ATHENS — Georgia’s defense showed Auburn it’s pretty good, too, and Rodrigo Blankenship made another long field goal as the Bulldogs pulled off a 13-7 upset win over the Tigers Saturday night at Sanford Stadium.
Auburn, the SEC’s leading offense at 500 yards per game, had only 32 yards and no first downs in the second half. The Tigers finished with just 164 total yards. Auburn, ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press poll and No. 9 in the College Football Playoff rankings, had averaged 43 points per game over its last five contests.
The win was third straight victory in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry for Georgia (6-4, 4-4 SEC) and ninth in the last 11 games against Auburn (7-3, 5-2). It continued a 50-year trend of the Bulldogs winning in years ending in “6.”
— SEC (@SEC) November 13, 2016
The last three of those were major upsets. The Tigers haven’t won in Athens since 2005.
Blankenship, the hero of last week’s win over Kentucky with four field goals and a game-winner, got another game-winner on a 45-yard field goal with 13:44 still remaining away. A 14-play drive that consumed 6:48 later in the quarter resulted in a 21-yard Blankenship field goal and helped run out the clock.
Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason went 20-for-31 with 208 yards passing. More importantly, he helped the Bulldogs convert seven third downs, including two huge ones on the final drive of the game, and Nick Chubb looked like his old self with 98 hard-earned rushing yards.
Here’s how it broke down:
- Star(s) of game: Georgia’s defense held the SEC’s leading offense (500 ypg) to just 164 total and 32 in the second half.
- Turning point: Maurice “Mo” Smith read the eyes of Auburn quarterback Sean White and stepped in front of wide receiver Will Hastings to intercept a pass. Dodging one tackler and following blockers, Smith took the ball back 34 yards for a touchdown. The score came just 17 seconds into the second half and resulted in a 7-7 tie.
- Questions answered: It was unclear going in whether Georgia defensive tackle DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle, Georgia linebacker Natrez Patrick or Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway would play in Saturday’s game. Well, none of them did. Pettway’s absence was a particularly big deal for the Tigers. Pettway, a 6-foot, 240-pound sophomore, led the SEC with 1,106 yards
- Questions looming: What was that official thinking when he didn’t throw a flag for interference on Auburn’s Javaris Davis in the first quarter? Georgia freshman Riley Ridley had Davis beat deep on third down despite Davis holding him by the arm halfway down the field on his route. Then, when Eason’s pass began its descent toward Ridley, Davis fell onto Ridley’s feet, tripping the wideout. No flag.
- Statistically speaking: Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship made a 45-yard field goal to give the Bulldogs a 10-7 lead with 13:44 remaining in the game. It was the 10th consecutive made kick by the redshirt freshman walkon from Marietta, who took over for William Ham in the third game of the season. He missed his first try against Ole Miss but had made every one since, including the game-winner and three others last week against Kentucky.
- What it means: This win salvaged what to date had been a lost season for the Bulldogs in their first year under Kirby Smart. They got the signature win that had been eluding them and recorded their first SEC home win this season. More importantly, dozens of major recruits, many of them considering both Georgia and Auburn, were in attendance.
- What Kirby Smart said: “That was more than team-wide, it was university-wide and fan-wide. The crowd noise at the end impacted the game. With less than two minutes, they could not convert and that was helped by the noise. These kids don’t have any quit in them. They fight.”