Many Georgia fans were nervous entering “The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.”
When the Bulldogs scored a touchdown on their first possession, via an eight-play, 70-yard drive featuring lasers from Jake Fromm for 25 and 27 yards on back-to-back plays and Nick Chubb crossing the goal line for an early 7-0 lead, nerves were eased.
That feeling didn’t last long.
Auburn made field goals on its next three possessions, a sign many Georgia fans interpreted to be positive as the Bulldogs did keep Auburn out of the end zone. With Auburn leading 9-7 midway through the second quarter, the game looked to have the makings of a heavyweight title fight. Then the bottom dropped out, sort of like Clubber Lang viciously beating Rocky Balboa in “Rocky III.”
The Tigers outcoached and outplayed the Bulldogs following that opening possession.
Auburn outrushed Georgia 237-46. Chubb was held to 27 yards and Sony Michel had 22. Fromm was 13-of-28 for 184 yards and sacked four times.
By halftime, the writing was on the wall. This was an early knockout.
“Lessons were learned that they have a good football team,” Kirby Smart said after the game. “They whipped us up front, they whipped us on the back end and they whipped us on the edges. They were more physical than us on both lines of scrimmages.
“We did some dumb things, and we helped them. You can’t help good football teams. We gave them two or three extra possessions, which you can’t do.”
Georgia was in the middle of the pack nationally in penalties entering the game, averaging 6.7 for 53.4 yards per game. The Bulldogs committed seven for 75 yards; the Tigers had five but for just 29 yards.
Georgia, uncharacteristically, lost its head. The timing of the mistakes were even more critical than the yardage.
Penalties on a late hit and for “leaping” during an Auburn punt kept Tigers drives alive. One 15-yarder gave the Tigers an automatic first down after a failed third down midway through the fateful second quarter. The Tigers went on to score a TD with the extra downs, taking a 16-7 lead and all the momentum.
Those weren’t the only critical mistakes Georgia made.
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