Three weeks ago, Auburn dominated Georgia as the Jordan-Hare Stadium crowd propelled the Tigers to an upset over the then top-ranked Bulldogs. Saturday, Georgia dominated the line of scrimmage in similar fashion to win the SEC Championship Game 28-7.
After rushing for 48 yards on 20 carries in the first meeting, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel showed why they are two of the best running backs in college football as they combined for 122 yards.
“They've got a very good team,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “They flipped the script on us from the last game, did exactly what we did the first game.”
Instead of rushing right at Auburn’s defensive line, the Bulldogs attacked the Tiger defense on the perimeter. Chubb and Michel broke tackle after tackle on the outside and finished with 77 and 45 rushing yards respectively as both averaged more than five yards per carry.
Add in a 64-yard touchdown run by D’Andre Swift early in the fourth quarter, and Auburn’s once strong run defense had suddenly become a weakness.
Auburn started strong, as quarterback Jarrett Stidham completed his first eight passes and led Auburn on a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to start the game.
Looking to go up by two possessions early in the second quarter, Stidham drove the Tigers into the red zone before he was strip-sacked by Davin Bellamy. The Bulldogs took over on offense and promptly went 84 yards to tie the game and seize momentum.
Auburn had a chance to tie the game at 10 after the defense got a stop to begin the second half, but Daniel Carlson’s field goal attempt was blocked.
The Tigers kept the game within striking distance as they trailed 13-7 through three quarters, but Kerryon Johnson’s first fumble of the season gave Georgia excellent field position, and Jake Fromm’s second touchdown pass gave Georgia an insurmountable 21-7 lead with 12 minutes to play.
With Johnson playing at less than 100 percent due to a shoulder injury, Auburn’s offense became one-dimensional, and Stidham was pressured throughout.
“They did a great job of bringing a lot of different looks, switching up the coverages, blitzes, fronts, I mean, everything,” Stidham said. “They did a great job tonight of switching it up and causing a little bit of havoc. It is what it is. We just didn't execute when we should have.”
Despite the loss, Malzahn emphasized that the future is bright for the Tigers. He also expressing his desire to remain at Auburn amid rumors tying him to the coaching vacancy at Arkansas.
“I'm happy at Auburn,” Malzahn said. “We have great players. I love my players. As I said before this game, we worked extremely hard to get here to this point, and we've got a very good foundation built, and I think the best is yet to come. I'm the head coach at Auburn, and I just said I want to be the head coach at Auburn.”