Georgia will be No. 1 no more.
Unlike the way the rest of the season has unfolded, Saturday’s trip to No. 10 Auburn was mired in mistakes, penalties and breakdowns on both sides of the ball. It actually began promising with a Georgia touchdown from running back Nick Chubb on the first drive. It ended with the Bulldogs wondering how it succumbed to a 40-17 defeat to their oldest rival.
Georgia’s strength on offense – the run game – was bottled up by an Auburn defense determined to make quarterback Jake Fromm beat it with his arm. The strength on defense – the front seven – was unable to slow down Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson, who plowed through defenders, won the majority of his edge battles and continuously found holes to run through.
It was an old-fashioned tail-whooping in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.
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And plenty was at stake in this one.
Georgia (9-1, 6-1 SEC) will need to win out, which includes the SEC Championship game, to earn a College Football Playoff bid now that it has suffered its first loss of the season. Auburn (8-2, 6-1) kept its playoff aspirations alive with the win. If the Tigers are able to win out and then defeat Georgia again in the SEC Championship, they very well could wind up among the top four when it’s time to pick the field.
Four who mattered
Johnson: Johnson ran roughshod over the Bulldogs. The Auburn offense did a good job mixing up its inside and outside runs, with Johnson moving the chains early on. He finished the game with 32 carries for 162 yards. He added 66 receiving yards and a touchdown too.
Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham: Stidham’s ability to throw the deep ball sure did affect how Georgia was able to defend the Tigers. Outside of a select few times when Stidham held on to the ball too long, he had a fairly clean pocket. His game ended 16-of-23 throwing for 214 yards and three touchdowns.
Auburn defensive lineman Jeff Holland: Holland was tough for the Georgia offensive line to handle. Working a good bit against right tackle Andrew Thomas, Holland recorded four tackles and one sack.
Georgia receiver Javon Wims: Wims was Georgia’s go-to receiver in the passing game. He snatched two jump balls in the first half and handled another nice grab in the third quarter. His game ended with three catches for 96 yards.
Mistakes: The biggest mistake of the ball game came in the third quarter, when Mecole Hardman muffed a punt that Auburn recorded deep in Georgia territory. Auburn was able to make the Bulldogs pay shortly after with a 7-yard touchdown run from Stidham. Rodrigo Blankenship missed a 42-yard field goal at the end of the first half. Quarterback Jake Fromm, who finished 13-of-28 passing for 184 yards and a touchdown, had receiver Riley Ridley all alone over the secondary in the first half, yet the two couldn’t connect for what would have been a touchdown.
Penalties: Georgia had one of its sloppiest games of the season. The Bulldogs totaled seven penalties for 75 yards, which included some absolute killers. In the second quarter, D’Andre Walker was flagged for a penalty on a punt, which allowed Auburn’s drive to continue. Three plays later, Stidham found Darius Slayton for a 42-yard touchdown. In the third quarter, Sony Michel committed an unsportsmanlike penalty on a punt return. That allowed the Tigers to start at the Georgia 34-yard line. Two plays later, Stidham hit Ryan Davis on a screen for a 32-yard touchdown.
Breakdowns: On offense, Georgia’s offensive line did not get the kind of push up front that it has been used to. Including sacks, the Bulldogs were held to 46 rushing yards, which is an astonishing number considering they were averaging 279.3 per game heading into Saturday’s showdown. But Auburn clogged the run lanes and Georgia was too slow to put the ball in Jake Fromm’s hands as a passer, despite the fact he completed his first three throws for 56 yards. On defense, Georgia had no answer or adjustment for Johnson. Defenders appeared more and more frustrated as the game wore on. It marked the first time all season that Georgia’s defense couldn’t turn its opponent into a one-dimensional group.
A lot of yards: Only once had a team reached the 300-yard barrier against Georgia this season. Auburn? Yeah, the Tigers rolled the Bulldogs for 488 total yards. The aggressor all year, Auburn had Georgia on its heels throughout the game.
Georgia returns to Athens to host Kentucky next week at 3:30 p.m.