By Greg Collier | Contributing Writer
Atlanta, Georgia — Georgia won the revenge match 28-7 or shall I say the most important match, as this one propels them into the college football playoffs. All they have to do is wait for the blessing from the College Football Committee.
The turning point was the fumble caused by linebacker Lorenzo Carter. Auburn was going in to score to make the game 14-0. Carter stripped Jarrett Stidham from behind, and the ball went free, up popped linebacker Roquan Smith with the prize.
The Bulldogs drove down the field and scored then they put up another score before Auburn could rebound. It was right there in front of them, “he who giveth can take it away,” no words ever spoken to be truer. The fumble was truly the turning point.
One critical mistake or awesome well-timed defensive play depends on which side of the SEC fence you stand changed everything. Instead of being up 14-0 with their feet pressed firmly on the pedal at the BENZ and no need to check the rear view mirror.
Georgia had stolen the momentum; a questionable pass interference call put Georgia in scoring position. Freshman sensation Jake Fromm completed the 7-play 84-yard drive by tossing a 2-yard pass to Isaac Nauta. We had a game 7-7.
The biggest question surrounding the SEC Championship was answered early when #21 lined up in the backfield. His unique name Kerryon Johnson lead him to do just that, carry the ball on for the Auburn Tigers, even though he was battered and bruised. There was no way that shoulder injury he suffered last week in the Iron Bowl was going to keep him out.
However, he played like a shell of himself after a stellar performance at Jordan Hare Stadium, where he had video game type numbers 167 yards rushing and a 55-yard touchdown reception. This time around, he could only muster 44 yards on 13 carries.
Kirby Smart said it best “and just being honest, Kerryon was not 100 percent. He wasn’t the same guy he was last game so that probably helped some as well. We felt getting after the quarterback was the way to beat them, and we did that much better this game than we did the last game.”
Known for their quick start and early scoring, the Tigers started true to form scoring first for the 11th game this season and scored on its opening drive for the 10th time in 13 games. It was a fast-paced, high-speed attack with no huddle to deafening noise by the sea of Bulldogs red.
The 10-play, 75-yard drive featured Jarrett Stidham as Houdini spinning completely around to elude would-be tacklers before he found Chandler Cox on a key 21-yard pass to put them in scoring position. Kerryon Johnson ran the Cram fake fire pass –he even jumped up with the fake — but the Dawgs sniffed it out tackling him for a short gain. Stidham threw a strike on the slant to Nate Craig-Meyers for the 6-yard touchdown pass to grab the early lead 7-0.
On Georgia’s first possession quarterback, Jake Fromm was under siege; he was sacked twice it was a signature start for the Tigers defense, who picked up from where they left off in the first game, DOMINANT in the trenches. They forced the ball over on downs but couldn’t do anything with it.
Sony Michel electrified the crowd on a dazzling 32-yard run Georgia was playing to a different beat. They drove down to the 2-yard line; a pass interference call moved them back nullifying the touchdown. They settled for the field goal, which was a blessing for Auburn. Frankly, they dodged a bullet.
Being down by three points 10-7 at the half was the best of a bad situation. The stage was set for a fantastic finish in the league’s first-ever SEC Championship Game in Mercedes Benz Stadium.
Georgia had the momentum as well as the ball to start the second half. Fromm’s streak of nine straight completions ended and the Auburn defense had completed the task giving their offense the ball, which meant an opportunity to redeem themselves by taking the lead. Stidham wanted it all in one play firing deep with no luck. On the next play, he connected with Ryan Davis for 29 yards to put them in the red zone. The drive stalled, Georgia blocked the field goal attempt by the most successful kicker in SEC History, Daniel Carlson. Dawg Nation was in the driver’s seat. They took 3:22 off the clock using a 7-play, 62-yard drive to tack on three points when Rodrigo Blankenship kicked a 35-yard field goal extending their lead 13-7 which ended the third quarter.
The Dawgs Roquan Smith came up with the most important fumble recovery in his life after Lorenzo Carter hit Kerryon Johnson at the Auburn 39-yard. Fromm connected with Terry Godwin for a 7-yard touchdown pass. They converted the two-point conversion, as the Bulldogs were up 21-7 with 13:06 remaining in the fourth quarter. It was time to bring out the spiked pads.
DeAndre Swift drove the spike in the coffin by sprinting 64 yards to the end zone, as the DAWGS had marked their territory with a 28-7 lead. The Red Sea could not wait for the clock to go tick tock.
Jake Fromm contributed another efficient game connecting 16-22 passing attempts for 183 yards and 2 touchdown passes
Nick Chubb finished the game second in SEC all-time rushing with a smile on his face. Winning the SEC Championship was the reason he returned for his senior season. It looked dark after the first game when he and Sony Michel could only produce 48 yards between them. Today, he ran for 77 yards on 13 carries. I asked the question:
Nick, the first time you guys played them, they really shut down the run game. What was the difference today that made you so successful at it?
“Just the preparation coming into the game,” Chubb said. “We kind of had the motivation from last game just not being as successful as we wanted to. We just put it in our minds this offense, like, no one should be able to stop it. We had a great offensive line. We have so many talented backs, and the play calling all came together and worked out for us.
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