Frankly, the Dawgs performed better than I thought they would tonight. This was one of the few games in the Richt era where I thought we had almost no shot of winning. While we weren't that close to a win on the scoreboard, the team performed quite well in spurts. The first quarter was some of the best football we've played all year. Eventually, however, we just couldn't keep up with Auburn's offense. As soon as we kicked a field goal in the third, I knew the game was essentially over because they had broken serve. That offense was the best unit we've seen all year. Our defense continues to struggle and I think this is just who we are, fundamentally inconsistent, not particularly physical, and perpetually susceptible to a big play. With that said, Grantham has two weeks to get ready and I expect a good performance against a hobbled Tech offense.
The Dawgs got a takeaway early and ended up winning the official turnover battle, but I would count the onside kick as essentially equivalent to a turnover. It was a gutsy call by Chizik, but it worked and stole a precious possession that could have helped UGA put the pressure on Auburn to keep up with us, instead of us keeping up with them. Richt said he had prepared the team for such a tactic, but they weren't watching for it when it actually happened, I guess. Based on Boykin's second half returns, I guess they were only concerned with the onside kick after Auburn got one and forgot to block.
Three other good things before I get to the bad. Aaron Murray and Alec Ogletree are as good a set of freshmen as we've had in a while. Murray is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorites. The kid was getting beat senseless, but kept fighting at every turn. Tonight might have been his best game of the year all things considered. If we had a legit running game to really sell the play action fakes, he'd be an absolute mortal lock for SEC and national freshman of the year. Ogletree needs to start every game for us until he turns pro. He's big, physical, as sure a tackler as we have in the defensive backfield, and he needs experience. I know he got toasted on Auburn's last touchdown, but the way they were running all night you can't blame him for the cheat step up. And lastly, A.J. Green is the best receiver we have ever had or will ever have. How exactly will our offense function next year without him? Nevermind, I know. I was in Starkville.
Now, on to the ugliness. I've never been a fervent Auburn-hater like Kyle King. I've always sort of considered us friendly rivals with outbursts of mild fire-hosing or drink-throwing, but nothing of the Tech or UF caliber hate. Our games always seem to be physical, hard-fought games that are fun to watch and inspiring of a certain earned respect. With that preface, Auburn was a dirty football team tonight. Perhaps it is unfair to characterize an entire team for the actions of a single player, so I guess I'll say Nick Fairley is a dirty football player. I realize I'm biased, but it's not just me who thinks Fairley was unsportsmanlike. Every father should show his son Fairley's actions tonight and tell them "if you play like this, I'll kick your ass." Nick Fairley's a good football player and he'll be a millionaire very soon, but he'll never be able to buy a good reputation. He's dirty and he plays the game the wrong way. I'll never cheer for a player to get injured, but I'm as close as I can get to breaking that rule for Fairley.