(NOTE: You can read my full game story HERE with details on Bacarri Rambo's injury.)
Georgia got its first taste of life without A.J. Green a week earlier in an easy win over Tennessee Tech. The forecast for the final two weeks of the season might not be so pleasant.
Green sprained his left shoulder – an AC sprain according to head coach Mark Richt – in the second quarter of Georgia’s 31-24 win over Auburn on Saturday, and while the prognosis isn’t set in stone yet, Richt said the star receiver could be out until Georgia’s bowl game.
“It’s indefinite, and we just don’t know,” Richt said. “I would think he’d play in a bowl game for sure, but other than that, I’m not sure if he’ll make it any sooner than that.”
While Green was making his way to the locker room, his fill-in was busy catching the first touchdown pass of his career.
Sophomore Israel Troupe hauled in a 50-yard bomb from quarterback Joe Cox early in the second quarter to pull Georgia to within 14-7.
“I was ready to make a big catch and help my team out,” Troupe said. “You don’t really get plays like that and you just have to make them work when your number is called.”
It was the first catch of the season for the rarely used receiver, who had four catches for 39 yards a year ago. Troupe has seen little playing time this season, but he was the target of a pass from Logan Gray in the end zone last week that was intercepted.
“Troupe is proof, we have depth and receivers all over the board,” said freshman receiver Rantavious Wooten. “When A.J. went out, we didn’t know how long, but we just went after it.”
Troupe also made a diving catch for 12 yards, finishing with 64 yards for the game.
“It was special,” Troupe said. “It was real special.”
If Green doesn’t return until next month, Richt said Saturday’s game proved that other wideouts, including Troupe, could make a bigger impact in Green’s absence.
“We’ve got guys that can make plays, and it was good for us to know,” Richt said of the strong performances by Troupe and Tavarres King. “Our young receivers, (Rantavious) Wooten and Marlon (Brown) will certainly get more opportunities because of this. And if these guys can keep running the ball like they’ve been, we’re going to be OK.”
GROUND GAME STAYS HOT
Georgia’s rushing attack picked up where it left off last week against Tennessee Tech. After rushing for 304 yards last week, the Bulldogs’ posted another 169 against Auburn.
Richt said the running game started showing signs of life against Vanderbilt and ran well against Florida. Saturday night was further proof that Georgia could run effectively, and that the running backs can be counted on.
“It’s a great feeling,” sophomore Caleb King said. “Before the Tennessee Tech game we all came together as a unit and said this is not going to be like the past any more. We said we were going to be who the team looked to. And we did it again tonight.”
King, who started the game, ran for two touchdowns, including a 24-yard score to give Georgia it’s final lead, 31-24.
Freshman Washaun Ealey continued his progression, notching 98 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown.
“I think I’m progressing as a back,” Ealey said. “I think coach is trusting us to run the ball more and the offensive line is doing a great job. All the boys are doing a good job blocking and being physical.”
The team averaged almost five yards a carry, helping wear down the Tigers, while also giving Georgia’s defense time to catch it’s breath.
“It does take a lot of pressure off,” said linebacker Rennie Curran, “when we’re moving the ball and rushing for points. It lets you know everybody is working as a whole and moving in the right direction. That momentum the offense provided, we fed off of.”
BALL BOUNCES GEORGIA’S WAY
For the past two weeks, Richt has lamented the bad bounces Georgia has seen all season – including 12 fumbles by the opposition that the Bulldogs have failed to recover.
But Saturday, the momentum finally shifted.
Orson Charles hauled in a key 34-yard reception that ticked off the hands of Auburn linebacker Josh Bynes, setting up a touchdown on a Washaun Ealey run. Richt called the play the turning point in the game, and Charles said it was one he’ll remember for a while.
“That was basically more of a concentration drill,” Charles said. “My number was called, so I had to go make a play.”
But it wasn’t just about the offense’s ability to keep the ball away from Auburn’s defense. Georgia managed two takeaways in the game, too, winning the turnover battle for the first time this season.
Heading into the Auburn game, Georgia was ranked 119th (out of 120) in the nation in turnover margin, having forced only six turnovers, while giving away 22.
Against Auburn and quarterback Chris Todd, the turnover margin finally fell in Georgia’s favor.
The Bulldogs had no giveaways on offense, and snagged two interceptions, one apiece by safety Reshad Jones and cornerback Brandon Boykin.
“Coach Richt kind of got on us about the turnover margin and stuff like that this week” Jones said. “He said if we could make plays it would help us come away with a victory.”
