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Curtis Compton / AJC
The Georgia football defense held firm in the end, but not before Auburn made a run at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

3 Georgia football takeaways from 21-14 win over Auburn

AUBURN, Ala. — Georgia was in complete control at Auburn through three quarters, up 21-0 and holding an edge in first downs (16-12), total yardage (249-171) and time of possession (22:47-22:13).

The fourth quarter flipped, however, and by the end of the night it was all the Bulldogs could do to hold on for a 21-14 victory.

The Georgia defense held Auburn on downs at the UGA 34 and then sacked QB Bo Nix at the Tigers’ 22 to extinguish an offense that opened the final quarter with TD drives of 12 plays for 75 yards, and 5 plays for 57 yards.

They just got hot, they got in rhythm,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “It wasn’t like we went conservative, we didn’t call different calls, we didn’t bend but don’t break. They hit some plays. They hit tempo, I thought Bo got a little more confident.

“We had a couple of busts, and when you combine those things, guys get hot.”

Indeed, after running 56 plays through the first three quarters, Auburn ran 30 in the fourth quarter alone.

The Georgia offense was a factor, as it went completely dead in the fourth quarter.

While Auburn was running 30 plays for 158 yards in the fourth quarter, UGA ran 12 plays for 2 yards with three straight three-and-out series before running out the clock on the final series.

Smart noted Auburn ran 86 plays in the game — the most any opponent has managed against any of his Georgia teams.

“We’re a tired football team,” Smart said. “That’s the old Auburn with the tempo and you play all those snaps and for us, when we’re really efficient on third down, offensively and defensively, we don’t play all those snaps.

“Some of that is our own fault (because) we didn’t get off the field on third down, we let drives keep going ….  you can’t play 86 snaps on defense and be successful.”

The Bulldogs are limping to the finish line with Texas A&M on deck at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Sanford Stadium. Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s win at Auburn.

A win is a win

Georgia had plenty of adversity to overcome to get the victory, most notably go-to receiver Lawrence Cager exiting the game early and offensive linemen Cade Mays and Ben Cleveland getting shuffled out on account of injuries.

The Bulldogs offensive skill player development has been lacking compared with that on the defense, particularly at receiver where players with fast track times and strong recruiting rankings apparently don’t know how to get open or come back for the football.

But, a win is a win, and quarterback Jake Fromm swears this offense is close to “clicking.” And when Fromm says “this offense,” he means him and his receivers, because the offensive line and running backs are at a championship level.

Bend but don’t break

No one likes hearing their defense characterized in that manner, but that’s exactly what Georgia has been doing in the best of ways.

The Bulldogs haven’t allowed a play of 30 yards or longer since the 20-17 overtime loss to South Carolina, when Gamecocks receiver Bryant Edwards had a 46-yard TD catch in the opening quarter. That’s 19 quarters of bend but don’t break, but also, 19 quarters with just one interception. It’s fair to say Kirby Smart is as conservative with his secondary as he is with his offensive philosophy.

Conservative doesn’t necessarily translate to bad when you have an advantage in talent. Many championships have been won in that fashion, as Georgia has proven if it doesn’t beat itself (0-4 turnover differentials vs. SC), the Bulldogs are hard to defeat.

Final chapter

Smart doesn’t paint rainbows with media or his football team, and there’s a cruel reality that could be waiting for these Bulldogs after all they’ve been through if they don’t win the next three football games.

Smart shared on his radio show the message he has for a group of players that have fought, scrapped and survived through 10 weeks of a brutal SEC football season that included a loaded schedule.

You’re going to be measured by your last outing,” Smart said he told his players.

“No matter what they’ve done, they’ll be judged by how they do this Saturday — the standard is to be at your best when your best is needed.”

Five of the last six teams Georgia played were coming off a bye week, leading to well-prepared schemes and rested opponents.

That takes a toll, collectively if nothing else, and now it’s a matter of how much the Bulldogs have left in reserve against a big-game hunter coach and a Texas A&M team looking for a marquee win to hang their 2019 season on.

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