ATHENS, Ga. – Fifth-ranked Georgia held a two-hour workout Wednesday in preparation for its upcoming SEC contest against No. 24 Auburn.
The Bulldogs (8-1, 6-1 SEC) finish the regular season with three home games this month, starting with the Tigers (6-3, 3-3 SEC) Saturday night. Speaking on the SEC head coaches weekly teleconference before practice, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said the Bulldogs are glad to be home again after three games on the road. Since Oct. 13, Georgia played at LSU, faced Florida in Jacksonville and Kentucky in Lexington.
“Our team is really excited about the opportunity to play at night at home; it seems like we’ve been away from home for quite a while,” said Smart. “The Auburn rivalry at Georgia is one of the most historic in the country. It’s been a very balanced rivalry. It’s always a great honor to get to play in these kinds of games, especially a nationally-televised game played at night. Our fans will be fired up for a home night game which we’ve not had many,” said Smart.
Both teams feature stingy defenses. Georgia ranks 10th nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 16.4 points a game while the Tigers rank 13th nationally, surrendering just 17.3 points per game. Also, of note, Georgia leads the SEC in rushing offense at 233.8 yards per game while the Tigers are allowing only 133.9 yards per game. Overall, Georgia is averaging 38.1 points a game while Auburn is scoring 28.3 points a game.
“Auburn takes what the defenses give them,” said Smart. “They want to be stubborn and run the ball very similar to us. Gus (Malzahn) has always established the run when he plays games or tries to establish the run. They have a guy who is an elite passer. They have some really good wideouts outside. That combination makes them very explosive in the passing game. I know the mantra he has is their ability to commit to the run. That is something they always do.”
Smart was asked how well the youthful Bulldog offensive line has performed this year despite all the bumps and bruises along the way and starters missing playing time due to injuries.
“A lot of the credit goes to Sam Pittman (offensive line coach),” said Smart. “He’s recruited at a high level. He’s got a good group of guys that are very versatile. If you sign athletic lineman, sometimes they can play multiple positions and that allows your puzzle pieces to fall in place. It’s been tough. It’s not easy this week. With the guys we got banged up, you got to have a good plan. During camp and during spring practice, you got to get guys a lot of reps in different spots. We’ve been very fortunate to do that.”
Following the workout, redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Solomon Kindley and junior tight end Charlie Woerner met with the media about the Auburn game.
#66 offensive lineman Solomon Kindley
On Saturday’s game against Auburn…
“I feel like it’s a very important game because it’s the next game. … Everybody in the country knows that they’ve got a really good front and they’ve got four good guys that are really going to rush the passer. It’s not too many times throughout the season that you have four dominate defensive linemen because sometimes you play a game and you’ve got one on one side, one on the other side. We know what they’re about. We know what they can do. We know what they’re capable of.”
On perhaps studying a team less because of the familiarity with them…
“We go at it even harder because we know we’ve got so much at stake, so much behind us coming from this game. Knowing that we have to play them during this time, we know that they’re coming in here to try to ruin our season. We study them, we look at them like they’re even tougher.”
On either Florida or Auburn being a bigger rivalry, personally…
“For me personally, it’s Florida because I’m from Florida. I get to go back home and be around my family and play like I’m in my backyard.”
#89 junior tight end Charlie Woerner
On being back at Sanford Stadium and playing under the lights…
“It feels good [to be home]. We’ve been away for a good long bit so it’s good to be back home and play in Athens. … I think it’s a lot of fun playing at night here, especially going into the fourth quarter.”
On the challenge Auburn presents…
“Speaking offensively, I would say they’re really big up front. We’ll try to move those guys on their defensive line. I know we can do it but it’s definitely our biggest challenge.”
On the what the bye week provided for the team…
“I think the LSU loss and the bye week was really good timing. It really grounded the team and set our goals again and make us work even harder for what we want to accomplish still.”
Saturday’s kickoff at Sanford Stadium is slated for 7:05 p.m. ET on ESPN.