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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fleeting thoughts: After Auburn

Cam Newton brushed by me as he sprinted to the student section in the moments after Saturday’s game. Part of me wanted to stop Newton and ask him to convince me he deserved my Heisman vote, but there isn’t much stopping Newton these days, either by opposing defenses, reporters or the NCAA.

It was an electric atmosphere inside Jordan-Hare Stadium, starting when fans got fired up when Newton was announced as the starter before the game. But I’m still interested to see how things play out off the field.

Auburn seems to have taken a huge risk by playing Newton. Maybe this will all prove to be nothing, or at least nothing that affects the player himself. I don’t know. But forgive me for not getting all warm-and-fuzzy about this redemption story. Auburn has gone all-in on Newton, for better or for worse. If I’m a coach, athletics director or compliance director at other schools, I’m watching to make sure the NCAA treats this fairly and accurately.

Meanwhile, in the Georgia locker room the Newton brouhaha took a back seat after the game to another issue: Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley took a few extra shots at Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, which pretty much led to the contretemps near the end of the game. When Mark Richt gets short with you in a press conference, something he doesn’t do much, you can tell he’s a bit irked.

But none of that helps Georgia now. It looked good for much of the first half on Saturday, doing what it needed to do to spring the upset: A key turnover, unstoppable offense and getting stops on defense. Then it broke down, and the defense could never stop Newton.

On to the grades:

QUARTERBACK: There were tweets during the game from former Bulldogs like Mohammed Massaquoi and Jeff Owens heaping praise on Murray. Is there any better compliment? The freshman showed out for the national audience, not only finding A.J. Green downfield, but creating pass plays with his pocket poise and scrambling. He also put up with a lot of, er, extracurriculars from Fairley and company.
Grade: A.

RUNNING BACKS: Caleb King and Washaun Ealey were productive when they carried the ball, and would have gained more yards if Georgia hadn’t concentrated on the pass. On the downside, the pass protection from the tailbacks was lacking at times, and they continued not to be a factor in the receiving game.
Grade: B-.

RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof told ESPN’s Ivan Maisel after the game that Green would “play a long, long time and make a lotta, lotta money.” No kidding. Look at his second touchdown catch: Green strode down the sideline, step for step with the Auburn corner, bumped a bit, then turned it on at the last moment to haul in Murray’s deep pass in stride, in the end zone. Tight end Orson Charles also had a big game, and showed that once Green is presumably in the NFL next year, Charles should be the go-to man for Murray. Kris Durham had a fantastic takeaway catch to continue a drive.
Grade: A.

OFFENSIVE LINE: This unit’s blocking paralleled the performance of the offense. They made Fairley a non-factor for much of the first half, and Murray had time to pass and the tailbacks had room to run. Then Fairley and teammate Antoine Carter started to get pressure, Murray started to get hit, and the offense stalled.
Grade: B-/C+.

DEFENSIVE LINE: It was another fairly anonymous game for the front three, other than a first-half sack by reserve Kiante Tripp. Two of the starters, Demarcus Dobbs and DeAngelo Tyson, got nicked up. Abry Jones had a nice tackle behind the line. Georgia couldn’t get a hold on Newton in the second half, whether it was up the middle or around the tackles, and the line deserves its fair share of blame.
Grade: C.

LINEBACKERS: Justin Houston had a sack, Marcus Dowtin and Akeem Dent racked up the tackles – but when it was most important, they couldn’t make those stops in enough time. Auburn was 10 for 14 on third downs, mostly on the ground. Houston complained after the game that there were too many missed assignments, “stuff that’s been happening all season.” Some could take that as criticism of teammates, but frankly in my experience “missed assignments” is a euphemism for “outplayed.”
Grade: C.

SECONDARY: Bacarri Rambo’s interception return got the Bulldogs off to a fine start. But by the end of the game Newton had completed 12 of his 15 attempts, two for touchdowns. Freshman Alec Ogletree racked up nine tackles, but a lot of the gap responsibility to halting the run fell on the secondary.
Grade: C.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Part of the formula for a Georgia win was winning the kicking game, and it didn’t. The onside kick may have been the game’s key moment. Brandon Boykin also had little room to return kicks. Blair Walsh and Drew Butler, in limited time, did well. But the onside kick and the kick return problems were glaring.
Grade: D-.

COACHING: The gameplan started out well, and for a time it looked like Georgia’s aggressive defense could bottle up Newton. But whatever adjustments Todd Grantham tried, they didn’t work. Richt’s decision not to try for something in the final minute of the first half was debatable, but I didn’t have a problem with his decision to kick the field goal at the end of the third quarter.

