AUBURN, Ala. – It was one thing for young players to get caught up in the emotion and draw a flag. But it was a bad sign, if another was needed by then, when senior Sony Michel, one of the Georgia team leaders, did something to draw an unsportsmanlike penalty.
“I think I just pushed a guy one extra time, and they threw the flag,” Michel said, when he was asked about what he did to draw the penalty at the end of a Georgia punt. “Undisciplined.”
Michel’s 15-yard penalty was one of four called on Georgia on Saturday, perhaps a symptom or a result of things going wrong in a 40-17 thumping at the hands of No. 10 Auburn.
“It was out of character. Almost [like], ‘I’m in a hostile environment and I resort to things I don’t normally do.’ That’s the disappointing part,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “But that wasn’t what won or lost the game. It was the line of scrimmage. That won the game. But what made it so lopsided was the undisciplined penalties.”
In all, Georgia was called for 7 penalties for 75 yards. It was the most it had committed in a game since Notre Dame, when it was called for 12 penalties for 126 yards.
The Auburn and Notre Dame games had the same officiating crew, headed by referee Matt Austin. But nobody in the Georgia postgame scene was putting this on the officials.
“Just being undisciplined,” Michel said. “I guess that passion mixed with emotion. Our team plays with a lot of passion, plays with a lot of emotion. I guess you can’t get caught up in the game; you’ve got to stay poised. That’s something we’ve got to fix.”
Georgia entered the game averaging 53.4 penalty yards per game, the fifth most in the SEC. But stats aside, penalties really haven’t been much of an issue for the Bulldogs this season.
“That’s not us,” senior linebacker Lorenzo Carter said.
Fifteen-yard penalties don’t usually come at good times, obviously, but a few of Georgia’s were particularly costly.
Junior D’Andre Walker was called for leaping over the shield blocker on an Auburn punt in the second quarter. That extended the drive, which resulted in a touchdown, the only one of the first half for the Tigers.
“We never do that. We never jump over the shield,” Smart said. “We talk to the kids about that.”
Walker’s penalty came after Georgia’s Jayson Stanley was called for catch interference on a punt, which allowed Auburn to start at its 30 instead of the 15.
In the first quarter, Georgia senior cornerback Malkom Parrish was called for a late hit out of bounds. The Bulldogs ended up forcing a field goal on that drive.
Then there was Michel’s penalty, which came midway through the third quarter and allowed Auburn to start at Georgia’s 34 instead of midfield. Two plays later, Auburn scored to make it 30-7.
“You’ve got to own up to it,” Michel said. “We made mistakes. We did something that’s not part of our identity. We’ve got to go back to work and fix it.”