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Saturday, November 15, 2008

UGA-Auburn Postgame Notes

It was coaches' pet peeve after the first month of the season. It was the focus of the Georgia players' practice sessions for several weeks. It was a problem the Bulldogs thought they had put behind them.

During Saturday's 17-13 win over Auburn, however, Georgia's penalty problem reared its ugly head once again.

The Bulldogs had nine penalties in the game, costing them 95 yards and contributing to a low-scoring affair in which the offense struggled to dent the scoreboard and the defense had trouble getting off the field.

"We're being aggressive, but a little overaggressive," linebacker Darryl Gamble said. "We just need to be smarter about that."

The flags started flying almost immediately after kickoff.

On Auburn's first offensive drive, cornerback Asher Allen and wide receiver Montez Billings began pushing and shoving each other, resulting in offsetting personal-foul penalties.

Georgia followed with five more personal fouls in the game four coming in the first half.

"Guys are just not using their head," defensive tackle Corvey Irvin said. "They want to be too aggressive. When guys are running out of bounds or when the whistle is blown, they still want to hit."

Georgia led the nation in penalties through the first five games of the season, but the coaching staff cracked down on the miscues during the Bulldogs' first bye week.

The result beyond a lot of extra running for the players was a drop in the number of flags Georgia saw in the next few games.

After averaging more than 10 penalties per game during their first six games of the season, the Bulldogs hadn't been flagged more than eight times or assessed more than 59 yards in penalties in any of their past four outings.

The reduction in penalties, however, also coincided with some of the defense's worst performances of the season. Linebacker Rennie Curran said he didn't think the effort to avoid penalties resulted in a lack of aggressiveness, but he said Saturday's flags were a sign of a more energetic approach.

"That's always going to happen when you've got guys playing aggressive and just scratching and clawing with their backs against the wall," Curran said. "You might get a hand up or get a personal foul when you're trying to intimidate, and that's what we were trying to do."

The Bulldogs' defense played its best game in a month against Auburn despite the high number of penalties. So while Irvin said he fully expects the team to be doing its fair share of calisthenics as punishment Monday, the flags are a far more pleasant alternative to another high-scoring affair.

"I'm glad I see that guys are trying to hit and trying to punish," Irvin said. "I'm glad they're not being soft out there, not trying to wrap up. We got some penalties, and we'll handle them on Monday and get back to the chalkboard."

-- With consecutive 1,000-yard seasons under his belt, Knowshon Moreno doesn't have a lot of firsts anymore. It's no wonder then that the sophomore tailback was surprised to learn that his 35-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter was the first time he had found the end zone via a pass in his career.

"Really?" Moreno said. "That's kind of cool."

Moreno caught four passes in the game for 58 yards in the Bulldogs' 17-13 win over Auburn both career highs. His touchdown grab came on a quick swing pass, and he ducked behind linemen Cordy Glenn and Clint Boling as he dashed toward the end zone. The play, Moreno said, actually felt more like a run.

"Those linemen were up in front of me making big blocks downfield, and I just followed them into the end zone," Moreno said.

While Moreno has been busy in the running game, tallying 254 yards rushing the past two weeks, he has seen his role in the passing game increase, too. He has caught seven passes for a total of 88 yards in the past two weeks.

While the numbers are a bit of an aberration, Moreno said the plays have always been a part of the offense.

"It's just the way things are working out," Moreno said. "We always have routes as a backfield, and I think the quarterbacks are just checking down to us, and we're just making plays."

-- Josh Davis started Georgia's first game of the season at right tackle then sat on the bench for the next nine games. Saturday, however, he got his second crack at the starting lineup, filling in Justin Anderson, who missed the game with a foot injury.

"It felt good to contribute more to the team and help in a win," Davis said. "You practice hard all week to go out there and play and learn what to do, so it felt good."

Davis was part of a line that didn't allow a sack and helped open enough running lanes for Moreno top pick up 131 yards on the ground.

Those numbers alone aren't enough to ensure a second start when the Bulldogs host Georgia Tech in two weeks or even earn a pat on the back from his offensive line coach.

"I think I did good," he said, but I'll ask Coach (Stacy) Searels how I did on Monday."

-- It has been a rough few weeks for freshman kicker Blair Walsh, who entered Saturday's game having missed five of his past eight field-goal attempts. Things got worse on his first try against Auburn, as the Tigers blocked a 21-yard try.

"You want to try to get up under it, and I didn't get under it enough," Walsh said. "I hit it too low, and they just blocked it."

Walsh got a second chance in the third quarter, however, driving a 27-yarder through the uprights to give Georgia a four-point lead.

Walsh said making his second attempt was a big confidence booster as he tries to correct some technical flaws in his routine.

"I'd like to start a streak now with that field goal," Walsh said, "and to be able to come through for my team on that, I can't ask for anything else."

-- Auburn had its kicking problems in the game, too. The Tigers missed the point-after try following their first touchdown of the game, and it came back to haunt them in the fourth quarter.

Trailing by four, Auburn needed a touchdown late, but had the Tigers connected on the extra point in the first half, they could have simply kicked a field goal to go into overtime after driving deep into Georgia territory with just seconds remaining in the game.

"We haven't blocked a kick all year long, but we got good penetration, the holder bobbled the ball, and they didn't get the extra point," defensive tackle Corvey Irvin said. "They had kicked that extra point, they easily kicked the field goal, then we go into overtime and who knows what would happen? That's just guys going hard every play."

-- Tight end Tripp Chandler started Saturday's game, but left in the first half with a left knee injury. The senior was already playing with a sore shoulder that kept him out of three games this year and requires him to wear a harness during the game. Despite being considered doubtful to return, he made it back on the field in the second half, and Richt said Chandler will continue to try to play.

"I don't know how bad it is, but he's just a senior that wants to play," head coach Mark Richt said. "He's just willing his way to stay in the game, I guess. But he's beat up pretty bad."

-- The win was the 30th in an opponent's stadium for the Bulldogs under Richt.

-- A.J. Green's 81 yards receiving bring him to 887 for the season -- the fourth most by a Georgia receiver in history. He needs just 14 yards to pass Hines Ward for third and 118 to set the record currently held by Terrence Edwards.

His touchdown grab in the fourth quarter also came on the same play in which he dropped a wide-open TD pass against Tennessee earlier in the season.

"I'm glad he got a chance to run it again," quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "He made a great catch. I didn't make such a great throw, but he did a good job of going up and getting it."

-- With the win, Stafford became the first Georgia quarterback to beat Auburn three straight times since Johnny Rauch did it four years in a row from 1945 through '48.


Hobnail_Boot said...

When did CSS start letting the OL talk?

David Hale said...

Only after games. Oh, and occasionally Boling is allowed to say something. True freshman are still off limits totally.