well in that Auburn has been forced to put together a final drive that their offense is just not capable of doing and letting down a defense that had kept them in the entire game.
What’s next for both teams?
It’s hard to say because Mark Richt can hang his hat on another successful season in Athens, but should feel like this team was capable of much more. With the possibility of losing star players to the draft this could have been his most talented team for a couple years and they just did not come through when they needed to this year. On paper successful, however, Georgia fans and other SEC fans alike know that failing to win the conference is considered an unsuccessful season. Richt is in no danger of losing his job and shouldn’t be, but should certainly feel the need to instill some discipline in his program.
Tommy Tuberville on the other hand may be in hot water on the plains. He continued his carousel of coordinators and again this season and again the offense has struggled. Had Texas not locked up defensive coordinator Will Muschamp then one would certainly have to wonder if Tuberville might be on his way out. The unavailability of Muschamp, however, leads me to believe that Tuberville will stay on for at least one more season with likely an agreement that next season’s success determines his future at Auburn. Time will tell.