For nine games, Georgia won the battle on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
In game 10, Auburn got the best of the Bulldogs up front in a 40-17 walloping.
Georgia couldn’t run the ball. Auburn couldn’t be stopped running the ball. Running back Kerryon Johnson took pages out of the Le’Veon Bell playbook, patiently waiting for his offensive line to create holes before bursting through them.
Johnson attacked the edges well, too, and was the first back to best Georgia on the perimeter. He finished the day with 32 carries for 167 yards and added two receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown.
“We didn’t show up in our fashion we normally show up in,” inside linebacker Roquan Smith said. “They did some things and hurt us on some plays. We’re just going to have to get in the lab and fix those.”
Entering the game, Georgia was ranked second in the SEC and fifth nationally in rushing defense at 89 yards per game. The Tigers put a dent in that average after totaling 237 yards on the ground.
“They got a great back, who is very patient behind the line,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “We talked about it all week. He waits and then when he hits the hole he bursts. He is a really good back and he toted the load. I have a lot of respect for his toughness and the offensive line’s toughness. We didn’t keep our edges well. He bounced out and made some plays.”
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said Johnson deserves to be in the “Heisman talk” after his performance against the No. 1 team in the nation.
“I don’t know if there is a better running back out there,” Malzahn said. “If so, I’d like to see it. He’s one of the better players in college football and he’s proven that time and time again.”
Conversely, Georgia was stifled time and again when trying to run the ball. Auburn was aggressive up front and became the first team this season to prevent the Bulldogs’ much-improved offensive line from generating a push.
Nick Chubb was held to 27 yards and a touchdown on only 11 carries. Sony Michel only managed 21 yards on nine carries. Georgia finished with only 46 rushing yards, although it did lose 33 yards on sacks.
Regardless, it was the fewest Georgia was able to run for all season by far, with the now-second lowest total being the 185 rushing yards it totaled against Notre Dame.
“It’s just about execution,” Michel said. “I don’t think certain drives we executed well. We fell short. We made mistakes a couple of times. I think that hurt us.”
Now, all Georgia can do is hope to bounce back on both sides of the ball against a Kentucky team, which as Smart said, "won’t feel sorry" for Georgia’s first defeat of the season.
“If you lose the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball you don’t have a great chance of a good outcome,” Smart said.