Rapid Reaction: Georgia holds on to beat Auburn, clinches third consecutive SEC East crown
Six years ago to the day was the Prayer at Jordan-Hare.
Six years later, that final prayer for Auburn was nowhere to be found.
Despite a late storm back from Auburn, Georgia held on to win 21-14.
The Dawgs accomplished 3 things on Saturday. For starters, they avenged the 2017 beatdown that they suffered at the hands of Auburn at Jordan-Hare. They also kept their Playoff hopes alive by racking up their third win against a top-15 team.
Oh, and Georgia also wrapped up the SEC East for the third consecutive year. That’s the first time since Florida in 1996 that an SEC East team accomplished that feat.
The 124th matchup of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry went to the visiting team for the first time since 2015. Georgia entered the day riding a 3-game SEC winning streak following the stunning upset loss to South Carolina.
Georgia jumped out to a 14-0 halftime lead thanks to its lockdown defense and some timely pass plays from Jake Fromm.
The first strike of the game came via a 51-yard touchdown pass from Fromm to Dominick Blaylock, who blew past Stephen Tutt for the long throw and catch. It was the third time this year that Auburn allowed a pass play of longer than 50 yards:
Jake Fromm wanted it ALL on this one. pic.twitter.com/uO8Z56XnSB
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 16, 2019
Outside of a few chunk plays from D’Andre Swift, the Georgia offense sputtered until the end of the first half. A key moment early in the game came when Bo Nix coughed up the ball on a scramble in Georgia territory. Richard LeCounte recovered a fumble that stymied a promising Auburn drive.
Georgia’s second score of the day came in the final minute of the first half when a play-action call on 3rd and 1 set up a wide-open Brian Herrien, who found the corner of the end zone to give Georgia a 2-score lead. That play happened in part because of an oddly-timed timeout call by Gus Malzahn, which backfired.
It marked the fourth consecutive SEC game in which Georgia held the opposing offense without a first half touchdown.
The Dawgs were playing with a banged up Lawrence Cager, who re-injured his shoulder last week against Mizzou. He played limited snaps and was virtually a non-factor in limited snaps for most of the day. Cager dealt with shoulder and rib injuries this year, but he only sat one game so far.
Herrien was also banged up in the third quarter a 15-yard run that ended with him getting tackled by the horse collar by Marlon Davidson. Thankfully for Georgia, D’Andre Swift was plenty productive. He became the first Georgia back to have consecutive 100-yard rushing games against Auburn since Knowshon Moreno did so in 2007-08.
Auburn’s first touchdown of the day didn’t come until the 10:04 mark of the fourth quarter. A 12-play, 75-yard drive ended with a swing pass from Bo Nix to Eli Stove for a score. The previous drives for Auburn were:
- Missed FG
Auburn then followed that up by forcing its seventh 3-and-out of the day by driving down the field in just 68 seconds to make it 21-14 with 7:03 to play. Nix’s dive into the end zone snapped Georgia’s historic streak of not allowing a rushing touchdown all year.
Auburn had all the momentum and a well-designed screen pass was set up on 4th down in Georgia territory, but a poorly-thrown ball from Nix turned the ball over with just over 2 minutes remaining.
The Tigers actually got the ball back with a potential game-tying drive, but a last-ditch effort from Auburn came up short because of a Travon Walker sack.
Nix finished the day with 245 passing yards and a TD pass, as well as 42 rushing yards and a score.
The Dawgs’ path is now cut and dry. With the SEC East locked up, matchups vs. Texas A&M and at Georgia Tech will close the regular season. Georgia will be a significant favorite to enter the SEC Championship with just 1 loss.
There’s a bigger question lies with the home team. Malzahn’s offense couldn’t muster much of anything against a top-10 team for the third time in as many matchups. The coach who entered all over hot-seat lists has a home game against Samford and the Iron Bowl against an Tua Tagovailoa-less Alabama team.
Saturday certainly didn’t help Malzahn’s case. We’ll see if Malzahn can knock off Alabama and lock up a New Year’s 6 Bowl for the third time in 4 years.