ATLANTA – Saturday’s Auburn-Georgia rematch at Mercedes-Benz Stadium was a far cry from what happened at Jordan-Hare Stadium three weeks ago.
Georgia dominated the second half Saturday in beating Auburn 28-7 to capture its first SEC championship since 2005.
Georgia beat up Auburn up front
In the teams’ first meeting, a 40-17 Auburn win on November 11, the Tigers won the battle at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Saturday, Georgia did the same. Georgia outrushed Auburn 238-114; in the first meeting, Auburn outrushed the Bulldogs 237-46. Georgia’s defense also had three sacks and nine quarterback hurries. Georgia senior RB Nick Chubb had 13 carries for 77 yards to become the No. 2 career rusher in SEC history, with 4,599 yards.
Two Bulldogs freshmen were difference-makers
Georgia got big performances from three true freshmen on offense. QB Jake Fromm had one of his most efficient games of the season, going 16-of-22 for 183 yards and two touchdowns. The first TD pass was a 2-yarder to TE Isaac Nauta that tied the game at 7 early in the second quarter, and the other was a 7-yarder to Terry Godwin early in the fourth quarter that made it 21-7 and really removed all doubt about the outcome. RB D’Andre Swift led the Bulldogs with 88 yards on seven carries, and he scored on a 64-yard run with 10:34 left that made it 28-7. Swift added three catches for 17 yards. OT Andrew Thomas also played well as part of a line that opened holes and kept Fromm upright.
Mistakes were made, but the Bulldogs overcame them
Georgia was penalized seven times for 91 yards, but the mistakes were not all that costly. There was a defensive pass interference call on the first drive of the game, and the Bulldogs also had an illegal substitution penalty on the same series. An offensive pass interference call in the second quarter took a touchdown off the board; the Bulldogs had to settle for a field goal. Georgia was also flagged for a facemask that wiped out an interception. And the Bulldogs still won by 21.
Georgia caused turnovers this time around
The Bulldogs finished the game plus-2 in turnover margin. They forced two fumbles and didn’t commit any turnovers. The first one was on a strip sack by senior OLB Davin Bellamy; the Bulldogs then drove 84 yards to tie it at 7 in the second quarter. The Bulldogs’ Lorenzo Carter forced a fumble in the fourth quarter that was recovered by Roquan Smith. Georgia capitalized with a 7-yard TD pass from Fromm to Terry Godwin. In the first meeting, the Bulldogs committed one turnover and didn’t force any.
Roquan Smith is the best linebacker in the country
Smith, a junior who is up for the Butkus, Nagurski and Bednarik awards, was named SEC championship game MVP. He had one of his best games of the season, with 13 tackles, a sack, two fumble recoveries and two quarterback hurries. Bulldogs fans better enjoy watching Smith in the next game or two because he’s likely playing in his final ones for the school.
(You can follow Dan Mathews on Twitter @DanMathewsATL)
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