ATHENS, GA (WSFA) - In a game where the second half was much slower than the first, the No. 24 Auburn Tigers (6-4, 3-4) fell to No. 5 Georgia (9-1, 7-1) 27-10 at Samford Stadium.
Georgia used 21 unanswered points to skate by the Tigers who came in just looking to pick up their first win between the hedges since 2005.
Auburn got the ball to open the game and on their first drive, and after picking up a pair of first downs on back-to-back plays, was forced to punt when Georgia’s defense held up.
On Georgia's first possession, the Bulldogs moved into Auburn territory on a run-pass-option in which quarterback Jake Fromm received an excellent throwing lane after running back D'Andre Swift picked up a block allowing Fromm a lane to zip a pass to Terry Godwin on a slant pattern.
A couple plays later, Georgia took a shot at the end zone and a flag for pass interference was thrown. With the foul occurring in the end zone, the ball was placed at the 2-yard line.
Auburn's defense, being as clutch as it has for the Tigers all year, held the fort and held the Dawgs to just three points.
Down three, JaTarvious Whitlow displayed strong running next time out for Auburn. A couple of catches from Ryan Davis advanced the sticks for the Tigers and a horsecollar tackle on Davis cost the Georgia defense 15 yards and territory.
Now inside the red zone, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn did what he does best. Lined up in the wildcat formation, Whitlow took the snap and ran around the left edge looking like he was going to run, but he pulled up and threw a perfect pass to tight end John Shenker for six and Auburn leapfrogged Georgia to take a 7-3 lead with 4:28 remaining in the first.
Next drive out for Georgia, a Fromm-to-Swift pass kept Georgia from going three-and-out. Then, moments later Fromm connected with Godwin on third down to pick up another first down.
When it looked like Auburn was going to hold in a goal-to-go situation again, Auburn’s Big Kat Bryant was flagged for targeting. Bryant was disqualified and Georgia was granted a first down.
With the new opportunity, Georgia was still unable to punch it in as they were stopped on two running plays and then Fromm was forced to scramble and scrambled into the arms of Derrick Brown for no gain.
Georgia kicked another field goal and Auburn held a 7-6 lead with 11:13 to play in the first half.
Freshman receiver Anthony Schwartz saved Auburn from a three-and-out on Auburn’s ensuing possession. Stidham kept the play alive long enough, rolled around in the pocket, and fired a strike to Schwartz, who was making his way towards the sideline boundary.
Then, moments later, a Georgia pass interference call gave Auburn big first down.
Stidham started 11-for-12 in the game and connected with Slayton to convert another first down after the pass interference call. Stidham would finish the game 24 of 36 for just 163 yards passing and no touchdowns.
In goal-to-go distance, Auburn’s offense was stopped after two incomplete passes forced Auburn to kick a field goal. Anders Carlson knocked through a 27-yarder with 7:46 remaining in the half and Auburn’s lead was now 10-6.
Efficiently, Georgia moved the ball down the field with running plays next possession out. Georgia was back in the lead when Fromm hit Tyler Simmons on a 14-yard out route for the touchdown and made it 13-10 in Georgia’s favor with 2:47 to play in the second quarter.
Auburn hit their first three-and-out with 2:07 left in the first half after Stidham missed Whitlow on a wide-open swing pass.
Forced to punt, Georgia’s next drive was not what Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele wanted to see.
Swift scampered for 25 yards to move the ball into Auburn territory, to start a strong drive for Georgia. Then Auburn looked like they were going to get out of it when the Dawgs were stopped on third down, but they lined up on 4th and 3 and what transpired after that was not great for the No. 24 Tigers.
Lined up in an empty set, Fromm hit Godwin on a simple slant pattern that had the first down but Godwin wanted more. Godwin raced 38 yards and saw paydirt, scoring a touchdown and giving Georgia a 10-point lead at 20-10 with 21 seconds left in the half.
Georgia received the ball to open the third quarter, and on their first drive, the Bulldogs went three-and-out as the Auburn defensed opened the second half on a good note.
The punt wasn’t great as Davis returned it a few yards shy of midfield. Stidham’s second down pass fell behind freshman receiver Seth Williams to bring up third down. Stidham’s third down pass missed wide-open Darius Slayton to bring up fourth down. On the pass, Stidham double clutched and Slayton stopped his route, causing the miscommunication and Auburn was forced to punt it away.
Auburn’s defense came up huge, forcing the first turnover of the game. After the Bulldogs were driving the field against the Tigers, Fromm fired a risky pass that was intercepted by Jamel Dean and Auburn took over on its own 19 with 9:19 in the third.
Shaun Shivers pushed the Auburn offense towards midfield with a big 30-yard pickup on second and long. After the long run, Georgia forced an Auburn punt and Auburn followed that by forcing a Georgia punt.
Georgia’s punt pinned Auburn inside the 5-yard line with 4 minutes left in the third quarter. Auburn would eventually be forced to punt the ball but not before the third quarter ended.
The fourth opened with a bang. Swift had been running the ball like a man possessed all night, whether it was in the running or passing game, but it became more apparent on his 77-yard touchdown run to give the Dawgs a 27-10 with 13:53 remaining in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. The rush put him at 186 yards for the game.
Auburn then needed to answer down three scores, but were forced to punt instead.
Georgia used that opportunity to methodically move the ball down the field on a drive that eclipsed 10 plays thanks to a pass interference call and moved the drive’s time of possession to over 8 minutes for Georgia before their attempt to go for it on fourth down failed. Still, the Bulldogs were handing the ball back to Auburn with only 3:20 left on the game clock and with a 17-point deficit to overcome.
Where Auburn overcame a 10-point deficit a week ago to Texas A&M at home, they did so over mostly the fourth quarter, which was fast-paced. Auburn would need to speed the temp up if they were going to score 17 points in 3:20.
Georgia dropped its defenders deep to ensure no Auburn deep threats, content with giving the Tigers short yardage and keeping the clock going. Auburn would eventually turn the ball over on downs with 41 seconds remaining and Georgia had finished its SEC slate ahead of the SEC Championship game with a 7-1 record.
Ryan Davis caught a career-high 13 passes and passed Courtney Taylor to move into first place on Auburn’s all-time receptions list. He did so in the first quarter.
Auburn falls to below .500 in SEC play at 3-4. Next up, the Tigers return to Jordan-Hare Stadium next Saturday for a 3 p.m. kick against Liberty.