They are the story of the game. Because we figured we'd be able to move the ball on Auburn's defense. It really was just a matter of how much Bobo was tempted to throw the ball. But the defense was the same question mark going into this game that it has been all season.
And boy did they provide a definitive and resounding answer.
I sure sang the praises of the linebackers on Sunday, deservedly so. And much is being made of Pruitt utilizing Floyd at the nickel so he could have both him and Carter on the field at the same time. But looking over the game again it really shows how much work Mike Thornton and Ray Drew did in the trenches. As Richt said, it allowed Herrera and Wilson to "clean up". And with Thornton and Drew (as well as Bailey, Johnson and Dawson when they were in the game) standing their ground, the linebackers went to work. They were attacking the ball like they were back in October's road trip to Columbia and Little Rock. That road trip produced their best six quarters to date under Pruitt's new defense. Saturday produced it's first complete complete game since then.
In the secondary, Auburn did its fair share of testing Georgia on intermediate and deep routes. Marshall threw some into tight coverage and his receivers made some tough catches. Pruitt's d-backs made them earn it. Uzomah was targeted early and often. But the tight end never broke free on any crossing routes which Auburn likes to run on occasion. In the past those have killed us. Not Saturday.
I didn't realize until rewatching it just how much freshman Malkom Parrish played. He looked good out there. But really, the whole defense looked spectacular. And it really started with energy towards the ball; wherever it went there were red jerseys in hot pursuit. Disciplined and determined defensive football. That was a joy to watch again.
It's been something we've touched on here and there this season, and it's definitely going to get more and more attention as we transition slowly into Pruitt's second season, but the way he and his defensive staff shuffle in players is so nice to see. More importantly, as Tanner mentioned while tailgating Saturday, there's not a huge dropoff when Davin Bellamy or Reggie Carter or Sterling Bailey comes into the game.
And that speaks to coaching. These guys are being taught well. I know we're all still frustrated by the way the defense performed against Florida. And we should be. But there are sure signs to be excited about this defense. The consistency week to week will come. Saturday night, against a very dangerous offensive team with loads of speed and talent, was a big step.