Still, you can’t fault the coaches too much in a game they had within grasp at the second-ranked team in the country.
Grade: B-/C+.


Hilik said...

What's your take on the Fairley hits?

grizaham said...

Little biased but good.
Green is to UGA as Cam is to the AU so lay off the hate

Can u honestly give the heisman to anyone other than Cam Newton? Why does he personally need to convince you??

Fairley is a beast. You dont stop playing ball cause the clock is running out in the 4th.

Good game.
Enjoyed tailgating with some good guys from both sides

War Eagle

PTC DAWG said...

Fairly is a cheap shot artist...

Anonymous said...

Grizaham - Fairley is a beast, but he's a dirty beast. I'm curious to know what you think about the booing of an injured player. How can that be defended?

NCT said...

Re booing an injured player: I'm sure several AU fans were mistakenly convinced that the injury was faked to slow the game. Caught up in emotions, some boos let out by many very quickly spread and escalated to the point where it made Auburn fans look and sound obnoxious. These things happen. It's a good lesson to us all not to jump to conclusions.

heyberto said...

grizaham - On Newton, when it comes to on the field play, he gets the Heisman, hands down. But there is a part in the requirements for judging the Heisman that metions integrity.. and that has some voters waiting to see what happens with him. If that's Seth's point, I think that's fair.

Believe it or not, I hope he and Auburn come out clean in this, but its not looking good for either right now.

Whether Fairley is just overexcited and a little out of control or Dirty, I don't know, but let's be honest, he has to learn to get it under control, to not let his fire get the best of him. Part of that is coaching. Props to Chizik for saying he'll deal with the ejected players for doing what they did, but they need to do their job with Fairley as well. As far as this game goes, I fault the refs for not stopping that crap earlier in the game.

You guys definitely deserve that win, you are a great team. Hope you guys win the SEC, hope you don't have to give up any games after the fact.

Army Dawg said...

For most of my life I've considered Auburn a friendly rival and Florida was my hated/despised team. After the classless/dirty play by Fairley yesterday (aided by the officials not keeping the game under control) Auburn has surpassed the Gators as my most hated rival. I hope Bama beats the snot out of them in 2 weeks and SC pulls the upset in Atlanta. Fairley should have been ejected for the late hit/spearing into the back of Murray during the 3rd quarter and the helmet to the knee/shin was as dirty as it gets in football. Let him try that crap in the NFL, he'll get his butt kikcked before the preseason is over.

Roll Tide!

Go Cocks!

and oh yeah, Beat Tech!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but this Cam is a great guy nonsense makes me sick. He stole a laptop - he cheated multiple times - his dad ADMITTED trying to get money for his services - LET ME SAY THAT ONE MORE TIME HIS DAD ADMITTED TRYING TO GET MONEY FOR HIS SERVICES.

Fairley is a POS - albeit a talented one but none the less a POS.

I hope you War Eagles enjoy the top of the ladder while it last because the NCAA is coming after you.

VAdawg said...

Seth, thank you for not drinking the "redemption" kool aid with all of the NCAA folks. The stink around Newton is still here, him winning one game doesn't change that at all. All it shows is that Auburn took a huge risk, and I hope they pay dearly.

Anonymous said...

Really have to say I am so disappointed in what I am reading here today that it is driving me to comment for the first time.

I am both a UGA AND Auburn alum with degrees from both schools and an equal fan of both teams. UGA flat out got outplayed.

Murray and Green are amazing. So is Cam. Fairly int my favorite but isn't the dirty bastard he is being made out to be by most UGA folks.

I was there, on the 15 yard line at field level and saw the UGA players fist go flying FIRST before Fairly retaliated. Should he have - NO? But GA did get it going. and the AU bench didnt have to be held back like GA's did. Did Fairly hit late? Yes, once. Not great but not unheard of. And the AU faithful were booing Richt not our injured man.

Have always prided myself on being an alum of the 2 classiest schools in the SEC. Forget the whole Cam thing for a second, just looking at the behavior I saw in stands last night and online from Dawg "fans", I wonder if I should be so quick to be proud of my UGA heritage anymore?

Auburn played hard (when we do it it good D, when they do we cry?) Come on boys, man up and admit the Dawgs were outplayed and show up ready next year.

Ellen Lee
Athens GA

Anonymous said...

