Deep South's Oldest Rivalry has Deeper Meaning to Smart
Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart (Photo: UGA Athletics)
The Georgia Bulldogs enter this weekend’s game with Auburn coming off of a last second win at Kentucky, 27-24 thanks to a 25-yard field goal.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak, and also wrapped up a two-game road trip. The final homestand of the season begins on Saturday with a game against Auburn at 2:30 P.M.
On Monday, Head Coach Kirby Smart held his weekly press conference to discuss the game with Kentucky, to preview the Auburn game, and to just give an overview of his team heading into week 11 of the college football season.
The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry has a special meaning to Smart, as he played for Georgia from 1995-1998. “It is one of the best, one of the greatest rivalries I think in college football.” Smart said of the rivalry. Entering Saturday, Georgia has a 56-55-8 record against Auburn. The win-loss record is very balanced, however, the rivalry goes deeper than that according to Smart. “There’s similarities in the two stadiums, similarities in the programs. You look at Coach Dooley and Coach Dye. There is a tie that bonds.” The rivalry goes beyond the gridiron as well. Smart says that the rivalry does not end, because recruiting has been heated over the recent years. “They have a great program, and I certainly think that we do too, so it makes for great college football.”
Smart opened the press conference by complementing Auburn, by saying that they run the football well, which makes them a good team. He says that he has respect for the way that Gus Malzahn runs his team, and that he has history with defensive coordinator Kevin Steele from his time with Florida State and Alabama. Auburn is a well coached team all-around according to Smart, and he says that they pose a threat.
Preparing for Auburn, Smart was first asked about running back Kamryn Pettway. There are questions about his health, after he showed signs of injury in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt. Smart says that whether Pettway plays, or does not play, he is preparing his team for the best players that Auburn has. “Whether he is there or not, they know how to run the football. Trust me.” Smart says about preparing for the Auburn running game. Pettway is a player that Smart knows well, as he recruited him during his time at the University of Alabama. “I always thought that he could be a good running back, he has obviously proved that to be correct.” Smart said of Pettway, “He is a physical, downhill runner.” Smart is preparing for an Auburn team that is creative in running the football, and would like to see his team improve on tackling heading into the game.
Smart was also asked about junior defensive end Carl Lawson. Smart feels that Auburn has put Lawson in a great position, and is being used to the best of his abilities. “He is a dynamic pass rusher. The challenge is knowing where he is at. They have been creative in the ways that they have moved him around, which frees him up to do more, and expand his role, to where he is not in one place all the time. You can not put yourself in situations where he is at his most dynamic.
The last time that Auburn beat Georgia, was in 2013. Even though this is the first season that Smart has been the Head Coach at Georgia, he has experience planning for Auburn’s offense, from his time at Alabama. Smart says that Auburn is stubborn at running the football, and does it at a fast pace. He also mentioned quarterback John Franklin III, and that he adds speed to their unit.
Georgia’s offense features a freshman quarterback in Jacob Eason, a player that was highly touted coming out of high school. Eason so far has passed for 1,754 yards, 11 touchdowns to 5 interceptions. Smart says that Eason has improved as far as maturity is concerned. He feels that the Auburn game will be a good indicator of how mature Eason is, because of the caliber of the game, in front of the home crowd. Smart says that Eason communicates better in front of the Samford Stadium crowd, which could give him the ability to have a great game.
Auburn battles Georgia “Between the Hedges” on Saturday at 2:30 P.M.