The pick was the third of the season for Boykin and helped stop a potential scoring drive for Auburn. Jones’ interception, his second this year, proved to be a turning point in the second half. The two interceptions nearly matched the total – three – thrown by Todd all season.
“The victory, that was a representation of the turnovers we got and the ones we didn’t give up,” Boykin said. “It was huge momentum shifters at a key moment of the game. We played together, probably the most complete game of the year.”
PROBLEM SOLVES ITSELF
Richt planned on continuing his policy of pulling a player from the game after a penalty this week, but the plan went awry from the start.
In the heat of the action, the punishment slipped Richt’s mind following an offsides penalty on Demarcus Dobbs in the first quarter, then Vince Vance was slow to replace Josh Davis after a false start call moments later. In the end, Richt abandoned the plan, and surprisingly, it worked out.
After being flagged for 11 penalties last week and three in the first quarter against Auburn, the tide suddenly turned and Georgia was whistled for just one more infraction the rest of the game.
“Fortunately we just stopped doing it,” Richt said. “And we won the game, I think, because we didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot like we’d been doing all year long.”
Cox knew the play would work eventually. It was just a matter of running it enough times for it to click.
The deep ball to Tavarres King finally came together on Cox’s third shot at it, but it came at a huge time. The pair connected for a 47-yard pitch-and-catch down the sideline on third-and-16 on the first play of the fourth quarter, and Caleb King punched in the touchdown from 11 yards out one play later.
“We knew he could beat Neiko Thorpe,” Cox said. “He came up really big and that was a third down, and it got us in a position to score. We knew the whole game he was running past him, so we just had to get our chance where we could call it and get it up in the air to him.”
Cox hit a 50-yarder to Israel Troupe, too, and that came courtesy of a bit of trickery on Georgia’s part. All season, Georgia had run a similar formation, putting its fullback and tight end out in the flat, with the reads designed to go to one of the two. That didn’t happen Saturday.
“We felt like if we would just pump it to the fullback in the flat, it would kind of freeze that corner a little bit, and that’s exactly what happened,” Richt said. “Troupe went by him, Joe laid it out perfectly, and Caleb King made a tremendous block on that play to give Joe the time.”
While Auburn’s offense got off to a hot start behind quarterback Chris Todd, converting four third-and-long attempts and posting touchdowns on its first two drives, Georgia’s offense was dormant in the early going.
The Bulldogs failed to pick up a first down in the first quarter for the first time this season. Overall, Georgia ran just seven plays and gained only five yards in the opening quarter.
But the momentum changed dramatically after that, and Georgia finished the game with 342 yards of offense and put 31 points on the board – 24 coming in the second half.
Georgia overcame a 14-point deficit in the game, and that’s nothing new.
“From the beginning of the season, we’ve been coming from behind,” Caleb King said.
Georgia had to erase a 17-7 deficit in its win over South Carolina, a 21-10 hole in a win over Arkansas and a 17-14 second-half deficit in a win over Arizona State. The Bulldogs also came back from being down 12-7 late in the fourth quarter against LSU, but the defense couldn’t hold on for the win.
King said the team’s ability to turn around a deficit and earn a victory starts with its quarterback.
“Joe’s a great leader,” King said. “Nobody really knows how he talks to the offense in the huddle. He just makes us all feel calm. Joe played great, everybody did great.”
-- For the fourth time in four tries, kicker Blair Walsh connected on a field goal from beyond 50 yards when he booted a 51-yarder in the third quarter to pull Georgia to within four, 14-10. Overall this season, Walsh is 14-of-15 on field goal attempts.
-- Senior linebacker Darius Dewberry left the game in the second half with an elbow injury and did not return.
-- Georgia has beaten Auburn four straight times for the first time since 1948. This also marks the first decade in which Georgia won more games than it lost to the Tigers since the 1940s.
-- Akeem Dent started his first game of the season at Sam linebacker.
-- The 99-yard kick return for a touchdown by Auburn’s Demond Washington was the first kick return for a score against Georgia since Tennessee’s Leonard Scott did it in 1999.
-- Georgia wore special patches with the initials “CV” on the backs of their helmets Saturday to honor injured Bulldogs baseball player Chance Veazey.
-- Brandon Boykin set a team record for kick returns in the first half. He had three returns in the game for 52 yards, giving him 30 returns this season. Gene Washington (1974) and Asher Allen (2007) held the old mark of 28.
-- Georgia is now 16-0 under Mark Richt in games when they do not have a turnover.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
(NOTE: You can read my full game story HERE with details on Bacarri Rambo's injury.)