Saturday, December 2, 2017

Dawgs Win The One That Counted

UGA Sports Communications

The sixth-ranked Dawgs claimed their first SEC Championship since 2005 and the 13th in program history with a 28-7 victory over the second-ranked Auburn Tigers at Mercedez-Benz Stadium in front of a capacity-crowd of 76,534.

Georgia claims the 2017 SEC title in the second year of the head coach Kirby Smart era, improving to 12-1 on the season, and 8-1 in the conference. Auburn fell to 10-3, and 7-2 in the SEC. Georgia’s 13 SEC titles is tied for second most in league history as Alabama has 26 and Tennessee also has 13.

The Georgia defense held Auburn scoreless after just one touchdown in the Tigers’ opening drive. Auburn was blanked for the remainder of the game, with senior linebacker Roquan Smith, the SEC Championship MVP, collecting a career-high 13 stops (10 solo) with one sack, two tackles for lost yardage and two fumble recoveries.

The Dawg offense totaled 421 yards, including 238 on the ground. Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm completed 16-of-22 passes for 183, using six different Georgia receivers. Senior running back Nick Chubb moved up to second in SEC history behind Herschel Walker with 77 rushing yards on 33 carries on the night.

“The seniors mean everything to this program,” Smart said. “The leadership that Nick Chubb and Sony Michel and the rest of these seniors have provided for us is impeccable. I mean this is an awesome win for our program, our university and a lot of people in the state of Georgia.”

With 13:04 remaining in the second quarter, senior linebacker Davin Bellamy disrupted the Auburn offense on the 16-yard line, forcing the ball out of sophomore quarterback Jarrett Stidham’s hands. Smith recovered the fumble, setting up a 7-play, 83-yard Georgia scoring drive.

The following play, Chubb ran for 16 yards to position the Dawgs on its own 32-yard line. On 3rd-and-8, Fromm completed back-to-back completions to sophomore wide receiver Mecole Hardman for respective 13 and 34 yard passes. Poised on the Auburn 2-yard line, Fromm faked a pitch to the backfield and connected with sophomore tight end Isaac Nauta in the end zone to knot the game at seven.

The Georgia defense capitalized on the scoring drive, forcing Auburn to punt after three plays. Senior running back Sony Michel controlled the next offensive possession, combining an 18-yard rush with a 32-yard pass from Fromm to place Georgia on the Auburn 14-yard line. Junior Rodrigo Blankenship capped the drive with a 27-yard field goal for the 10-7 Georgia edge.

With 49 seconds remaining in the second quarter, the Auburn offense faced third-and-five on Georgia’s 38-yard line. Smith sacked Stidham for a loss of 11 yards, sending the Tigers back to midfield to close out the half at 10-7.

In the third quarter, the Georgia defense interrupted a second Auburn drive in the red zone, as junior defensive tackle DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle extended at the line of scrimmage to block a Daniel Carlson 31-yard field goal.

On the next Tiger possession, the Georgia defense held Auburn to three-straight incompletions. The stop set up a 7-play, 62-yard drive for the Georgia offense, highlighted by a 31-yard completion from Fromm to junior wide receiver Terry Godwin and a 20-yard carry from Chubb. Blankenship lengthened the Georgia lead to six with a 35-yard field goal.

Senior linebacker Lorenzo Carter discontinued Auburn’s next drive at its own 47 yard-line, knocking the ball out of junior running back Kerryon Johnson’s grasp. Smith picked it up and returned it to Auburn’s 39-yard line. It took four plays, including a 17-yard Fromm run and a 7-yard touchdown pass, for Georgia’s second touchdown of the night.

Godwin followed up the touchdown to secure the two-point play, taking on sophomore defensive back Javaris Davis one-on-one in the end zone and reining in the 7-yard pass from Fromm.

The Georgia defense forced another Auburn punt, and freshman running back D’Andre "The Philly Flash" Swift exploded for a 64-yard carry, the longest Georgia rush in an SEC championship game. The Blankenship kick secured the 28-7 lead.​

Up next, Georgia will be aiming to make its first appearance in the College Football Playoff, playing in either the Sugar Bowl or Rose Bowl as they play host to the CFP semifinals. Georgia last played in the Sugar Bowl in 2008, a 41-10 win over Hawaii and has only played in the Rose Bowl once, in 1943, a 9-0 win over UCLA.​

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