Georgia might have been a 13-point favorite against Auburn on Saturday night, but one thing we’ve learned about this rivalry through 123 years is that getting a win is never easy.
That was especially true again, when pesky No. 24-ranked Auburn gave the Bulldogs fits through most of the first half before Georgia ran off with an impressive 27-10 victory. For the third consecutive week, rejuvenated Georgia running back D’Andre Swift was a big reason.
With the win, No. 5-ranked Georgia moved to 9-1 overall, and finished their SEC regular season with a 7-1 record as SEC East division champions. Two nonconference games against UMass and Georgia Tech remain before the epic showdown with No. 1-ranked Alabama in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 1 in Atlanta. It’s a rematch of last year’s national title game, which Alabama won.
Auburn fell to 6-4 overall and 3-4 in the league.
Swift had several big plays, and finished the day with a career-high 186 yards rushing, his third consecutive game over 100 yards. He also had 4 receptions for 43 yards and was clearly the best player on the field all night. As a team, Georgia topped 300 yards rushing for the second consecutive week.
It was a struggle early for No. 5 Georgia, which continued to have difficulty scoring touchdowns in goal-line situations. It’s been a problem all year, and remained so in the first quarter Saturday. Georgia’s first two drives were 10 and 15 plays, and both times the Bulldogs got first-and-goal opportunities, but were forced to settle for chip-shot field goals from Rodrigo Blankenship.
Performing better in the red zone has been a point of emphasis in practice for weeks, but nothing worked early. On the first drive, two runs — including one by backup quarterback Justin Fields on a broken pass play — actually lost two total yards and then starting quarterback threw an incomplete pass on third down.
On the second drive, it was even worse. Georgia ran six plays in goal-to-go situations thanks to a targeting penalty, and still couldn’t find the end zone. Four runs netted only 8 yards and Fromm missed on a second pass in the end zone.
It was a problem because Auburn was able to find the end zone, scoring on a John Shenker 9-yard touchdown pass from running back JaTarvious Whitlow out of the wildcat package. They added a field goal after another long drive and had a 10-6 lead late into the second quarter.
Georgia broke the game open in the final three minutes of the half, scoring two touchdowns. Fromm found Tyler Simmons for 14 yards on a red-zone success with 2:47 left in the half, then hit Terry Godwin from 38 yards out with just 21 seconds left before halftime.
Saturday’s game didn’t have nearly the same fanfare as the two bitter matchups a year ago. In the November regular season game at Auburn, Georgia was undefeated — 9-0 at the time — but Auburn was on the come, and was ready for something big. The Tigers thrashed Georgia 40-17, and held the Bulldogs’ vaunted running game to just 48 yards on 32 carries. Georgia, then ranked No. 6, got revenge a few weeks later in the SEC Championship Game, winning 28-7 and dominating in a similar way, scoring 28 unanswered points after an early Auburn score. Auburn came into the title game ranked No. 2 in the country.
Georgia’s defense kept Auburn in check most of the night, which allowed the Bulldogs to finally pull away. After that early field goal got them to 10 points, Auburn went six consecutive drives that ended with punts.
Swift again did major damage in the third quarter, scoring on a 77-yard run where he burst through contact on the right side of the line and then got several great blocks downfield from tight end Isaac Nauta and wide receiver Jeremiah Holloman.
Fromm was his usual efficient self for the Bulldogs. He threw an interception but completed 13-of-20 passes for 193 yards and 2 TDs.