That came in back-to-back games in September against Mississippi State and LSU. Since then, the Tigers have been on such a rushing tear the passing game has been an afterthought. In the past two weeks alone, starting quarterback Nick Marshall has had to put the ball in the air just 16 times. Should the Tigers have to pass more this weekend against Georgia, Gus Malzahn said protecting Marshall means everything.
He said it takes on added importance given the Bulldogs’ ability to rush the passer, as their 26 sacks this year are second-most in the SEC.
“They’ve got a bunch of long, fast, aggressive guys and they’re one of the best teams in the league at getting after the quarterback,” Auburn’s head coach said Wednesday. “So we’re going to have to do a better job than we’ve done.”
PENALTY ISSUES: Two years ago, The Wall Street Journal named Georgia/Auburn the “dirtiest rivalry in college football.” Studying 40 different rivalries the paper found that no series saw more personal foul penalties per game than tussles between the Bulldogs and Tigers, averaging 5.4 late-hit and behavior related infractions in the previous five meetings.
Harnessing that emotion while not earning a flag is a balance both teams will try to achieve Saturday.
“Penalties can really make a huge difference, especially when they happen down the stretch or in a time where it seems a little more crucial than earlier in the ballgame,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “But we've got to do a good job of playing hard without getting a foul, which is not always easy to do in these types of games.”
Malzahn agreed, noting that emotions always run high in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. But to Malzahn, keeping that passion in check is all a part of being a disciplined football team.
“We have done a solid job of that for the most part,” he said. “We did have only one penalty last week, which I thought was huge. We’ve got to continue to do that.”