No. 4 Georgia defeated No. 7 Auburn 27-6 in the home opener at Sanford Stadium on Saturday. Here are some observations from The Red & Black:
New Sanford, similar energy
With a crowd of 20,524 fans, Sanford lacked its usual seat-shaking force. But the spectators, obviously glad to don red and black and experience a football Saturday, kept their energy high throughout the game.
"It felt like there were a lot of fans out there," head coach Kirby smart said to open his virtual postgame press conference. "The crowd noise was helpful."
Auburn’s third and fourth downs were especially loud, and it was difficult to tell if and when Georgia athletics implemented artificial crowd noise for an augmented homefield boost. Sanford reached peak decibel level with senior defensive back Mark Webb’s interception to close out the third quarter.
The biggest difference was at halftime when Georgia’s Redcoat Band performed from the stands, offering a “yacht rock” playlist, which included a rendition of “Africa” by Toto. While the band’s pageantry was limited due to on-field restrictions and reduced numbers, the Redcoats’ sound didn’t seem to be seriously affected.
Georgia’s ritual heading into the fourth quarter — phone flashlights light up the stands while the Redcoats play “Krypton” — still produced its starry night effect and drew a big response from the crowd.
Head coach Kirby Smart was disappointed in his run game at all levels after last week’s performance at Arkansas. This week, there wasn’t much to complain about.
Georgia’s running backs, like most of the Bulldogs’ offense, looked brand new. In the first half, they combined for 130 yards on 24 attempts. Redshirt sophomore Zamir White led with 76 yards, more than his total production against the Razorbacks, and scored twice to fuel Georgia’s 24-point burst to start the game.
Offensive coordinator Todd Monken finally saw the explosiveness absent last week as White and junior James Cook both broke off 17 and 16-yard carries respectively and consistently found space behind a sturdier offensive line.
With one holding penalty and improved blocking, Georgia’s rushers were rarely held up at the line of scrimmage and averaged an even five yards per carry.
White and Cook picked right up after halftime, pushing Georgia downfield in its opening drive and helping set up a 25-yard field goal.
Ultimately, Georgia fielded five running backs Saturday. Although they went scoreless in the second half, the damage had already been done. Excluding a 15-yard sack on quarterback Stetson Bennett, the team finished with 217 rushing yards.
Top 10 defense
Georgia proved at Arkansas that it hadn’t lost much of its NCAA-leading scoring and rushing defense form last year. But against the top 10 Tigers, Georgia's defense showed that it wasn’t just the Razorbacks personnel that made it look so good. Smart, as he did this past week, said he saw things that could improve, including Auburn's 43.8% third down conversion rate.
"Everyone now wants to make it really bad last week and really good now," Smart said. "It's probably somewhere in the middle."
In the first half, the Bulldogs kept Auburn to 81 total yards with just 27 coming on the ground. Quarterback Bo Nix, who put up 245 yards and three touchdowns last week against Kentucky, finished the game with 177 yards and no scores.
Auburn’s rush couldn’t do much in the last two frames either as the Tigers secured 39 rushing yards on the night. Webb’s pick at the end of the third quarter was the final death knell for Auburn, eliminating any momentum it had gained toward a potential comeback.
Earlier this week, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said that after last year’s matchup, he considered Georgia’s defense the best he’d faced all year. In keeping Auburn’s four-touchdown offense from a week ago from scoring all night, Georgia could earn the same distinction from the Tigers’ skipper in 2020.