ATLANTA – Most thought Saturday’s SEC championship game – a rematch of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry – would be close. Alas, while Auburn handled Georgia easily on November 11, the Bulldogs returned the favor Saturday and won 28-7 to clinch a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Here are four Auburn takeaways from the game.
Auburn looked beat up
The Tigers played a tough November schedule – they beat two No. 1-ranked teams – and it looked as if had caught up to them Saturday. RB Kerryon Johnson did not look like himself because of a shoulder injury. CB Carlton Davis did not play the second half. DE Marlon Davidson missed some time, and LB Tre Williams had to leave the game. Auburn was not able to overcome those injuries; Johnson’s ineffectiveness plagued the whole offense.
Officials gave Auburn a chance
In the first half, officiating was part of the story, which is never something anyone wants to see in a championship game. Auburn received the benefit of a pass interference call on Georgia on its first drive, which kept alive what would’ve been a three-and-out drive. Auburn also benefited from a roughing the passer call as well as Georgia being flagged for an offensive pass interference call in the end zone that negated a touchdown.
The offense was stymied
Auburn’s game plan was to stretch the field and attack every part of the defense, but Georgia had an answer – for everything. The Bulldogs were effective in man and zone coverage and were a disciplined defense. The Georgia front seven played exceptionally well, and were the main reason Auburn – which had been averaging 470.2 yards and 36.7 points per game – managed just 259 yards and was shut out after its first drive.
A sour end to a memorable regular season
Auburn fans may not be happy with how the regular season ended, but they still will look back fondly because of the greatness of November. Fans will remember the games in which the Tigers hosted and defeated their two biggest rivals while both were ranked No. 1. Fans will appreciate the improbable late-season run after a second-half collapse led to a loss to LSU. For now, fans will be concerned with the upcoming “Gus Malzahn to Arkansas” rumors and chatter.
(You can follow Zac Blackerby on Twitter @Zblackerby)
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