That was the two-word mantra for Georgia heading into the SEC Championship against Auburn. In the first meeting between the two teams on Nov. 11, head coach Kirby Smart said the Bulldogs didn’t do a good job in either department.
Smart preached all last week the need to improve in those two areas.
Smart, however, got an early feel for both of those terms – literally and physically – in the game’s first two drives.
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Delivering the keynote address at Monday evening’s Bronko Nagurski Trophy ceremony in Charlotte, North Carolina, Smart offered a humorous anecdote on how composure and physicality applied to him personally in the SEC Championship.
On the game’s first drive, Georgia forced Auburn into a third-and-long situation. Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham dropped back to pass and threw an incompletion. However, an official called Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker for pass interference, giving the Tigers a first down.
Smat remembered being livid at the call.
“I’m going nuts,” Smart said. “I’m on the sideline ripping into an official, going nuts, chewing him out.”
That’s when an unnamed player came up to Smart on the sideline.
“Coach – composure, composure,” the player told Smart.
Smart admitted that after telling his players to keep their cool throughout the week, he lost his in that moment.
“If you know anything about me, I’m passionate about the game,” Smart said. “I’m pouring my heart out on the field, and I kind of lost my composure.”
On Georgia’s ensuing offensive drive, Smart felt the physicality of the game.
On the second play of the series, running back Sony Michel took a toss and fumbled the ball. Smart’s eyes widened as he followed the football rolling out of bounds. But as he was watching the ball, he saw left tackle Isaiah Wynn “road-grading” an Auburn safety.
All of a sudden, Smart felt a hard impact from the players involved on the play.
“The next thing I know is I catch a fist right on my nose,” Smart said. “I’m seeing stars, I go down. But the first thing I think about is physicality, physicality. If I don’t get up they’re going to kill me.”
Smart said a strength and conditioning coach – presumably Scott Sinclair, who also acts as his “get back guy” on the sideline – asked if he was OK. Smart said he was fine and brushed off the hit.
Then, that same player who reiterated Smart’s need for composure walked up with another message.
“Physicality, Coach,” the player told Smart, drawing laughs from the Nagurski Trophy crowd. “It’s going to be a physical game.”
In that moment, Smart said he realized Georgia would be fine. The Bulldogs went on to win the SEC Championship over Auburn 28-7.