Auburn entered the weekend with confidence after breaking a 22-year drought at LSU. Nonetheless the task at hand this past Saturday was a daunting one. The outcome of the game did not turn out the way Auburn fans would of like but it left us with more than enough film. Let's break down what happened.
Facing third-and-3 on the first drive, Auburn comes out with three receivers to the field side to spread out Georgia’s vaunted defense and threaten either run or pass. In this instance, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo opts to throw the ball since Georgia has five defenders at the line of scrimmage. With Georgia playing a combination of zone and man coverage, Bo Nix finds Kobe Hudson for a 12-yard gain on a dig route that was perfectly placed in an area of soft coverage where Christopher Smith and Quay Walker couldn’t get to the ball. This play was crucial to getting the first points of the game
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On fourth-and-1 on the same drive, Auburn opts to have only one receiver on the field side. With John Samuel Shenker in the backfield, Georgia stacks seven defenders in the box anticipating a run. As Malcolm Johnson Jr. is in motion towards the field side, Bo Nix keeps the ball on the read option and finds himself with multiple blockers in the space that was opened up by there being only one receiver on the field side. On a drive where Auburn desperately needed points to seize momentum, this was a brilliant call by coach Bobo to take advantage of the space allowed by Georgia and keep the drive going.
After forcing a punt late in the second quarter, Auburn needed to convert on third-and-10 to keep the drive going and seize some momentum going into halftime. The offense came out in a four-receiver set in an obvious passing situation and Georgia’s 2-high safety look played nearly 15 yards off the line of scrimmage. Georgia linebacker Quay Walker was tasked with covering John Samuel Shenker in the slot. The other slot receiver runs a post route that occupies the safeties and features Walker as having outside leverage.
Lined up on a crucial fourth down Nix drops back with Tank Bigsby in the backfield. There is no plan to run the ball as Bigsby escapes to the side as Nix's escape option. Nix finds Ze'Vian Capers crossing over the middle in a one-on-one situation. Being a bigger receiver at 6'4 this is a valid option in a one-on-one. The ball is slapped down by Georgia defensive back Latavious Brini in a controversial fashion. The crowd roared with disbelief that a flag was not called. Looking back Brini had held down Capers's arm and at one point held his facemask.
Once again Auburn has marched down the field in an attempt to get its first touchdown of the day. The ball is handed off to Bigsby as he rushes forward to where the play was supposed to develop. Auburn's offensive line got overwhelmed on the play which forces Bigsby to use his athleticism. He breaks to the outside resulting in a touchdown.
After an incredible first drive from the offense that saw Auburn draw first blood via a field goal, the defense faced third-and-3 at its 5-yard line. Defensive coordinator Derek Mason opted to play man coverage across the board so that he could roll seven defenders into the box to create a numbers advantage and discourage Georgia from running the ball. Smoke Monday was brought off the boundary-side edge to disrupt the easiest of the potential pass routes and provided pressure from the backside of the rollout. Nehemiah Pritchett provides excellent press-man coverage, and the defense holds Georgia to only a field goal after the interception.
Late in the second quarter and down by 14, Georgia comes out with two tight ends set on third and-2. Auburn’s defense responds by bringing eight defenders into the box to stop the run in a short-yardage situation. However, Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett IV rolls out into the flat on a pass play designed to go quickly to running back Zamir White in the flat. As the play develops, Bydarrius Knighten recognizes White’s route and quickly gets his hands on him to disrupt and smother the route before it can develop. Eku Leota immediately transitions from filling the running lane to a pass rush and displays his athleticism by bringing Bennett down in a 1 v. 1 situation.
In retrospect, this was the nail in the coffin. After failing to convert on fourth-and-8, Auburn gave the ball back to Georgia with great field position. At this point in the game, Georgia’s game plan was to continuously run the ball to wear the defense down and run down the clock, and another two tight ends set on first-and-10 brought eight defenders into the box. Bydarrius Knighten bites on the play-action, and with Auburn’s cornerbacks playing man coverage without help from Knighten, a well-placed throw and beautiful route from Ladd McConkey blew the game open.
Auburn faces a third-and-2 barely into their territory. It looks like Auburn may have gotten comfortable with how Georgia was running its offense. Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett does a zone read and sees Auburn crashing the edges and linebackers commit to the running back. This play seems to lose everyone including the cameraman. Bennett is able to gash Auburn further from what seems to be a bad angle on the defense's approach.
Backed up against its own end zone on a third-and-2, Auburn looks to make a stop here late in the fourth quarter. Georgia's Zamir White gets the handoff and is met with Zacoby McClain whose misses the tackle for a loss. White continues his way through the center of Auburn's defense as no one can wrap him up. Extending Georgia's lead and that would be the last score of the afternoon.
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