AUBURN, Ala. Georgia football passed another test Saturday afternoon, going into one of the most hostile stadiums in the nation and surviving a slugfest.
The No. 4-ranked Bulldogs (9-1, 6-1 SEC) clinched the SEC East Division with the 21-14 win over No. 12 Auburn (7-3, 4-3) at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The Georgia defense lost its historic streak of nine games without giving up a rushing touchdown, but they came through when they needed to.
The Bulldogs turned away the Tigers' final two drives to protect the 7-point lead, Auburn stalling at the UGA 34 with 3:36 left and then going three-and-out with 1:39 remaining.
Georgia's offense had a season-low 251 yards, but efficiency was the word of the day. Quarterback Jake Fromm had three TD passes and the Bulldogs played turnover-free for the fourth consecutive game.
Here's one viewpoint of how Georgia graded out in each position group.
Fromm was 13-of-28 passing for 110 yards with three touchdowns playing without top target Lawrence Cager the final 3 1/2 quarters of the game against a stubborn Auburn defense. Fromm and the Bulldogs were just 3 of 15 converting on third downs. Against that Tigers' front, it was impressive Fromm was sacked just once and avoided turning the ball over.
Running backs (B)
D'Andre Swift had 17 carries for 106 yards, including a 26-yard dash that sparked what proved to be a pivotal scoring drive. Georgia went up 14-0 late in the first half thanks to Swift's big run. The junior from Philadelphia, however, was fortunate his fumble went out of bounds. Brian Herrien was as reliable as ever, earning his 24 yards rushing on seven carries and catching two passes for 8 yards, including a 5-yard TD catch. Zamir White had three carries for 10 yards.
This group dropped off when Lawrence Cager left the field, and they'll need to continue to work to improve and find separation for the Bulldogs to win the SEC Championship Game. Demetris Robertson had three catches for 20 yards, his longest a 13-yard third down catch. Dominick Blaylock caught a well-thrown 51-yard TD pass from Fromm, and tight end Eli Wolf executed well on his 5-yard TD catch. Kearis Jackson caught his first pass since returning from the broken hand he suffered in the season-opening game and nearly had another before a call was overturned. George Pickens made his one catch count, hauling in an 11-yard third down throw for a first down.
Offensive line (A)
Excellent pass protection, the one sack was a result of Auburn's pass coverage. The offensive line didn't have any motion penalties despite the deafening crowd, and there were no holding penalties against the premier defensive line in the SEC and perhaps even the best in the nation. The O-Line did this despite having to substitute for starters Cade Mays and Ben Cleveland, both of whom are battling nagging injuries.
Defensive line (A)
Tyler Clark, Malik Herring and Jermaine Johnson were on their games. Clark had two tackles for loss and controlled his gap seemingly all night. Herring continued to ascend with four stops and a pass break-up. Johnson, who as an outside linebacker is grouped as a down lineman by the head coach, had four tackles and a key forced fumble that led to Auburn's only turnover.
Monty Rice had a team-high 10 stops but he was beating himself up in the postgame for missing a tackle on Auburn QB Bo Nix on Nix's rushing touchdown. Tae Crowder had five stops and freshman Nakobe Dean was once again effective in third down situations, make three stops and looking solid in pass coverage.
DJ Daniel had 6 tackles and a key pass break-up on a deep pass to Anthony Schwarz. The secondary gave up some big plays in the fourth quarter, however. Eric Stokes had an uncharacteristically off night, dropping an interception in the end zone and committing a pass interference penalty on a fourth-and-5 at the Georgia 9-yard line. Richard LeCounte had a fumble recovery, a TFL and 6 tackles. Freshman Tyrique Stevenson had one of the team's two sacks. J.R. Reed had five tackles.
Special Teams (B)
Jake Camarda had a strong performance, averaging 50 yards on his 11 punts, including dropping four of his six first-half punts inside the Auburn 20-yard line. There were too many penalties, however, with Otis Reese ejected for targeting on a block and Tyler Simmons flagged for a personal foul. Channing Tindall had two motion penalties on the punt team. Not much going in the return game.
Georgia was only favored by 2 points for a reason: Auburn had home field advantage and was coming off a bye week, a big factor this late in the season in the always physical SEC. James Coley deserves credit for his Red Zone package, the Bulldogs scoring each of the three times they drove past the Tigers' 40. The Bulldogs had Auburn schemed up in building a 21-0 lead through three quarters, but the fourth quarter letdown was concerning and likely left many UGA fans unsatisfied or concerned despite the win.
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