For the second straight week, Georgia played in its new home away from home,
Atlanta. They beat Georgia Tech the previous Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium
38-7. And, if things go according to plan, the Bulldogs will be back in
January, again in the Mercedes Benz Stadium to play for the National
There was a score to settle against the only team that had beaten them in
2017, Auburn. Just three weeks earlier, the Bulldogs were manhandled by the
Tigers 40-17 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. At the time, UGA was undefeated and
ranked #1 in the nation but dropped to #7 after the embarrassing loss. Last
Saturday, Auburn again knocked off the #1 team in the country. This time, it
was undefeated Alabama 26-14 in the 82nd edition of the Iron Bowl. Auburn is
the 1st team to win 2 games against the No. 1 team in College Football
Playoff rankings in the same season. Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham
(21 of 28 passing) became just the third quarterback to complete at least 75
percent of his passes against a Nick Saban-coached Alabama team.
This SEC championship game featured a regular-season rematch for
the seventh time in conference history. Auburn had won two out of the three
times it faced a team it played earlier in the year. A big factor in the
Tigers' success had been running back
Kerryon Johnson, who rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown
against Alabama and 167 yards against Georgia.
Johnson's status for Saturday's SEC Championship Game against
Georgia was unknown with a shoulder issue. But, the mystery was solved when
he showed up in the starting lineup.
UGA has a pretty good running game of their own with a one-two punch of
senior Sony Michel, who has rushed for 903 yards and 13 touchdowns
this season and senior Nick Chubb with 1098 yards and also 13 TDs in
Auburn's only two losses this season were on the road, 14-6 on September
9 at Clemson and 27-23 on October 14 at LSU.
This is the first time either Auburn or Georgia has played in the new
Mercedes Benz Stadium. It was the first time these two teams have met in the
SEC Championship Game, but it is the sixth time in the big game for each.
But the two teams have met 121 times before in what's called the Deep
South's Oldest Rivalry. They first played each other in 1892 and have met
nearly every year since.
Both rose in the CFP rankings Tuesday night. With former #1 Alabama and
#2 Miami both going down to defeat, UGA moved up to #6 while Auburn made it
to #2. The winner of #1 Clemson & #7 Miami in the ACC Championship Game
should have a place, even though both had embarrassing losses to unranked
teams in Syracuse and Pitt. But, a #1 ranking for Clemson guarantees them a
spot with a win. Miami...probably.
The winner the Big 10 Championship might depending on who wins. If
#5 Wisconsin, who is undefeated, wins, they should be in. If Ohio State
wins, then the question is do you take a Big 10 Champion with two losses
over a Crimson Tide team, who's only loss was to Auburn. I think Alabama
would squeeze in in that scenario, especially since the Buckeyes pair of
losses were pretty bad. Oklahoma State will be in if they can beat TCU in
the Big 12 Championship.
That leaves the SEC Championship. Clearly, Auburn at #2 would be in with
a victory. But, will Georgia jump two spots into the top 4. By beating the
current #2 team and having just one win, that seems a given.
Georgia won the toss and deferred with the Rodrigo Blankenship
punt booming into the end zone putting the ball at the 25.
Auburn looked effective on their first drive starting when a third and
ten pass went incomplete but a pass interference call gave them a new set of
downs at the 35. Johnson carried it twice for 12 and another first at the
37. Another first down on an 11 yard rush by Eli Stove to the UGA46.
Chandler Cox caught one for 21 to the 31. A 5 yard pass to Darius
Slayton for a first and goal at the 5 as Auburn took their first time
out. A wildcat to Johnson was sniffed out for no gain making it third and
goal at the six. Then the Tigers got on the board first with a TD catch by
Nate Craig-Myers. The Tigers made it look easy but the early penalty
that would have stopped things contributed big time.
From their 25, Chubb immediately broke one for 13 to the 38 as Smart took
his first time out. A toss to Michel was fumbled out of bounds for no gain.
Jake Fromm hit Mecole Hardman for 15 at the Auburn 47. But a
pair of sacks by Tray Matthews and Dontavious Russell forced a
punt that was taken down at the 20.
Momentum was clearly on the Tigers' side to start the game. But the
defense forced a three and out to try to reverse that.
Hardman took the punt at the 32 and fell down before he could move it
into what looked like a lot of open space. A pair of Chubb carries didn't
gain much to make it third and 7. A short pass to Michell came up two yards
short to force another punt. Suspecting a trick play, Gus Malzahn
took his second time out. The ball was fair caught at the 25.
Auburn started with a couple of big plays with Jarrett Stidham
keeping it for 10 then hitting Stowe for 26 to the UGA40. Then an
intentional grounding call was nullified by a roughing the passer call.
Johnson converted a third and three to the 30 as a chorus of boos showed
disapproval of the ref's previous call. The first quarter came to an end.
Kam Martin with a pair of carries for 16 to the 18 for a third and 6
at the 14. But, just when it appeared that Auburn was about to go up 14-0, a
game changing play. Davin Bellamy got in the backfield and knocked
the ball lose on a sack with Roquan Smith recovering for the Dawgs at
Georgia wanted more than just a stop as Chubb quickly picked up 16 to the
32. Facing a third and 8, Fromm hit Hardeman for a first down at the 45. A
big chunk of yardage as Hardeman, open up the middle, took it 34 yards into
the red zone at the 19. Michel gained 4 as DL Marlon Davidson was
hurt on the play. A pass intended for Terry Godwin in the end zone
drew a pass interference call and a first and goal at the two. On the next
play, Isaac Nauta tied the game with a touchdown catch. The scoring
drive went 84 yards in seven plays. The turnover had changed what might have
been a 14-0 deficit to a tie game.
The Tigers had it at their 25. The defense forced another three and out
and got the ball back at their 32.
