After allowing a touchdown on Georgia’s first possession, the Auburn defense stayed calm.
“Nobody panicked,” Auburn defensive lineman Marlon Davidson said. “That’s what I think was the main factor was that nobody panicked after that.”
Auburn would score 30 unanswered points en route to a 40-17 win over the top-ranked Bulldogs. The Tiger defense held heralded Georgia running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to 48 yards.
Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm was held to 13 completions on 28 pass attempts for 184 yards with a single touchdown coming late in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve got one of the best defenses in the country,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. “They took on the challenge and controlled the line of scrimmage.”
Malzahn added that, following the loss at LSU, the Tiger defense had put an emphasis on improving each week.
“We’ve been talking about championship urgency for the last three weeks, and they got it done,” he said.
Auburn totaled just four sacks and five tackles for loss, but Georgia’s offense did not gain much yardage through the Tiger line.
In comparison, Auburn had 219 total yards on first-down plays while Georgia had just 98. On third down, Georgia converted on 21.4 percent of attempts whereas Auburn had a 30.8 percent success rate.
Malzahn attributed the contrast of success on first and third down to linebacker Jeff Holland, who finished with one sack and five total tackles.
“Jeff’s a dynamic player,” Malzahn said. “We felt like if we could stop the run, we wanted to put pressure on that quarterback to see how he’d react. He put constant pressure on that quarterback.”
After losses to both LSU and then-No. 2 Clemson, a large portion of Auburn’s roster felt counted out going into the team’s November stretch.
“A lot of people kind of counted us out,” Auburn linebacker Deshaun Davis said. “What we do well is that we stick together as a unit. Offense believes in the defense and the defense believes in the offense.
“We believe in each other.”
Auburn has scored 40 or more points against six of their seven in-conference opponents. They are averaging 37.2 points per game.
Malzahn’s squad will play the University of Louisiana at Monroe next week before hosting the University of Alabama at home. Despite their pair of losses, the head coach says he still believes his team can make both the conference championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff.
He says his team has learned from the loss in Baton Rouge.
“We knew we were a good team,” he said. “Obviously this team is light years away from the one that played in week two.”
Now, after a win over the top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs, Malzahn says Auburn still controls its own destiny.
“We have a great opportunity right now.” he said. “Our goal is to win the SEC Championship. All of our dreams are still alive.”