ATHENS — Georgia’s short-yardage struggles continued against Auburn, but the Bulldogs were able to overcome those issues en route to the victory.
Georgia (9-1, 7-1) beat the Tigers 27-10 on Saturday night, taking another step toward its Dec. 1 SEC Championship showdown with Alabama and keeping its College Football Playoff hopes alive.
The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs close the regular season with home games against UMass next Saturday at 4 p.m. and Georgia Tech on Nov. 24 at noon.
Neither team figures to offer up the type of defensive front that can challenge Georgia like SEC competition, but the short-yardage situations are something Kirby Smart will continue to work on.
Getting tough yards against quality competition has been an issue for the Bulldogs all season, and it was accentuated against Florida when Georgia was stopped six times at the Gators’ 1-yard line.
Smart took responsibility after the loss at Florida and said the problem would be fixed.
“To have that many snaps and not get in falls right here with me … We’ve got to practice goal line more,” Smart said. “We’ll definitely have to get it fixed.”
The Bulldogs’ offense stalled out inside the Kentucky 5-yard line last week, too.
But Saturday night, just like against the Gators and the Wildcats, Georgia was forced to overcome its inability to get the tough yards on the ground.
The Bulldogs came from behind against Auburn after their first two drives got inside the Auburn 10-yard line before they stalled out and resulted in field goals.
Georgia set up first-and-goal from the 2-yard in the first quarter and went to a shotgun set. A handoff to Elijah Holyfield lost 2 yards.
Freshman quarterback Justin Fields entered on second-and-goal at the 4, but rather than allow the agile 6-foot-3, 230-pounder to run the ball, the Bulldogs called for a pass play.
Fields was sacked for a 4-yard loss by Auburn’s Deshaun Davis after an abbreviated scramble.
Facing a third-and-goal at the 8, starting quarterback Jake Fromm overthrew tight end Isaac Nauta while under pressure.
Georgia was trailing 7-3 when it faced a third-and-1 at the Auburn 13 on the first play of the second quarter, and Fields came into the game again.
This time, the Bulldogs let Fields run, and the freshman responded with a 3-yard run to pick up the first down.
Fromm re-entered the game, and three plays later it appeared the drive would stall at the 10 before a targeting call gave Georgia a first-and-goal at the Auburn 4.
Fields came back on the field, but this time he handed off to D’Andre Swift for a 3-yard gain, and it appeared the Bulldogs were a play away from punching in it at the Tigers’ 1.
A motion penalty on redshirt freshman right tackle Isaiah Wilson, however, backed the Bulldogs up to the 6.
On second-and-goal from the 6, Fields handed off to Swift again for another 3-yard gain. Swift had a great night overall, racking up 186 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. But in this instance, he was unable to find the end zone.
Georgia re-inserted Fromm on third-and-goal from the 3. Fromm was unable to find any open receivers, and he scrambled before being stopped at the 2-yard line, resulting in another field goal that cut Auburn’s lead to 7-6.
The Bulldogs finally solved their short-yardage problem against the Tigers halfway through the second quarter.
Georgia faced a third-and-1 at the 50 when it shifted into the so-called “Wild Dawg” formation, moving Fromm out into the slot and Swift behind center in the shotgun.
Swift took the direct snap and ran 15 yards for the first down. Five plays later, Fromm hit Tyler Simmons for a 14-yard touchdown to put the Bulldogs up 13-10.
Georgia led the rest of the night, but another drive stalled inside the 10 when Fields was sacked after the team had first-and-goal inside the 5.