I'm not going to get into anything about a grinning Cam Newton looking coked out while blowing kisses to our defense, or Chizik and Trooper Taylor thumping their chests on the sideline and screaming while up 20 points, or of course the blatant assaults by Fairley on Murray (I may get to those later), but I will give a quick opinion on this game.
I love having Mark Richt as a head coach, but I feel the blame needs to be put on him for this one.
Our other losses of the season have been due to a compendium of reasons.
1. Turnovers at the worst possible times (Ealey fumbling at the end zone against South Carolina, Ealey fumbling in the end zone against Miss. State, King fumbling as we were about to kick a game-winning field goal at Colorado, and Murray's fumble/interceptions against Florida).
2. Offensive play calling (mostly apparent early in the season in the South Carolina and Arkansas games, as we refused to open the playbook for Murray, no shotgun passes, only play-action).
3. General poor play (the defense in general, the turnovers by the RBs, Murray's first half against Florida)
But most of those cases I wouldn't necessarily blame on the head coach.
We know that turnovers were a HUGE focus of our team in the off season. The coaches stressed that many times when we did interviews in the spring. I don't see any reason to believe they were lying, and ignored this huge problem. But in football, sometimes you turn the ball over no matter how much you practice against it.
The defensive play may be cause for concern, but the numbers tell a more optimistic story. Georgia has improved in nearly every defensive statistical category from 2009. But there's no doubt that the defense was shredded throughout most of the second half in last night's game.
And offensive play calling, which is the head coach's responsibility, really has seemed to greatly improve over the season to this point. Our offense looked aggressive and dangerous against Auburn, and against every team since the Colorado game. Part of that may be due to AJ Green's return, but what the national media hasn't noticed are the changes in play calling.
But I honestly think last night's loss didn't have much to do with why we lost our other 5 games this season. The offense looked great and we didn't turn the ball over once. The defense looked very poor, but no one expected them to stop Auburn's offense.
This is why I put the blame on Coach Richt for this one.
Running out the Clock at the Half
Everyone in the media was talking about this game being a shoot out, a back and forth, high scoring affair where the team who had the ball the most times would win. And from the beginning, it definitely looked like that would be the case.
Georgia got up to a 21-7 lead, and our offense stalled on the next 2 drives. But it was OK, because Auburn's had been stifled by our defense as well. But when Auburn tied the game at 21, we needed to keep our momentum going and score to keep the lead in the shootout.
But Coach Richt did what, unfortunately we all knew he would do, and with 1 timeout, a minute on the clock, and the ball in our offense's hands, we decided to run out the clock and go to half.
His thinking was obvious: we deferred to the 2nd half, and we didn't want to make any mistakes in our own territory. It's a classic conservative approach, and usually, not a terrible decision.
But this, like I mentioned, was a SHOOTOUT, a game where we knew we needed to keep scoring to win. In games like that, you don't take ANY possession for granted, including 2nd half kickoffs. That's exactly what we did. We ran the clock, went to the half, and Auburn's onside kick to start the 3rd quarter was them placing the nail in the coffin.
They scored on that possession and took away the shootout momentum, forcing us to come from behind.
We took the possession for granted and wasted it away. Essentially, that possession to end the half and the onside kick at the start of the 3rd were like 2 turnovers for Georgia. A loss of 2 possessions in a shootout will pretty much guarantee you a loss.
Kicking a Field Goal
And the second decision that the head coach is responsible for was to go for a field goal late in the game rather than the touchdown.
I can't complain as much about this one, because many more people will tell you to take the points when you can get them. But once again, in a shootout game, you can't settle for field goals, especially when behind. We KNEW that our defense couldn't stop Auburn. Our best chance was to hope for some turnovers or maybe we could execute an onside kick or 2 to get back in it.
With the field goal, we were down 4, and then soon down 11 as Auburn scored a TD. That put us down two touchdowns to catch up.
With a touchdown, we would have been tied, and then down 7 when Auburn scored their TD.
If we had tried for a touchdown and failed, we would have been down 14. Still two touchdowns, so the same as if we had gotten the field goal.
I know it isn't quite that simple, but we were playing at that point to catch up to Auburn and make the shootout even again. Field goals just simply wouldn't get it done, especially when we knew that Auburn would keep scoring.
Kicking that field goal completed the loss, and that was when Georgia did Auburn a favor by driving that nail into the coffin.