Fromm lifts No. 6 Georgia to SEC title with rout of Auburn
ATLANTA - Kirby Smart had just one message for sixth-ranked Georgia before Saturday’s SEC Championship Game -- go out and compete.
They did that and more, blowing past No. 2 Auburn 28-7 and presumably clinching a spot in the four-team playoff. The field will be announced Sunday afternoon.
The conference title is the first for Georgia (12-1) since 2005 and gives the Bulldogs, who were trounced 40-17 by Auburn three weeks ago, a shot at greater glory.
Should Smart’s team win its semifinal on New Year’s Day, the team would have a chance to play one more game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, this time for a national title.
“We stressed those two words the entire week. We tried to keep it really simple: composure and physicality,” Smart said. “It was a physical, tough game. We kept our composure for the most part. We had some moments in there. Nothing worth having comes easy in this game.”
This one was definitely sweet.
”It’s just crazy, man. Just unbelievable experience,“ Georgia running back Nick Chubb said. ”This is why the guys came back for it.
“I remember just talking to the senior class, I mean, back at camp, we’d be in the room with a little private meeting, and we just talked about what we want to do, and it all paid off. This moment right here, this is what we worked for.”
Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm led the Bulldogs, completing 16 of 22 passes for 183 yards and two scores. Freshman D‘Andre Swift led all rushers with seven carries for 88 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown.
Rodrigo Blankenship converted two field goals to account for Georgia’s other six points.
Auburn scored the game’s first touchdown on a 6-yard pass to Nate Craig-Myers in the first quarter but was held to 259 yards in the game.
With Georgia leading 10-7 after a hard-fought first half, Auburn maneuvered into position for a 30-yard game-tying field goal attempt by Daniel Carlson, only to have the kick blocked by seldom-used defensive lineman DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle.
That was just the beginning of Georgia’s second-half surge.
After a 35-yard field goal by Blankenship pushed the lead to six, Georgia’s defense did it again. Lorenzo Carter stripped Kerryon Johnson of the ball, which Roquan Smith picked up and returned to the Tigers’ 39.
Four plays later, Fromm threw his second touchdown pass -- a 7-yarder to Terry Godwin. A subsequent two-point conversion -- also to Godwin -- pushed the lead to 21-7 and put the pro-Bulldog crowd of 76,534 into a frenzy.
”Obviously, it was a tough loss,“ Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. ”We got off to a tough start. Then we had some uncharacteristic things happen.
“We played really good football the second half of the season. We had a blocked field goal and two turnovers there that were really tough.”
Georgia wasn’t done.
After the Bulldogs stopped the Tigers (10-3) on their next possession, Swift picked up a huge block from Javon Wims to rip off a 64-yard touchdown run, extending the margin to 28-7.
Defensively, Georgia held Jarrett Stidham to 16-of-32 passing for 145 yards.
“They did a great job of bringing a lot of different looks, switching up the coverages, blitzes, fronts, I mean, everything. They did a great job tonight of switching it up and causing a little bit of havoc,” Stidham said. “It is what it is. We just didn’t execute when we should have.”
The first half was certainly interesting.
After Auburn jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead on a 6-yard pass from Stidham to Craig-Myers, it looked like the Tigers were about to blow the game open when they set themselves up at the Bulldogs’ 14-yard line, the key play a 26-yard pass to Eli Stove.
However, that’s when outside linebacker Davin Bellamy made a huge play, sacking Stidham and forcing a fumble that Smith recovered.
This time, Georgia’s offense -- which struggled early -- found its rhythm.
A 16-yard run by Chubb and a 34-yard long pass across the middle from Fromm to Mecole Hardman set up a 2-yard toss to a wide-open Isaac Nauta to tie the score.
Penalties kept the Bulldogs doing even more damage.
After forcing a quick three-and-out following Nauta’s short catch, Georgia quickly marched down the field, getting the football right to the edge of the end zone, before a collision in the backfield dropped Chubb for a 2-yard loss.
On the next play, Fromm found Godwin all by himself for an apparent 3-yard touchdown, only to have Wims -- who was blocking on the play -- called for an offensive pass interference. That forced Georgia to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Blankenship, giving the Bulldogs a 10-7 lead that they carried into the locker room.
”It’s special. I’ll tell you what’s special to me -- bringing it back to my alma mater is great,“ Smart said. ”I was very fortunate to get a coach on the team that won one in 2001. But to see Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Roquan Smith, hugging on the stage in tears because they care about each other so much.
“That’s why I do this. It’s because of these guys. It’s great to bring it back to Georgia, and the Bulldog Nation is certainly starved, but these young men deserve a ton of credit.”
NOTES: Georgia RB Nick Chubb, with 77 yards, moved into second place on the SEC’s careere rushing list with 4,599. ... Auburn’s seven points was its second fewest this year after scoring six against Clemson earlier this year. ... The Bulldogs played without FB Christian Payne, who suffered an undisclosed injury against Georgia Tech.