ATHENS, Ga. — Yielding a lowly 164 total yards, including 32 yards on 22 plays in the second half, to an Auburn offense which entered the contest averaging 35 points and nearly 500 yards per game, Georgia upset the eighth-ranked Tigers this evening at Sanford Stadium, 13-7.
For the Bulldogs, which entered as 10½-point underdogs, it marked the first time in eight tries since 1960 that they won a game at home as a double-digit underdog.
“That was more than team-wide, it was university-wide and fan-wide,” said head coach Kirby Smart regarding the improbable victory. “The crowd noise at the end impacted the game. With less than two minutes, they could not convert and that was helped by the noise.”
Facing “the noise” with 2:20 left in the game and trailing by six, Auburn began at its own 14-yard line. The Tigers’ Sean White completed a pair of four-yard passes—his only two completions the entire second half—followed by throwing incomplete and, finally, a fourth-down pass which was broken up Dominick Sanders to seal the win.
White, who entered as the most efficient passer in the SEC, and the 12th-highest rated in the entire FBS, completed just 6-of-20 passes for 27 yards and was intercepted once.
On its second possession, Auburn’s offense appeared as it had for most of the season as it produced an impressive 15-play, 80-yard drive, capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by Kerryon Johnson. For Johnson, he was essentially the lone bright spot of a stagnant offense, rushing for 99 yards, making two receptions, and even completing 2-of-2 passes for 10 yards. For the Tigers, their scoring drive gained nearly as many yards as they did in their other 12 possessions combined.
Following halftime, in which Auburn led 7-0, Georgia finally got on the scoreboard when an errant pass thrown by White was corralled by star Maurice Smith and returned 34 yards for a game-tying touchdown.
“The touchdown got the crowd invigorated. When Mo hit the pick-six, it got electric,” Smart said. “It fired the defense up and inspired the offense. We got a lot of energy from that.”
The interception return by Smith, who also tallied three tackles, was just the third non-offensive touchdown scored by Georgia this season.
“I was relieved [after the touchdown],” Smith said following the victory. “I had been wanting to get one (a defensive score) for the longest time and I ended up getting it, and God blessed me and the defense did a great job blocking.”
Roquan Smith led the Georgia defense with seven tackles followed by Jonathan Ledbetter and Malkom Parrish with five each.
Offensively, the Bulldogs featured a balanced attack, as Nick Chubb led the ground game with 101 yards. The junior became the fifth Bulldog in program history to reach the 3,000-yard mark for a career, moving to fourth on Georgia’s all-time list with 3,086 yards.
Jacob Eason went 20-for-31 with 208 yards, spreading the ball out with five receivers having at least two catches each in the first half, and eight total for the contest. Freshman Riley Ridley led the Bulldogs with a career-high 89 yards on three catches.
With the game tied at 7-7 entering the fourth quarter, Georgia placekicker Rodrigo Blankenship made a 45-yard field goal with 13:44 left in the game—what was his 10th consecutive successful field goal. Blankenship increased the Georgia lead to 13-7 with a successful 21-yarder with 2:25 to go. The freshman’s field goal proceeded Auburn’s last-ditch drive which moved the ball only eight yards in four plays before the Bulldogs regained possession and ran out the clock.
“These kids don’t have any quit in them,” Smart added as Georgia improved to 6-4 overall while avoiding its first season without a home SEC victory since 1962. “They fight.”