By Adesina O. Koiki
AUBURN, Ala. – The Auburn Tigers scored 30 unanswered points, including two touchdowns set up by Georgia Bulldogs errors on special teams, as the Tigers handed the No. 1 team in the College Football Playoff Rankings its first loss of the season, 40-17, on Saturday evening.
Georgia took the first drive of the game 70 yards for a touchdown, with running back Nick Chubb plowing into the end zone from one yard out to complete the drive. While the Tigers were successful in moving the ball on each of their first three drives of the game, they were held to field goals at the end of them, as Daniel Carson’s 30-yard field goal at the 12:03 mark in the second quarter gave Auburn its first lead at 9-7.
The turning point came late in the second quarter, after Georgia seemingly had stopped Auburn on a drive and forced the Tigers to punt. On the punt, Georgia linebacker D’Andre Walker was called for a personal foul for leaping on top of the three-man shield in front of the punter, giving the Tigers an automatic first down. With the second chance, the Tigers took full advantage as quarterback Jarrett Stidham’s deep pass was caught by wide receiver Darius Slayton for a 42-yard touchdown to give Auburn a 16-7 lead.
Georgia had a chance to cut into its nine-point deficit before the half, but kicker Rodrigo Blankenship missed a 42-yard field goal wide right on the last play of the second quarter.
Auburn received the ball to begin the second half, but was forced to punt after four offensive plays. On the punt return, Georgia wide receiver Mecole Hardman fumbled and the Tigers recovered at the Bulldogs’ 23-yard line. Four plays later, Stidham ran around right end to score from seven yards to open up a 23-7 lead for Auburn early in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs were forced to abandon their powerful run game, but quarterback Jake Fromm was not able to do damage down the field with his arm, constantly being pressured by Auburn’s front four.
Auburn tacked on another touchdown in the third quarter, on a 32-yard screen pass from Stidham to receiver Ryan Davis, who took the short pass and sped into the end zone. The lead grew to 30-7 after that play, effectively thwarting any hopes of a competitive contest.
Georgia, which came into the game averaging 279.3 yards rushing, was only able to gain 46 rushing yards, while Fromm was sacked four times by the Auburn defense.
The Bulldogs return home for Senior Day next week against the Kentucky Wildcats.