Did Willie Martinez Save His Job Against Auburn?

Josh RutledgeCorrespondent INovember 16, 2009

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 01:  Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez and Dannell Ellerbe #33 of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrate after Ellerbe intercepted the ball against the Hawai'i Warriors during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 1, 2008 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Georgia won 41-10. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Twelve minutes into Saturday night's game against Auburn, Willie Martinez and the Georgia Bulldogs' defense had reached their lowest point of the past five years.

In twelve minutes, the Auburn Tigers' offense had already scored twice on shockingly simple drives. A screen pass here. A dive play there. 14-0.

All the frustration from the last two years seemed to come to a climatic point. At that moment, it seemed nothing in the world could save Willie Martinez's job. Georgia's defense had been manhandled all year, and Auburn was acting out the same script.

But then, Georgia's defense did something it seemingly hasn't done in two years. They adjusted.

Having seen Auburn's offense work in those first twelve minutes, Georgia's defense made the necessary adjustments to effectively silence the Tigers for the remainder of the game and walk away with a 31-24 victory.

Georgia started putting pressure on Tigers' quarterback Chris Todd. The defensive ends started cutting off outside angles, giving time for linebackers and defensive backs to react to the speed of Auburn's running backs coming off the edge of the offensive tackles.

Instead of trying to clobber Auburn's running backs, Georgia simply went for their legs. Auburn was playing finesse offense. Georgia responded with finesse defense.

For that, Willie Martinez deserves a lot of credit. It would have been different if Auburn had simply not played a good game. If Auburn's offense had been flat, Martinez wouldn't deserve as much credit.

But Auburn wasn't flat. They were dominant. Their high-powered offense was playing at it's peak level.

For twelve minutes, offensive guru Gus Malzahn made Martinez look silly. But for the next 48 minutes, Martinez left Malzahn searching for answers.

Auburn returned a kick-off for a touchdown, but after those first twelve minutes, the Tigers' offense managed only three points for the remainder of the game.

Was it enough to save Martinez's job? Probably not.

One good game does not make up for almost two years of sub-standard performances.

But what it did do was give Martinez a window of opportunity. Two regular season games remain for Georgia. Kentucky and Georgia Tech.

Against Kentucky, Georgia's defense will have to respond again to a difficult offense. Kentucky run's the Wildcat offense as well as anybody in the SEC.

Can Martinez silence that offense?

The following week, Georgia plays Georgia Tech. No offensive scheme in the country is harder to prepare for than the triple-option of Georgia Tech.

Can Martinez silence that offense?

If Georgia's defense silences both Kentucky and Georgia Tech's offense, then Martinez will have earned himself another season as defensive coordinator.

Especially if he can beat Tech.

Georgia's season is past true redemption. The goals have already been missed. The only thing left is pride.

But if Georgia's defense can silence the high-powered Tech offense, then it will be a season Georgia's fans will remember somewhat fondly.

There is more on the line for Martinez the final weeks of the season than any other time in his coaching career.

He rose to the challenge against a very tough Auburn offense. Kentucky will present similar problems. Tech will be Goliath for him.

It won't be easy. But it's an opportunity, an opportunity he seemingly did not have a week ago.



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