Friday, December 14

The 25 Biggest Plays of the Mark Richt Era, #19:
Stafford to Bailey on Blackout Saturday.

#10 Georgia 45, #18 Auburn 20
Athens, Georgia, November 10, 2007

Specific play starts at about 3.10 . . . but of course you want to watch the whole thing.

G 2-13 G29 Matt Stafford pass complete to Sean Bailey for 45 yards to the AU26, 1ST DOWN UGA, out-of-bounds (Patrick Lee).

Again, full recap of the game here; this game had some roller-coaster dips every bit as dramatic as the Alabama game six weeks prior, but perhaps the momentum swings were a lot more simplified. To wit: Georgia stunned pretty much everybody -- I think even us Bulldog fans -- by pouncing on Auburn to the tune of a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter, but Auburn scored a touchdown shortly thereafter and, with the help of a Stafford pick and a three-and-out to start the second half, took a 20-17 lead with six and a half minutes left to go in the third.

As jubilant as I'd been through Georgia's fast start, I was every bit as demoralized, if not more so, as Auburn came back and took the lead. We'd blacked out the stadium beautifully, made everyone go bananas by coming out in the black jerseys, and for a while looked as though we didn't care one bit that we weren't supposed to beat Auburn at home -- but now, in the second half, we were crawling right back into our shells and playing not to lose. The crowd was getting jittery and the momentum needle was clearly pinned to the Auburn side, and it was going to take something close to heroic to push it back the other way.

One heroic play, coming right up. Despite having done an excellent job of strafing Auburn's so-so secondary for most of the first half, we'd dug ourselves into a hole by pulling back and trying a bunch of short screen stuff that didn't work at all, but when Wes Byrum kicked Auburn's go-ahead field goal, a light went on above somebody's head that apparently inspired them to start going long again. Starting from our own 32 after the Byrum FG, Moreno got thrown for a loss of three yards, an incomplete pass was wiped out due to off-settling penalties, and then Stafford launched one. With all day to throw, he dropped a 45-yard pass into Sean Bailey's hands so expertly that you'd have thought it was guided by the same systems we use to target our Tomahawk cruise missiles. Two plays later, Knowshon Moreno faked Auburn out of an entire team's worth of jocks -- watch Zac Etheridge and Jerraud Powers run into each other and ask yourself whether Knowshon hadn't been planning that from the moment he touched the ball -- and went 24 yards for the TD that retook the lead.

I don't know that I've ever personally witnessed such a rapid, dramatic reversal of fortune a football game; it was the Bugatti-Veyron-handbrake-turn-at-120-miles-an-hour of momentum shifts. The discombobulated Tiger defense proceeded to offer up three more TDs, while their offense, with the pressure to score suddenly ratcheted up, collapsed even more emphatically -- after Moreno's TD, they had as many interceptions as first downs, and one of those firsts was thanks to a defensive holding penalty by the Dawgs. By the time the clock hit 00:00 and the band struck up "Back in Black" for the final time, Auburn had been handed an even bigger blowout than the previous year, and Georgia had scored 40 points in three consecutive games for the first time since World War II.

The adjustment in the offensive play-calling -- and, of course, the ability of Stafford and Bailey to execute it -- made it happen. Whether it was the crowd, the black jerseys, or whatever, they were able to mentally toss out all the trends that pointed against a Georgia victory (we never beat Auburn at home, we hadn't beaten Auburn and Florida in the same season since 1982) and make the big play that opened the floodgates for an old-fashioned ass-whuppin'.

Man, that game was fun -- too much for just one YouTube. Vern, Gary, it's time to crank dat.


Anonymous said...

good stuff...

I was at the game.

Thanks for sharing that video. Great vid on the game! By far one of the best youtube videos of a Georgia game.

ha... of course I watched the whole thing.

btw, is Jenna going to dress out in black for the Sugar Bowl?

Anonymous said...

Such a shame that the AU game was even close. Without 3 or 4 of the most egregious calls I have ever witnessed going in AU's favor, this would likely have been 45-7 or so.