Grizaham,in order to win the Heisman you have to be eligible and that is still being determined.Why is Auburn hiring lawyers?Their lead lawyer,Marsh ,is from Bama so y'all must be really desperate.I liked the punch Cam gave to the defensive back going out of bounds,makes a nice highlight tape for his character.But what do people expect,Fairley and Newton both came from Juco colleges because of grades so they never were going to work for NASA.Sure they'll go to the NFL next year to wind up in the police blotter and blow their millions.Maybe they'll make A 30/30 show on ESPN for them.

Anonymous said...

Seth, I have to say I was beginning to wonder if the Heisman Trophy really meant anything anymore. If maybe it wasn't becoming a bit of a media-driven beauty pageant. But knowing that you have a vote and are out there asking the tough questions has put all those worries to rest. Thanks for the great work you do day in, day out, typing what someone else said for us to read here. First-class, as usual.

Trelymb said...


I was at the game and it was obvious the fans were booing the injured player. There was an old couple in front of me screaming "Get up you sore loser!" I've always enjoyed attending the AU-UGA game, however, yesterday's game left a sour taste in my mouth. I know we have some pretty bad fans, but the ignorance of Auburn fans was obvious yesterday.

Auburn played hard and deserved the win, no doubt about that, but act like you've been there before. Show the class you had before you were undefeated.

Bryan said...

Fairly only had one late hit?!? You must be joking. Not only did he hit Murray late, but he also picked him up and drove him into the ground a couple times and intentionally tried to injure Murray. I always thought pretty highly of Auburn, but the game last night erased that thought. And Faily threw the first punch. And the fans were booing the injured man because they believed that we were trying to slow down their fast paced drive. You sound a lot like an Auburn fan pretending to also be a Dawg fan.

Anonymous said...

No way you can give the UGA DL, LB and DB's a "C" when they gave up 6 touchdown the last 7 times Auburn had the ball...especially considering our O didn't turn it over once.

Jason Crosby said...

Interesting note that the AU Athletic Director went into UGA's locker room after the game and spoke to our AD and Coach.

Anonymous said...

I imagine the Auburn AD was trying to smooth things over by going to the locker room after the game.If our center,Jones, could be suspended a half game for a chop block by the SEC office, I'm sure a protest and game film of Fairley's antics could get him a similar punishment.If there's any justice in the league office, it will happen.

Anonymous said...

I have been attending SEC games since 1957 and I have never seen as many cheap shots by a player with such a contradictory name. To defend his play as he's just "a beast" is an indignity to the concept of character. Auburn and the conference need to send him on to the pros where someone will have the guts to fine him big money. Disgraceful to the game.

Anonymous said...

You had to be flat out drunk and high to see "only" one late hit by Fairley. Quite a few weren't called by the zebras. Glad Murray emerged no worse for the wear.

BuLLdawg said...

20 losses the last 5 years

would someone please spin that as great ?

Anonymous said...

Folks, For those of us who grew up on the state border near Auburn, we have known for 40 years they are classless. What do you expect from a school where 90% of the students could not get into the top half of the SEC.

Joeski said...

Ms. Lee,

I respect your opinion, and particularly how you're willing to cowboy up and post your name.

To present what I feel is the rational UGA fan's take for you:

Yes, Auburn won. They were the better team. They are ranked number 2 in the nation for a reason. However, the Auburn players behaved in a completely unacceptable manner, and for the first time, the 'Brother against Brother' feel of the AU/UGA rivalry has been cheapened, if not outright lost, and all because of the Auburn players' and fans' actions.

I am not speaking of just one incident: Nick Fairley hit Aaron Murray multiple times well after Murray had thrown the football, and drove him to the ground, clearly with the intent to hurt him, rather than tackle. That is the definition of 'dirty play' in my eyes. In fact, if you watch both college and pro football, you would be forced to agree that Fairley likely would have been fined in excess of $200,000 and suspended by the NFL for 4 of his hits. There were more that were borderline dirty.

Combine that with Newton's celebration after TDs (he didn't go to his teammates, even when he didn't do the scoring-- he ran to the fans with a blatant 'LOOK AT ME' attitude), to Fairley running on to the field when he wasn't playing, strutting around, 'putting on the belt' only to be congratulated by his coaches, and not controlled or disciplined, to the fans booing an injured player when the clock stoppage really wouldn't have made a difference in the game at all, Auburn really behaved like exactly what every other CFB fan criticizes the SEC fans for: ignorant, win-at-all-costs, rabid hicks who overemphasize sports.

I'm sorry, congratulations on going to the SEC championship game, but I'm glad that my Dawgs don't behave like that, and I can wear the red and black with pride. (Although some folks on this blog clearly value wins more than class and dignity.)

Bryan said...

