Rapid reaction: Georgia surges in the second half to beat Auburn
Here are some quick thoughts on Georgia’s 20-13 win over Auburn on Saturday:
What it means: Just one win doesn’t mean Georgia is fully back in business. And even though Georgia won’t win the SEC East this year, it doesn’t mean the Bulldogs are a team with no fight. In a matchup between similar teams, Georgia was able to vanquish the bottom of the SEC West.
What I liked: Just as in most low-scoring games, defense reigned supreme for most of this contest. Auburn’s defense continued to show strength, taking advantage of the Bulldogs’ weakness at right guard to attack Greyson Lambert on multiple occasions, with senior linebackers Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost disrupting the backfield.
Georgia’s defense was also able to foil Auburn attempts down the field, especially during the second half when Auburn suffered through three three-and-outs in a row. During the fourth quarter, Georgia swarmed Auburn’s Sean White, causing him to fumble the ball away on Georgia’s biggest defensive play of the game.
What I didn’t like: Going into the game, only 10 teams in the nation were worse than Georgia when it came to converting third downs. The Bulldogs showed why in this game. Well into the third quarter, Georgia still had not been able to convert a third down over 5 yards. Part of the reason could be an over-reliance on running back Sony Michel, a player who the Auburn defense got used to locating and stuffing during drives when he was handed the ball four or five plays in a row. With a little over two minutes left in the third quarter, Georgia had only been able to reach the red zone twice.
On the other side, Auburn’s offense was completely shut down during most of the second half. Halfway through the fourth quarter, Georgia actually had more points than Auburn’s offense had yards. Was it a bad idea by Gus Malzahn to keep Sean White in the game even though he was clearly ineffective and still limping?
Who’s the man: Georgia’s wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie didn’t put up eye-popping stats, but he was the one that gave the Bulldogs offense breathing room just when they were on the verge of faltering. He scored both Georgia touchdowns in the game.
Key play: After pinning Auburn just outside of its own end zone on a three-and-out, Auburn was forced to punt. McKenzie received the ball, started to run and didn’t stop until he hit the end zone 53 yards later, giving the Bulldogs their first lead of the game.
What’s next: Georgia coasts into its last non-conference game of the season against Georgia Southern. Next up for Auburn is also its last non-conference game against Idaho, but for Auburn it’s a must-win situation. With a 5-5 record, the Tigers need one more win in order to be bowl-eligible.