Rapid Reaction: Georgia gains revenge in SEC Championship Game, trounces Auburn to seal Playoff spot
Georgia gained more than revenge Saturday.
The Bulldogs won their first SEC Championship since 2005 and punched their first ticket to the College Football Playoff.
The latter will become official when the field is revealed Sunday, but there was no doubt Saturday.
The scoreboard above Mercedes-Benz Stadium said it all: No. 6 Georgia 28, No. 2 Auburn 7.
Georgia’s Jake Fromm became the second true freshman quarterback in two years to win the SEC title game.
Fromm, sharp and efficient all afternoon, delivered the dagger, too, a back-shoulder, 7-yard touchdown pass to Terry Godwin that extended Georgia’s lead to 19-7. A two-point conversion, also to Godwin, made it 21-7.
By the time D’Andre Swift reached the end zone on a 64-yard touchdown run a few moments later, hotel reservations were being made.
Auburn, which produced one of the most stunning late-season comebacks to get back into the Playoff discussion, ran out of gas and magic Saturday.
Saturday was the seventh rematch in SEC Championship Game history. The regular season winner completed the sweep and won the championship five times previously. But history wasn’t going to make a play for either squad Saturday.
Kerryon Johnson started but wasn’t his pre-injury self. Georgia punished him every chance it got, even after the whistle. Johnson went to the sideline early in the first half after a Georgia defender drove into his shoulder after the tail end of a tackle. There was no whistle, but there was a message: Nothing was going to come easy.
Johnson was limited to 16 yards on eight carries in the opening half, and lost a fumble to open the fourth quarter. Auburn’s offense wasn’t nearly as explosive as it had been in the previous month, and Georgia capitalized.
Davin Bellamy provided the key play, one that set up all that followed. His strip sack of Jarrett Stidham early in the second quarter resulted in a turnover instead of a second Auburn touchdown. Instead of a possible 10-0 or 14-0 deficit, Georgia took over at its 17-yard-line down just 7-0 and full of momentum.
Seven plays later, Fromm hit Isaac Nauta for a 2-yard touchdown, capping an 83-yard drive. The key play was Mecole Hardman turning a simple RPO slant into a 34-yard catch-and-run.
Auburn went three-and-out on its ensuing drive, and Georgia went right back to work.
Rodrigo Blankenship’s 27-yard field goal gave Georgia a 10-7 advantage, its first lead over Auburn since first quarter of their first game.
The lead could have been larger. A penalty for a pick play wiped out Georgia’s touchdown two plays earlier.
Don’t agree with the refs on this one.
Is it a pick play? Yes.
Is it pass interference? No.
The Auburn corner did exactly what Georgia wanted him to do, he pushed the receiver into the slot corner preventing him from covering outside. pic.twitter.com/kNAy1bY0Sv
— Shaun Salehi (@DoubleS30) December 2, 2017
Ultimately, a play that created a firestorm on Twitter didn’t matter.
Georgia’s defense, completed outclassed the first time these met not long ago on The Plains, refused to be backed against the ropes in Round 2.
Auburn scored on its opening drive, but its next eight went like this: punt, fumble, punt, punt, a rare blocked field goal attempt against Daniel Carlson, punt, fumble, punt.
Just like it turned Auburn’s first-half fumble into points, the Dawgs did the same thing on Johnson’s fumble in the fourth quarter. Fromm’s second touchdown pass put the game out of reach, and Swift’s long TD run started the party.
Opportunistic and nasty. Physical and flashy.
What was Auburn in November became Georgia on Saturday. What was the SEC West for almost a decade became the SEC East.
Roles completely reversed, it’s the Dawgs who are heading to the Playoff.