AUBURN, Ala. -- Clint Moseley has drawn rave reviews from teammates and coaches since taking over as Auburn’s starting quarterback.
Keeping Moseley clean may be the key to No. 24 Auburn’s upset hopes against No. 14 Georgia at 3:30 p.m. today in Sanford Stadium.
“They’re really good internally on the d-line,” Moseley said. “We’re going to have to get them tired. When they’re fresh, they’re hard to beat.”
Moseley has completed 66.7 percent of his passes since taking over for former starter Barrett Trotter at halftime of Auburn’s win over Florida. Given time to throw against Ole Miss -- and aided by the return of leading receiver Emory Blake -- Moseley completed 12-of-15 passes for 160 yards and four scores.
Forced to respect the pass, Ole Miss backed its safeties off of the line of scrimmage, and Auburn took advantage by rushing for 254 yards. Michael Dyer had 116 yards in the second half alone.
But that was Ole Miss’s defense, ranked last in the SEC in total defense, pass defense and rush defense.
Led by outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, a Carver product, Georgia ranks third in the SEC in total defense, trailing only LSU and Alabama, arguably the top two defenses in the country.
Jones leads the SEC with eight sacks and spearheads a Georgia pass rush that has produced 20, the conference’s second-best mark.
“He’s kind of unconventional,” Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said. “He’s such a great athlete, he’s got great instincts. Sometimes he has the flexibility to do things on his own. Sometimes that’s scary.”
Jones will likely spend most of his time coming off of Moseley’s blind side against Auburn left guard A.J. Greene. At times, Greene has struggled against speed rushers this season.
That kind of pressure can get to most quarterbacks, but Moseley is hard to rattle.
Under siege in the first start of his career against an LSU pass rush that sacked him six times, Moseley never lost his composure, and he is gaining confidence each week as the starter.
Moseley is becoming more vocal, and his teammates have responded.
“The Clint I knew from last year, he just was laid-back, chilling, never saying nothing,” Tigers receiver Trovon Reed said. “Now, when you’re not doing something right, Clint’s on you.”
Even with Moseley playing well, Auburn’s passing game can be brought to a halt if Georgia consistently flattens Moseley the way top-ranked LSU did three weeks ago.
Noise played a factor in Auburn’s communication in Baton Rouge, but the Tigers say that problem has been fixed.
“It showed us a weakness that was something we knew we had to go back and work on and correct,” Auburn right guard John Sullen said.
Facing an Auburn offense that ranks second in the SEC in rushing and second-to-last in the passing game, Georgia will probably focus its game plan around stopping running back Dyer.
Teams followed that formula in October and held Malzahn’s offense to less than 20 points four games in a row.
And that means Auburn has to keep Moseley upright and making throws down the field.
“That’s big for me, because I’m 95 percent sure that everybody’s game plan is to stop No. 5,” Moseley said. “I’ve only started twice, and they’re probably willing to make me beat them.”