Saturday, October 9, 2021

Mailman Delivers On The Plains

UGA Sports Communications

The second-ranked Dawgs traveled down to the plains of Auburn and left with a 34-10 victory over the 18th-ranked Tigers in front of 87,451 fans at Jordan-Hare Stadium and a CBS television audience.

The Dawgs' victory was their fifth straight over the Tigers and gave them a 62-56-8 all-time advantage in the 126th rendition of the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry. Georgia has prevailed in 10 of their last 12 meetings with Auburn.

Georgia (6-0, 4-0 SEC) tallied 432 yards of offense: 231 passing and 201 rushing. Senior quarterback Stetson Bennet went 14-for-21 with 231 yards and two touchdowns, while junior tailback Zamir White led the team with 80 yards rushing on 18 carries. Bennett’s go-to receiver was freshman Ladd McConkey, who tallied career-best five catches for 135 yards, and a touchdown.

The Dawgs defense held Auburn (4-2, 1-1 SEC) to 318 total yards, 46 rushing and 272 passing. Georgia also racked up five tackles for loss, four sacks, and an interception. Redshirt sophomore Dan Jackson led all tacklers with six stops, five solo, while a slew of Dawgs totaled five tackles.

“What a tough environment to play in,” said coach Kirby Smart. “I give a lot of credit to Auburn and their fans. They created an electric environment. For a lot of our players, probably over 50 percent or more, they have never played in a road environment. Two of our DNA traits are composure and toughness, and I thought that has never been more evident than it was today. Composure and toughness. The men in that locker room never doubt and never questioned each other.”

“Stetson played a hell of a game. He made plays with his feet. If you go back to that game, there are one, two, three, four really big plays in the game that he made with his athleticism. That’s a dynamic that he brings. it’s forces teams to defend us in other ways... I don’t think people give him enough credit for that. This was his first opportunity to come into this environment and play Georgia brand football. He made a lot of plays. He hit the guys who were open and helped us in the second half by doing a lot of run checks. I’m really proud of the way Stetson has led the team,” Smart said.

Georgia won the coin toss and deferred the choice to the second half. The Tigers came out fast covering 68 yards on 17 plays, and Auburn’s Anders Carlson hit a 24-yard field goal to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead. This marked the first time Georgia has trailed this season, as well as the first points the Georgia defense has given up on the opening drive. After a quick three-and-out by the offense, junior linebacker Nakobe Dean stepped up and intercepted Bo Nix in Auburn territory. Six plays later junior placekicker Jack Podlesny hit a 23-yard field to tie things up at 3-3.

The defense settled down and forced the Tigers to a three-and-out. Georgia responded with a touchdown on a nine-play 70-yard drive that was sparked by a 33-yard catch by freshman tight end Brock Bowers. Auburn safety Smoke Monday was ejected for a targeting call in the red zone, and one play later White went over the top for the touchdown. Note, Monday was also ejected in the first half of last year’s game in Athens.

On the next Georgia drive, Bennett unloaded on a pass and hit a wide-open McConkey for a 45-yard gain. Three plays later, Bennett found freshman receiver AD Mitchell for a three-yard touchdown to give the Dawgs a 17-3 lead.

With just under two minutes left, Auburn drove the ball down the field to the Georgia seven-yard line. The Tigers drew the Dawgs offsides and opted to bring the offense back out. The ensuing pass was broken up in the end zone by senior defensive back Latavious Brini resulting in a turnover on downs and a 17-3 halftime lead.

Georgia opened the second half with a 10-play drive but failed to score when Podlesny’s 43-yard kick hit the upright. The Dawg defense forced Auburn to turn the ball over on downs, for the second time of the night. On the next play from scrimmage, Bennett hit McConkey for a 66-yard bomb, giving Georgia a 24-3 lead.

Auburn responded with a seven-play, 78-yard drive that ended with a six-yard touchdown run by Tank Bigsby. This marked only the second touchdown given up by the Georgia defense this season — the first rushing. The third quarter concluded with the Dawgs up 24-7 and in scoring position.

The Dawgs tacked on 10 more points on a 21-yard field goal and a 10-yard rushing touchdown by White en route to a 34-10 victory.

“Any time you come over here and play this team it’s a war,” said Bennett. “I think our offensive line and defensive line won the battle at the line of scrimmage. It was so much fun. I had a blast.”

“I love going on the road,” said senior defensive lineman Jordan Davis. “Auburn is always a great place to play. We just had that juice. Auburn gave us their best shot, but you know the defense, we stuck to our training… We have a mindset on defense: Nobody gets in our end zone. We preach it every week. Auburn caught us slipping for one touchdown with Tank Bigsby. Hats off to them, but we hold ourselves to a high standard. When we get in that red zone... The offense wants to score, so we want to hold them to zero points or at least a field goal. We don’t want them to get a touchdown. That is our mindset on defense.”

Next up, Georgia returns to Athens to host No. 16 Kentucky (5-0, 3-0 SEC) next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium. The game will broadcast on CBS.

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