Georgia showed that its defense is legit on Saturday. Auburn was held to a season-low 316 total yards of offense in a 34-10 loss to its rival, Georgia.
The loss marks the fifth loss in a row to the Bulldogs, something that hasn’t happened since 1944-1948.
“We’re all disappointed and nobody’s kind of throwing it up like Georgia’s that good of a team,” said Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin. “We felt like we could go out there and play better football and put ourselves in a better position to win this game, and that didn’t happen.”
Still, several notable Auburn names were in attendance at the game. Former Auburn quarterback and Heisman winner Cam Newton, “The Bachelor” star Madi Prewett and a shirtless Bruce Pearl were cheering on the Tigers from the student section.
Auburn received the opening kickoff and orchestrated a mixture of effective pass and run plays on its first drive. The Tigers drove down the field, pushed the ball inside the Georgia 10-yard line on its first possession and built some game-opening momentum.
However, Nix nearly fumbled the ball and the drive stalled, so the Tigers were forced to settle for a 24-yard Anders Carlson field goal to put the Tigers up 3-0 early.
It was all Bulldogs after that.
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“We came out hot, that was it,” said Auburn offensive lineman Nick Brahms. “I feel like we got ourselves in good situations and we executed, and then other times in the game we just didn't execute. That's the bottom line."
The Georgia defense stepped up and showed why opponents are only scoring an average of 4.6 points per game this season.
After gaining 68 yards on its opening possession, Auburn’s offense gained 112 yards for the rest of the first half. The offensive stalls began on Auburn’s second possession when Bo Nix tossed his first interception of the season.
The throw wasn’t just an overthrow or miscommunication between receivers, to be fair. It was a dump-off pass intended for Shaun Shivers that was bobbled in the air. Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean came down with the ball for the interception at the Auburn 26-yard line.
Dean’s interception ended a streak of 256 consecutive passes by Nix without throwing an interception, a school record.
The Auburn defense limited the damage, though, holding the Bulldogs to a game-tying field goal.
On the first play of the second quarter, the Auburn defense took a hit. Smoke Monday delivered a helmet-to-helmet hit on Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett.
The senior safety was flagged for targeting and subsequently ejected from the game. It was the third time in his career that Monday was ejected for targeting. He had previously been called for the foul in 2019 against Kent State and in 2020 against Georgia.
Chandler Wooten spoke postgame about the impact of losing a guy like Monday has on defense.
“Yeah, it was huge -- losing your leader back there on the back end,” Wooten said. “You know, we just have to have a next-man-up mentality. But it's never easy to lose a senior leader like that -- a guy who's made a lot of plays for us, who's clued in to the game plan and who's a playmaker. So it's definitely a big hit.”
Continuing the damage to the Auburn defense, Georgia’s Zamir White rushed up the middle on the next play for a 1-yard touchdown. It broke the tie, putting the Bulldogs up 10-3.
Bennett only needed to complete a few passes on the ensuing Georgia drive from his own 22-yard line to reach the end zone. A 25-yard pass to Darnell Washington and a 45-yard completion to Ladd McConkey set up a 3-yard touchdown pass to Adonai Mitchell.
Trailing 17-3, Auburn’s Eku Leota made a key third-down sack to give the ball back to his offense with about two and a half minutes to work. Auburn was able to move the ball effectively down the field for just a second time, before the drive stalled once more.
Carlson came out to attempt a chip-shot, but an offsides penalty on Georgia put the ball at the 3-yard line and the Auburn coaching staff rethought the decision.
Out marched the offense, on a fourth-and-goal from the Georgia 3-yard line. Nix took the snap, worked through his progressions before firing the ball across the middle to a streaking Ze’Vian Capers. The ball was knocked away and fell incomplete, but Nix felt as if his receiver was held up.
“Fourth-and-3 gives us a chance at the back of the end zone, and the guy completely grabs him,” Nix said. “I thought it should've definitely been a pass interference. It's just stuff like that that we don't ever get, that changes the game. Obviously, if that would've been them, they probably would've called it, but that's just part of the game and part of the rivalry."
The team had driven inside the Georgia 10-yard line for the second time, but only had three points to show for it.
“We have to finish drives,” Harsin said. “That’s the most frustrating thing right now. We can drive the field and that really doesn’t matter if you can’t put points on the board.”
The visiting team took over on downs, Bennett took a knee and Georgia took a 17-3 lead into halftime.
The Bulldogs pounded the ball out of the gates of the second half, rushing on for 7-of-9 plays on the opening drive. The drive ended with a missed 44-yard field goal for Georgia, one of the few breaks Auburn caught on Saturday.
Auburn moved the ball into Georgia territory on its ensuing possession but failed to pick up a fourth-and-9 conversion around the Georgia 40-yard line. The Bulldog offense trotted onto the field, only needing one play to score again.
Bennett dropped back with Auburn in Cover 0 coverage and unleashed a deep-ball towards McConkey. He hit his target in stride from 60-yards out and McConkey trotted into the end zone. Georgia extended its lead to 21 points.
The Tigers closed the gap on the following possession, finally reaching the end zone. Auburn drove 78 yards, mostly through the air, before Tank Bigsby bounced off blockers and carried the ball into the end zone from six yards out.
It was the first touchdown scored against the Georgia defense since it gave up a fourth-quarter touchdown to South Carolina three weeks ago. It was just the second offensive touchdown against Georgia all season.
Auburn entered the fourth quarter trailing 24-10 and never scored again.
Georgia, however, added 10 more points to claim the 24-point victory over its rival. It was the largest margin of victory for Georgia since it defeated Auburn 34-7 in 2014.
“Everybody's disappointed, man,” Wooten said. “We expected to win and we didn't. Like I keep saying, hats off to them. They made the plays and we didn't. But you know, the message is we have to come in tomorrow, watch the film, flush it and get better -- simple.”
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