UGA Football

Down goes Auburn: Bulldogs knock Tigers out of playoff race with upset win

Georgia wide receiver Riley Ridley (8) brings in a one-handed catch in Saturday’s game against Auburn.
Georgia wide receiver Riley Ridley (8) brings in a one-handed catch in Saturday’s game against Auburn. AP

Georgia did it to Auburn again.

For the second time in an 11-year span, the Bulldogs dashed the Tigers’ hopes of a national championship bid. With Georgia beating Auburn 13-7 on Saturday night at Sanford Stadium, the Tigers’ hopes of winning out and sneaking into the College Football Playoff are over. No. 9 Auburn (7-3, 5-2 SEC) can no longer win the West, which takes it out of the national conversation.

For Georgia (6-4, 4-4), it is now bowl eligible with head coach Kirby Smart recording his first-ever win over a top-10 opponent.

In 2006, Georgia defeated No. 5 Auburn, which eliminated the Tigers from the championship race. Of course, in 2010, Auburn defeated Georgia in a close game and went on to win the national championship.

Georgia won Saturday’s rivalry game thanks to a strong defense that shut Auburn’s offense down in the second half. After rushing for 107 yards in the first half, the Tigers were only able to end with 127 yards on the ground.

Three who mattered

Georgia running back Nick Chubb: Chubb was a chain-mover, especially in the second half. His day ended with 23 carries for 101 yards. Chubb’s most important play came on Georgia’s third scoring drive when he took a toss to his left for 11 yards on third-and-short. Chubb was able to help put the game away for the Bulldogs.

Georgia defensive back Maurice Smith: On Auburn’s third play from scrimmage in the second half, quarterback Sean White threw a pass in Smith’s direction, to which the graduate transfer picked off and returned 34 yards for a touchdown. That play set the tone for the remainder of the game.

Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson: With Auburn unable to pass the ball much at all, the Tigers relied heavily on Johnson, who assumed lead back duties with Kamryn Pettway unable to play. Johnson carried the ball 22 times and totaled 99 yards and a touchdown.

Turning point

Smith’s pick-six on the third play from scrimmage of the second half set the tone and gave Georgia all the momentum. While the Bulldogs were unable to light up the scoreboard and blow Auburn out, it was clear which team was in control throughout the second half.

Observations

Georgia’s defense shines in second half: Auburn came into the game averaging 299.8 rushing yards per game. Georgia held the Tigers to 127 on the ground. It was perhaps the most impressive performance Georgia has had on this side of the ball all season. Auburn was routinely placed in third-down situations and the Bulldogs were able to bring pressure when quarterback Sean White dropped back to throw. While Pettway was unable to play, it might not have mattered with how suffocating the Bulldogs were in the second half. Georgia kept Auburn from recording a first down in all seven of its possessions in the second half.

Georgia’s offense does enough, even without scoring much: The Bulldogs did a great job possessing the football by keeping it for 39:09. In addition, there were only two three-and-outs all game, with every other drive lasting at least six plays. As a result, Georgia was able to out-gain Auburn 343 total yards to 164.

Georgia rattled White: White entered the game as one of the more efficient quarterbacks in the SEC with a completion percentage of 69.1. Yet the Bulldogs got after White repeatedly and forced him into some rushed decisions. White was unable to convert a third-down pass in the second half and ended the game 6-of-20 passing for 27 yards and an interception, which was easily the worst game of his season.

Worth mentioning

Streak ends: Georgia place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship made a 45-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to lengthen his streak to 10 made in a row. But later in the quarter, he missed a 49-yarder just short, which ended it. Blankenship is now 10-of-12 kicking for the year. Blankenship did come back to hit an easy 21-yard insurance field goal with 2:25 to play in the game.

Wynn injured: Left guard Isaiah Wynn injured his left knee late in the second quarter and was unable to return to the game. With Wynn out, Dyshon Sims took his place at left guard. Wynn was seen on the sideline in uniform in the second half but without a helmet near him. He was also limping quite a bit. After the game, Smart said he didn’t know the severity of the injury.

Alabama wins division: With Auburn falling to Georgia, No. 1 Alabama has clinched the SEC West title and will head to Atlanta the first weekend of December to play in the conference championship game.

They said it

Smart on Georgia’s defensive performance: “Those players believe they’re going to stop them. They believe every time they go on the field they’re going to stop them. They worked really hard. I’m really proud of that staff and those players. Those players have bought in to the system (defensive coordinator) Mel (Tucker’s) installed and believe they can stop anybody. They have a lot of confidence right now and are playing hard.”

Chubb on Georgia running for 135 yards against Auburn: "The mentality, we got it in our heads a couple of weeks ago that we were going to run the ball and have success with it. That’s pretty much it."

Inside linebacker Roquan Smith on adjustments made to stop Auburn’s running attack: “They were hitting everything on the perimeter, so the halftime adjustment was stopping the run there and we stopped it. But I guess they continued to try to do it.”

What’s next?

Georgia will host Louisiana-Lafayette next Saturday at noon.

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