Georgia had gotten near its goal line but couldn’t get into the end zone. It had been the same story as before, but what came next was a bit of surprise.
The lead was 17 points and Georgia was about to close out what would be a 27-10 win over Auburn. On the 16-yard-line, the assumption would be to kick the 33-yard field goal and force three touchdowns to be scored in three minutes (which would be highly unlikely), correct?
Well, those beliefs were squandered when place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship dropped back to pass. His attempt to tight end Isaac Nauta fell short, Georgia ended without points on the nearly 9-minute drive and there were some opposing views on the matter.
“If you don’t get it, they’re backed up,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said after briefly bantering with a reporter. “So the thought was they’re going to take three touchdowns to beat us. We get that. It’s all about point differential. It was something that was well thought out long before it happened and talked about during the drive.” Some thought it was to prove a statement.
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Some thought it was revenge for Tigers’ head coach Gus Malzahn’s “dog crap” comment after Auburn beat Georgia at Jordan-Hare Stadium last season. Nevertheless, it didn’t bode well with one of Auburn’s leaders.
“It was, in the words of Malzahn, a ‘bullcrap call,’ ” Auburn linebacker Deshaun Davis said, according to Brandon Marcello of 247Sports. “We shouldn’t be in that situation. I’ll just say that.”
It arose one-of-few questions in the Bulldogs’ ninth victory of the season, and also created a rare moment of tension throughout the game.
Here are three things to know about Georgia’s SEC finale.
Swift has career night
There must be something about Georgia running back D’Andre Swift and playing Auburn. He made his name known against the Tigers last season with a 64-yard touchdown run, and just as it was being discussed on the television broadcast, he burst through a hole again.
This time, it went for 83 yards and the preseason Heisman contender showed an ability to be one of the best running backs in the SEC.
“Big players make big plays in big games,” Swift said. It was part of a 229-yard game (183 yards rushing, 46 receiving). His rushing total was a career-high, and he was a facet of the Bulldogs’ offense in traditional formations, as a receiving option and in the wildcat formation.
Swift has shown the return of a burst he displayed as a freshman as Georgia’s third-down back, but now it’s coming in higher volume. He had dealt with a groin injury, and Swift claims it to still be a problem along with a nagging foot ailment.
On the field, however, it hasn’t shown.
“If we feed him, he does well,” Smart said. “He’s got a great offensive line in front of him, he’s explosive, and he makes guys miss on the second level.”
Bulldogs still can’t score at goal line
When Georgia gets inside the five yard line, its chances of scoring touchdown have seemed to decrease exponentially over the last three weeks (against Florida, Kentucky and Auburn).
It was seen on back-to-back drives in the first half that resulted in field goal attempts from Blankenship. The first got to the 2-yard-line and Georgia went 3-and-out after a sack and a tackle for loss.
On the following drive, it was another 3-and-out that was hindered by a false-start penalty on Isaiah Wilson and nearly the shortest field goal possible was made by the Lou Groza Award semifinalist.
“I think it just comes down to executing in that low red (zone),” Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm said. “That was a topic of discussion earlier, and man, we really want to punch it in.”
Campbell benched, Stokes with big play
Each time redshirt freshman cornerback Eric Stokes is subbed into the game, he makes a significant play moments later.
Against Auburn, it was to hold the Tigers out of the end zone. Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham was at the 4-yard-line and saw an opening for Seth Williams. But not if it were up to Stokes.
Smart called it a “huge play,” and Stokes remained in the game after freshman Tyson Campbell was substituted after a shaky start — which included a pass-interference penalty.
“It was amazing because it built my confidence up for basically the rest of the day,” Stokes said. “I was feeling good at the start, and then after that everything just started rolling.”