More big yardage by Michel on the next two plays as the senior back took
the handoff and got it 18 yards to midfield, then caught another and shook a
few tackles for 32 yards to the 14. Chubb caught the next one for another
first and goal at the 8. Two short carries lost a yard for a third and goal
at the three. Fromm found a wide open Godwin in the end zone but a penalty
nullified the score and moved it back to the 17. Michel got it to the 10 but
still short as Blankenship gave the Dawgs their first lead from 27, 10-7.
Auburn again started at their 20. More boos rained down on the refs from
the red and black in the crowd. The first call was questionable but the last
one was a good one. Davis picked up 11 with a sideline warning issued to
Georgia. Then things went south for Auburn as a completion was called back
on an illegal touch call followed by a Smith sack.
Georgia had the ball back at their 22 with less than a minute to go in
the half. Fromm just took a knee to take their three point lead into the
locker room. All things considered, each team should be content with the
score. It could have been a large lead by either team without all of the
mistakes from both sides. The general sense was that Georgia had been more
effective but self inflicted wounds had kept the game close. Halftime stats
almost across the board reflected the even 10-7 score. In the first meeting,
Auburn led 16-7 at the half then separated with 14 unanswered third quarter
The Bulldogs got the ball to start the second half at their 20. Michel
carried it for seven then got the first down with another to the 36. Sony
caught one for six to the 38. A short pass to Godwin was a yard short at the
47. After the punt, Auburn had the ball at their 20.
Stidham scrambled free to buy some time before hitting Davis who made it
29 yards it to the UGA47. Johnson rushed for 15 with Davis pulling one down
for 13 more to the 32. Johnson rushed to the 15. The defense finally held,
then DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle blocked the 32 yard field goal attempt
with Dominick Sanders running it out to the 28. The three point lead
was still intact.
Chubb had a nice run called back with another penalty putting the ball at
the 15. So far UGA had 5 penalties for 59 yards, not counting the lost
yardage from their plays. Chubb got it out to the 23 for a second and
14. The penalty was too much to overcome and the punt gave Auburn the ball
at their 30. But, still another penalty, this one a facemask call on
David Marshall gave them the ball with great field position at their 46.
Stidham escaped a rush and scrambled for 11 yards to the UGA41. Two
incomplete passes under duress brought up a big third and 10. Same result on
a third pass attempt. The punt gave Georgia the ball back at their 20.
So far, the defense had kept the Bulldogs in the game doing a nice job of
getting the Auburn offense out of rhythm. Now, the offense needed to do the
job and avoid the costly penalties. Godwin got them started with a 31 yard
catch at midfield. A short escape pass to Hardeman gained six. Chubb got
free shedding defenders for a big 19 yard run to the Auburn 24. On a third
and nine, Swift caught one at the 18. Not enough so Blankenship came in and
nailed it from 35 to extend the perilous lead to six. It was announced that
Michel was out for now with a knee problem.
The Tigers got the ball back at their 22. Davis caught one for nine. A
deep pass attempt went out of bounds for a third and one with Johnson
converting to the 35. Finding no one open, Stidham again escaped for another
first down run to their 47 as the game moved into the final quarter with
Auburn just needing one score to regain the lead. But the defense rose up
again with knocking the ball loose and Smith scooping it up and taking it to
the Auburn 38.
Fromm faked it to Chubb and ran for 17 to the 22. Finally a penalty went
the Dawgs way giving Georgia a first and goal at the nine. From found Godwin
open in the left corner of the end zone and this time, it stuck. Smart went
for the two point conversion and converted with another pass to Godwin, this
time in the right corner. The Bulldogs had stretched the lead to two scores,
Still plenty of time with 13:06 left and the Tigers with the ball at
their 25. The defense forced a quick three and out. But the short 31 yard
punt drew another facemask call on Sanders moving it from the 40 back to the
Regardless, the Dawgs had the ball with 12:12 left looking to eat some
clock and add some points. Chubb fought for six to the 31. Deandre Swift
got the first with a carry to the 36. A handoff to Swift and the freshman
broke free and rambled for the distance for a 64 yard sprint and a 21 point
Bulldog lead, 28-7. They didn't chew up any clock with the 1:38 scoring
drive, but I don't think the coaches minded.
The red and black faithful who had been sporadically booing earlier were
Auburn tried again from their 25. Two limp passes fell harmlessly for
another third and long that went nowhere again. After the punt, the Bulldogs
had the ball at their 29. Orange and blue fans began to file out. Two
carries by Chubb gained 8 with the clock moving to under nine minutes and
ticking. An incomplete pass stopped the clock and the drive. The Georgia
punt was downed at the 38. But, an illegal substitution call on the defense
kept the ball in the hands of the Bulldog offense at the UGA41.
Brian Herrien carried it to the Auburn 46. Lamont Gallard
had to be helped off the field. Swift took it up the middle to the 35 for
another first down. Swift again for 8 on two more carries to the 27. On a
fourth and one, Auburn took their final time out at 5:04. Looking to keep
the ball, Smart sent the offense back in to go for it. The gutsy move paid
off as Elijah Holyfield got the first down with a carry to the 23. The clock
continued to shrink to under four minutes Herrien mistakenly ran out
of bounds stopping it at 3:33. But it would have stopped anyway with DT
Derrick Brown hurt on the play and hobbling off.
With the clock still moving, Smart kept the offense in on a fourth and
five and failed but o one really minded. Auburn took over on downs at the 22
with 2:07 remaining.
Georgia was more than happy to give them a few yards up the middle.
D'Andre Walker got a sack before time ran out on the Tigers and their
dreams of a national championship.
Georgia heads to the college football playoffs for a trip to either the
Rose Bowl or the Sugar Bowl and hopes of a return to this building for the
National Championship Game in January.