AUBURN, Ala. — Perhaps Georgia was due for a game like this one. Maybe we should have seen this coming. We certainly hadn’t seen it before Saturday, as the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs fell to Auburn 40-17 before a raucous crowd at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
It’s cliché to say everything that could have gone wrong did, but that was the truth here. One of the least-penalized teams in the SEC, Georgia exceeded its season average for penalty yards (53.4) in the first half and was flagged for 4 personal fouls, most of them killers. Able to run on everybody, the Bulldogs couldn’t run a lick on these guys. They muffed punts and missed field goals. Jake Fromm missed open receivers, his receivers dropped passes and Fromm was sacked — a bunch.
Add it all up and Georgia (9-1, 6-1 SEC) went from not trailing in a game since Week 2 to getting blown out in Week 11.
The only good news is it doesn’t necessarily spell gloom for the Bulldogs’ season. They’re still holding a ticket to the SEC Championship Game. If they can win out against Kentucky and Georgia Tech, then beat whomever they meet in the SEC title game — it could be Alabama or Auburn — then the Bulldogs are still in the College Football Playoff.
But Georgia looked anything but like a championship team on Saturday. Give No. 10-ranked Auburn (8-2, 6-1) credit for much of that. The Bulldogs were held to a season-low rushing total (46 yards) and likewise couldn’t keep Fromm upright long enough to complete many passes. The freshman quarterback was sacked 4 times and pressured pretty much throughout.
Still, Georgia did a lot to hurt itself. Trailing 9-7 in the second quarter, the Bulldogs forced a three-and-out and were poised to take over on a short field. Instead, D’Andre Walker was flagged for a personal foul for leaping in his attempt to block the punt. Three plays later, Auburn scored on a 43-yard touchdown pass to Darius Slayton.
Leading 7-6 midway through the second quarter, a late hit out of bounds by Malkom Parrish set up Auburn’s go-ahead field goal. The Bulldogs hadn’t trailed since the Notre Dame game on Sept. 9 before that.
Georgia stopped Auburn by virtue of video review, then subsequently gave it right back when Mecole Hardman muffed a fair catch on the punt return at the Bulldogs’ 23 to start the third quarter. Auburn scored four plays later. Having given up 6 points all season in the third quarter, they allowed 14 on Saturday.
It was that kind of night for Georgia. Most disappointing was the Bulldogs’ disposition and body language late in the game. The fight and energy that has been apparent all season was missing after Georgia got down 3 scores in the third quarter. The Bulldogs wouldn’t threaten again. A 14-yard TD pass with 2:19 to play was no consolation.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, a long and tortured victim of Georgia’s recent dominance in the series, didn’t win over any UGA fans late in the game. He called a throw-back screen pass for Kerryon Johnson, who turned it into a 55-yard touchdown with 6:13 left and the outcome long decided.