I find it kinda funny how some UGA fans can congratulate Mark Richt for being a nice and classy guy but say that it's gonna take a coach like Saban or Meyer to win a championship for us, then turn around berate a classless team and coaching staff who are (it seems at the moment) going to the national championship. If that's the level of play that those fans wanted from UGA, I'll pick Richt over that any day. He knows how to win and not look like a bunch of douchers doing so.

GreenDawg said...

Seth, first off you do a great job here, despite what some ignorant fans said yesterday. Also, near the beginning of the game some friends and I seemed to notice blood on Murray's jersey. Later we saw them replacing his jersey on the sideline and it looked like he had bandages on his chin. Any word on this injury? If it even happened. We're not really sure what we saw.

Anonymous said...

There was blood early on and they did bandage up his chin. I think it happened on the first Fairley hit, but I'm not certain.

Anonymous said...

Who remembers when the Auburn Admin turned the water cannons on the GA fans when we beat them in Auburn? Pat (pay) Dye was the coach. What a classless jerk. I am sorry he ever palyed for GA.

KevinB said...

From my viewing area, a hotel room in NOLA recovering from a rough friday night, the helmet to the knee didn't *look* intentional. But that's just my opinion "from the couch" from some angle that happened to catch the action. What did look intentional, very intentional, was Fairley spearing Murray in the back with his helmet. At the very least he should've gotten 15 yds for it, but probably deserved to be ejected from the game.

Sometimes I think that Fairley's an idiot for driving the quarterbacks into the ground (for multiple reasons) and this game proved it b/c he injured his shoulder. But it's not an illegal play. Should it be? Most definitely. I've seen this done for years in CFB. Unfortunately. What is illegal however is a chop block. Perhaps the dirtiest play in all of football.

I'm embarrassed by the fouls AU players committed in the closing minute. But no personal foul was called on the GA player that blocked the guy for an extra 10 yds into the GA sideline after the play was whistled dead. Nor was their a penalty for GA players and coaches clearing the bench, so to speak. Just sayin'. It was a really ugly end to what was for the most part a really exciting game. And a game I look fwd to every year and have been to many times, whether at The Plains or Between The Hedges.

Anonymous said...

How can you give the defnsive unit Cs? They got schooled, 5 straight TDs on 5 drives??? UF couldn't score on anyone but UGA. Grantham has to get huge improvement out of that unit or they'll all be looking for new jobs this time next year.

This was a PATHETIC season any way you spin it. The BEST team you beat was KY! Coach Richt get it together now. There is no coincendence that UF and UGA who have the most discipline problems are both very bad teams. The East was ripe for the taking and you let SC jump you. That is the worst tackling defense I have ever seen and it has not gotten any better really and that just doesn't make sense. The talent level on defense is atrocious too. You score 31 points in back to back games and lose. Bobo calls a good game (not hard when you have AJ) and they couldn't stop you and then you go to a wildcat??? Unbelievable but not surprising, we've seen all too much of that the last 4 years.

Anonymous said...

Other than my alma mater (AU), Georgia has been the SEC team that I most apt to pull for. And that will probably continue.

I think that there was a lot of emotion on both sides for this game, for obvious reasons. I think we, as adults, should exercise a little restraint in making accusations. Georgia wanted to win badly to redeem their season. Auburn wanted to win badly to continue theirs and to make a statement about what has been going on them. These are young men who have put a lot of themselves on the line to do something they love.

It does occur to me that, with Georgia's own PR poblems around the football team, it might be good not to be overly critical of Auburn. I was impressed by A.J. Green's comments on the Newton situation last week. I also thought it was very unfortunate and a over-reaction that he was suspended at the beginning of the season. He is an outstanding player and the young quarterback is going to ve very good.

I agree that Fairley hit Mitchell late with the spear in the back. There may have been other late hits. But it was one player on one player. The platoon attack on Fairley at the end of the game is hard to justify in my opinion.

As for Auburn's academic standards, the average incoming freshman ACT is 27.

Anonymous said...

If AU does it it's called being dirty. If UGA does it it's called "finishing the drill". The sack that ended UGA's drive before the "brawl" drive was almost a mirror image of the one where Murray's knee was hit. Only difference was Murray's leg was planted on the second one. The fact is Fairley had one penalty. One. And deservedly so! The late hit was an awful play on his part. If you complain about the "diving him into the ground" then you're just being a pussy. AU has not had an incident like the fight in a game this year....until UGA. And you think UGA is blameless? Face it....UGA has the worst fan base, win or lose and best(most) arrest record in the SEC. Yeah...we're the thugs. LOL!!! We'll play flag football next year so you don't get any boo boos.