Could Georgia get after Auburn’s quarterback like 11-sack Clemson did?


ATHENS – It took No. 1-ranked Georgia to the last week in October to collect 11 quarterback sacks as a team. Offensively, the Bulldogs still haven’t allowed that many, with nine.

Imagine this: Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham was sacked that many times in one game.

It was the second week of the season when the Tigers visited Clemson’s infamous “Death Valley.” They left as 14-6 losers largely because their quarterback spent most of the game either on his back or frantically trying not to.

It was an unmitigated offensive disaster. And it was more of the same for Auburn. Stidham also had been sacked three times in the season opener — against Georgia Southern, of all teams. So the Tigers were getting sacked an average of 7 times a game at that point.

“That was frustrating,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said after the Clemson game. “Our fans are frustrated, our players and our coaches are frustrated. We’ve got to solve that.”

While it could be debated whether the Tigers have actually solved their issue, they definitely have a better handle on it these days. They’ve allowed just 10 sacks in the seven games since. As a result, Auburn is no longer last in the SEC — or the nation — in sacks allowed. It has crept up to 11th at 2.67 per game.

“I think there is a little misnomer there with that because when you watch that game (against Clemson) they are not the same team now that they were then,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “They are not the same offensive line now that they were then. Clemson certainly has some really elite rushers, and they got after them. It was also their quarterback’s first time playing at Auburn in a big game in a situation like that, so I don’t really go much off that.”

Auburn addressed its problem three ways: One, offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey moved from the field to the box after that game; two, Lindsey began to call quicker passers; three, they made some moves on the offensive line. The Tigers utilized three different starting lineups over the next three weeks. They finally settled with senior Austin Golson taking over at left tackle for heralded sophomore Prince Tega Wanogho.

That worked for a while, but Auburn had to shuffle the lineup again last Saturday at Texas A&M. Golson had to switch to right tackle to fill in for an injured Darius James, and that saw Wanogho return to the lineup at left tackle.

They held their own, and then some. The Tigers gave up two sacks but they also gained 496 yards on offense and Stidham finished with 268 yards and two touchdowns on 20-of-27 passing.

The thinking is that Georgia will bring to Jordan-Hare Stadium the best defense the Tigers have faced since that Clemson contest. In fact, statistics would indicate the Bulldogs are even better. They’re fourth in the nation in total defense and third in scoring. Clemson is 13th and 8th, respectively.

Then again, Georgia hasn’t been nearly as effective at taking down quarterbacks. Certainly helped by that game against Auburn in Week 2, Clemson is No. 2 in the nation with 33 sacks. The Bulldogs, with 18, have recorded barely half as many.

But quarterback sacks are not necessarily a major priority at Georgia. Lorenzo Carter leads the team with four.

“Clemson has their personnel and they play the way they play; we have our personnel and we play the way we play. They are not always the same,” Smart said. “They did a tremendous job getting pressure. We need to get pressure to affect the quarterback, but you also have to cover the guys out there they have running the routes. They have some really fast guys out there running their routes, so the big thing is stopping the run and not giving up big plays.”

The issue for Georgia is, while Auburn does like to throw the ball with Stidham, and does well, it’s not all it does on offense. The Tigers are the SEC’s most balanced team. They come into Saturday’s contest at Jordan-Hare with 2,130 yards rushing and 2,065 yards passing. Running back Kerryon Johnson leads the SEC in rushing (124 ypg), all-purpose yards (136.3 pg) and scoring (13.7 ppg). He has 16 touchdowns in seven games.

So the trick for Georgia on Saturday is going to be in finding that happy medium. The Bulldogs will need to put pressure on Stidham and make sure he’s not allowed to sit back there and play catch with the Tigers’ exceptional wide receivers. At the same time, Georgia has to be sure to give Johnson – who had 29 carries against Texas A&M, his due attention while minding the store against Auburn’s always present misdirection game.

It’s a tall task.

“Keeping the edges, making sure that they run between the tackles and that you tackle well,” Smart said of the Bulldogs’ defensive priorities. “… Gus has seen the defenses we play for seven to eight years it seems like. We know the run plays they are going to run. They are not going to reinvent the wheel. We have to go out there and play blocks, tackle the man with the ball and not give up big plays.”

The post Could Georgia get after Auburn’s quarterback like 11-sack Clemson did? appeared first on DawgNation.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

Four resume training with Atlanta United
Four resume training with Atlanta United

Atlanta United got four key members back as forward Hector Villalba and defenders Franco Escobar, Michael Parkhurst and Greg Garza returned to training on Monday. The four have been held out for precautionary reasons. Villalba, Escobar and Parkhurst did not play in Atlanta United’s first two preseason games. Garza appeared in the first exhibition...
Mock draft roundup: Jaren Jackson Jr. enters picture for Hawks
Mock draft roundup: Jaren Jackson Jr. enters picture for Hawks
With 23 games left on their schedule following the All-Star break, the Hawks are tied with the Suns for the worst record in the NBA. If the Hawks finish last in the standings they’ll have the best odds to win the No. 1 pick in the draft and would be guaranteed to select no later than fourth overall. The Hawks also own the rights to first-round...
Here’s one guy who likes the ‘over’ on the Braves. (Two guys, actually)
Here’s one guy who likes the ‘over’ on the Braves. (Two guys, actually)
Apologies for quoting Joe Sheehan as often as the Brits quote Churchill, but Sheehan’s newsletter – it’s available via email subscription – should be at the top of any baseball reading list. In his latest post, he preaches to the choir. (Albeit a choir of one.) Scanning the early Vegas over/under on MLB win totals, this...
Georgia football podcast: Simple reason Zamir White, James Cook could be next great RB duo
Georgia football podcast: Simple reason Zamir White, James Cook could be next great RB duo

Georgia football is the No. 1 topic every day on DawgNation Daily — the daily podcast for Georgia Bulldogs fans. Catch up on everything happening with UGA athletics with host Brandon Adams and the cast of DawgNation experts as they break down the latest Georgia football recruiting news and discuss UGA coach...
AP Top 25: Texas Tech, Kansas rise in rankings as WVU slips
AP Top 25: Texas Tech, Kansas rise in rankings as WVU slips

On Monday, the second-to-last AP Top 25 of the regular season was released. After featuring four ranked programs a week ago — No. 7 Texas Tech, No. 13 Kansas, No. 20 West Virginia, and No. 23 Oklahoma — the Big 12 isn’t quite as well represented this time around. Texas Tech entered the weekend riding a seven-game winning...
More Stories