In its biggest game of the season, Auburn came to play Saturday, turning in their most complete performance of the season as the Tigers completely dismantled No. 1 Georgia 40-17.
Auburn will take on Alabama in the Iron Bowl Nov. 25 with the winner moving on to the SEC Championship Game.
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Let’s hand out some grades:
Presented with the chance to prove himself on a national stage, Jarrett Stidham put together a flawless performance that left little doubt regarding his ability to lead the Tigers moving forward.
The Stephenville, Texas native was 16-for-23 for 214 yards and three touchdowns on the day, and his touchdown pass to Darius Slayton late in the first half was one of his best throws of the year. That throw swung the momentum completely as the Tigers took a 16-7 lead at halftime.
Stidham also wasn’t afraid to make plays outside the pocket. His throw to Nate Craig-Myers on the Tigers’ first possession kept the defense honest and Stidham’s rushing touchdown gave Auburn a commanding 23-7 lead early in the third quarter.
By the time Stidham threw his third touchdown, a 32-yard screen pass to Ryan Davis, the game was all but over.
Running Backs: A+
Coming into the game as the SEC’s leading rusher, Kerryon Johnson was already regarded as one of the conference’s best running backs. But Johnson cemented himself as one of the best running backs in college football with a 32 carry, 175-yard performance Saturday.
Johnson showed great patience as he waited for space to open before hitting the hole with conviction. While he didn’t get into the end zone, his 5.2 yard per carry average helped the Tigers move the ball at will.
All that made Gus Malzahn wonder aloud postgame if there was a better running back in all of college football. After Saturday’s success, it may be time for voters to put Johnson in the Heisman Trophy discussion.
Wide Receivers: A
Ryan Davis led the way with four catches for 55 yards, and made multiple defenders miss as he raced for a 32-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Eli Stove had four catches for 14 yards, but kept the defense honest in the running game, countering Johnson’s between the tackle runs with jet sweeps to the outside. Stove finished with four carries and 55 yards on the ground.
Nate Craig-Myers did not have a catch last week against Texas A&M, and only had one catch Saturday, look for Stidham to get him more involved moving forward.
Darius Slayton had just two receptions, but made a great adjustment to make a spectacular catch for a 42-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter. Slayton is quickly emerging as a deep threat and one of Stidham’s favorite targets.
Offensive Line: A+
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart summed up Auburn’s offensive line play nicely, saying: “They just whipped us up front. Bottom line.”
Despite missing Left Guard Mike Horton, the offensive line opened plenty of holes for the running backs as the Tigers averaged 5.2 yards per carry and tallied 237 rushing yards.
The O-line will need to continue giving Stidham time to throw as Auburn has been looking to throw the ball down the field more often.
Defensive Line/Linebackers: A+
The game-plan in this game for Auburn was to establish the run, and to stop the run on defense. The Tigers’ front seven harassed Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm all day and held the Bulldogs’ star running back tandem of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to just 48 yards on 20 carries.
Jeff Holland was once again a force on the Auburn defensive line. Further establishing himself as one of the SEC’s premier pass rushers, the Jacksonville, Florida native recorded five tackles, added a sack, and was consistently in the Georgia backfield.
Deshaun Davis had five tackles and a sack and Derrick Brown had four tackles and 0.5 sacks. This group will need to continue to wreak havoc if Auburn hopes to upset Alabama and reach the SEC Championship Game.
Defensive Backs: B
The defensive backs struggled on Georgia’s opening drive as Fromm was 3-3 for 56 yards on that possession. They settled down quickly however, as Fromm had just 128 passing yards the rest of the game.
Tray Matthews continues to establish himself as a shutdown corner and even stepped up in run support with a tackle for loss. The Newnan, Georgia native had three tackles on the day.
Special Teams: C
Special teams was the one area where Auburn struggled Saturday. The Tigers gave up 152 yards on kickoff returns and Georgia was close to breaking one for a touchdown. Daniel Carlson, who’s usually stellar on kickoffs, did not record a touchback and was forced to resort to high, short kickoffs to limit the Bulldogs’ return ability.
Kicking in cold and windy conditions, Carlson was 4-4 on field goals including a 54 yarder.
Auburn did force one turnover on special teams as they took advantage of a muffed punt by the Bulldogs and quickly scored a touchdown to open the second half.
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