Georgia could have had a huge night on special teams. As it was, it was a play the Bulldogs didn’t make in that area that ended up making the biggest difference in beating Auburn Saturday night.
Tied 7-all and facing a fourth-and-one at the Tigers’ 9 with nine minutes remaining in the first half, Georgia coach Mark Richt ran out the Bulldogs’ field goal team to grab the easy three points in what was anticipated to be a track-meet style game.
The trouble was, it took Richt took long to make his decision and he had to call timeout to avoid a delay-of-game penalty. It was during the intermission that assistant coaches Mike Bobo and Will Friend were able to work on Richt over the headphones.
“I asked them, ‘if we go for it, what would the call be?’ They told me what they liked and I felt real comfortable with it.”
The Bulldogs ran a power play behind from their “jumbo” package to the right side of the line and Nick Chubb not only got the first down, but barreled into the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown.
“That was great,” Richt exclaimed.
It gave the Bulldogs’ a 14-7 lead and continued what had been a wild and weird night on special teams. Todd Gurley appeared to have returned Georgia’s first kickoff of the night 104 yards for a touchdown, but it was nullified by a holding call. The Bulldogs gained 41 yards on a fake punt in which Adam Erickson passed to Shakenneth Williams, who ran to the Auburn 3. But that play came back because Josh Dawson was ruled to have been an ineligible receiver downfield.
Georgia also benefited from a roughing-the-kicker call on the Tigers and Auburn’s Ricardo Louis muffed a punt that Lucas Redd recovered for the Bulldogs at the Tigers’ 19 and scored four plays later.
“I thought it was going to be a barn-burner type of game,” Richt said. “I was kind of gearing everybody up thinking that, and I really believed it. Even early on, faking the punt, I just wasn’t wanting to give Auburn a possession there because of what they’ve done. Not many people have been able to keep them off the board, and they tend to score sevens rather than threes. So we were trying to be as aggressive as we can.”