Every week, UGASports teams up with 11Alive to hand out grades to Georgia’s position groups. Here is the report card from a 13-7 win over Auburn.
Jacob Eason did have a zero in the touchdown column next to his name, but the freshman managed the game and gave the Bulldogs an opportunity to win. Eason threw for 208 yards on 20-of-31 passing and really let loose for what seemed like one of the first times this season. Eason’s 57-yard throw to freshman Riley Ridley down the sideline early in the first quarter was a true thing of beauty. His third down pass late in the fourth quarter to freshman tight end Isaac Nauta all but sealed the game. Eason was sacked twice and even had his helmet knocked off during the first sack. The other Bulldog to play quarterback, Terry Godwin, had two opportunities to throw the ball. Former Georgia safety Tray Matthews intercepted the first pass and the second one - to Eason in a bit of role reversal- was incomplete. Georgia was 1-2 in red zone chances, scoring only a field goal. Overall, Eason did a good job of limiting his mistakes and really looked like he was comfortable in his ability to throw the deep ball.
PHOTOS: Auburn vs. Georgia
PHOTOS: Auburn v Georgia
Running Backs: B
Nick Chubb topped the 100-yard mark for the first time in over a month and looked like the Chubb of old for the first time since the North Carolina game. The running backs did not score a touchdown, no position group on offense did, but they did do a good job of getting past the offensive line and getting to the second level. Sony Michel had 55 yards on 10 carries and if you combined Chubb and Michel’s stats, the two tallied five yards per carry. The running backs group faced their toughest test of the season and came away with a victory. That deserves a ‘B’ all day long.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: B+
Freshman Riley Ridley showed flashes earlier in the season that he might be the next best wide receiver to come through Athens and the freshman added to his resume with an impressive 89-yard performance. Ridley is not the only freshman who continues to add to his growing hype, though. Tight end Isaac Nauta hauled in three passes for 43 yards and was a safety valve for Eason all night. Terry Godwin and Isaiah McKenzie both caught four passes, with McKenzie making a great catch on the sidelines between two defenders. This position group is loaded with underclassmen and it seems like Eason is really starting to feel comfortable throwing tougher passes to each of them, which is scary for opposing defenses.
Offensive Line: C
The offensive line looked good at times, but was also beaten multiple times, thus the grade considered average. Senior Tyler Catalina was called for a holding penalty on the Bulldogs first drive of the game, but what made the penalty worse was the fact that Eason had connected with Javon Wims on a 40-yard pass that would’ve gotten the Bulldogs inside the red zone. Catalina was not the only senior making rookie mistakes, though. Greg Pyke also stalled out a drive when he was called for a false start penalty in the fourth quarter that ended up making kicker Rodrigo Blankenship kick a 49-yard field goal instead of a 44-yard attempt and Blankenship was only a few yards short of making it. The offensive line did string together some impressive run-blocking plays that helped get Chubb going, but they also let Eason get sacked twice during pass protection and allowed eight tackles for loss. It was not the best night for the offensive line, but it also was not their worst performance of the season, either.
Overall Offense: B-
The Bulldogs did not score a touchdown on the offensive side of the ball, but they did manage to have eight drives go for six or more plays and that really helped the defense stay fresh and turn in its best performance of the season. Eason is maturing and he finally looks like he is confident in making throws into tight windows, which was something he had not really tried to do all year. Chubb and Michel both ran hard and moved the chains. Last but not least, the wide receivers and tight ends, especially the freshmen, are really starting to gel with theiryoung quarterback and are growing more and more confident each week.
Defensive Line: A+
With the defensive line being such a young group and the Tigers having one of the top rushing attacks in the nation, this matchup reeked of disaster. The exact opposite happened. Kerryon Johnson had 99 rushing yards, but only managed to get 25 of those in the second half, thanks in large part to the defensive line constantly pushing Auburn’s offensive line backwards. Sophomore Jonathan Ledbetter was second on the team in tackles with five and also had a sack in the first quarter that stalled an Auburn drive. Trenton Thompson did a great job of clogging up in the middle, tallying five tackles, a tackle for loss and also had a pass break up. This group is young, playing six freshmen and sophomores regularly, but the performance they put up against Auburn shows that Georgia fans have a lot to look forward to in coming years.
Sophomore Roquan Smith led the team with seven tackles, but it was his leadership that helped the Bulldogs more than anything. Fellow sophomore Natrez Patrick did not play in the game due to a nagging injury and Smith stepped up and made sure that the defense got the right calls from the sidelines. Outside linebacker Davin Bellamy had a huge tackle for loss that stalled one of Auburn’s drives in the first quarter. Bellamy also did a fantastic job of setting the edge and limiting Auburn’s running backs from really breaking free and gaining major yardage.
The addition of Maurice Smith late in the offseason may be the best thing to happen to Kirby Smart to date in Athens. The graduate transfer scored the only touchdown for the Bulldogs, a 34-yard pick-six, and tied the game early in the third quarter. Auburn’s quarterback, Sean White, just could not get going against Georgia’s secondary, completing just 6-20 passes for 27 yards. Cornerback Malkom Parrish also had a great game in the defensive backfield, registering five tackles and also coming up to help with run defense. Deandre Baker, Dominick Sanders and Quincy Mauger all had a pass break ups and were major keys in keeping White in check the entire game.
Overall Defense: A
The defense held Auburn to just 164 yards of total offense and completely dominated the entire game. Auburn did not register a first down the entire second half and had six three-and-outs during that span. This was supposed to be an offense that would give the young defensive line nightmares, but it was the defensive line that will be haunting the dreams of White and Johnson instead. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker drew up a great game plan that worked to perfection except for one 80-yard Auburn drive in the first quarter. Overall, the defense looked to be a step ahead of Auburn on just about every play and they executed consistently for four quarters.
Special Teams: A
Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, or most notably known as the most interesting man on campus, was 2-3 on field goal attempts and provided the margin of victory. His lone miss was on a 49-yard attempt that was accurate but just did not have enough power behind it. Three of his four kickoffs were touchbacks and the one kick that was returned only picked up 14 yards thanks to good kick coverage. Brice Ramsey, who looks to be the starting punter for the rest of the season due to the injury to Marshall Long, pinned Auburn deep in its own territory three times. Ramsey had a punt land on the 2-yard line, the 8-yard line, and the 15-yard line. Isaiah McKenzie had a nice 20-yard return in the fourth quarter when UGA really needed it. The special teams unit really did not do anything wrong in this game which is probably a first for this unit all year.
Paul Maharry is a contributor for the UGAInsider.com.