Georgia Overcomes Early Struggles vs. Auburn to Stay on Track for Alabama Showdown

The Bulldogs aren't perfect, but they've built a running game that can cover up other flaws.
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With two straight red zone stops early, it looked like No. 24 Auburn might rain on No. 5 Georgia's playoff parade the way it did a year ago at Jordan-Hare Stadium. But with a 27–10 win on Saturday night in Athens, the Bulldogs stayed on the heels of the primary College Football Playoff contenders and once again relied on their running game to escape a closer than expected game.

Sophomore running back D'Andre Swift dominated for the third straight game, taking the Bulldog offense to another level. He recorded a career-high 186 yards on 17 carries with one touchdown, including a 77-yard touchdown run that ensured there would be no frantic rally from the visitors.

It was the third straight game that Swift put things out of reach with a long second-half touchdown run. He’s also now the first Georgia player with multiple touchdown runs of at least 75 yards in a season since Herschel Walker in 1980.

In the SEC East–clinching win over Kentucky last week, Swift finished with 156 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries, adding 18 receiving yards. In the Florida win the week before, Swift recorded his first 100-yard rushing game of the year while also adding a touchdown. On Saturday night, Swift contributed to a Georgia offense that outrushed Auburn’s ground-bound attack 303–102.

The Bulldogs’ struggles to convert in the red zone continued, but they ultimately did not cost them. After Georgia was forced to settle for a short field goal on a 10-play, 80-yard opening drive, Auburn scored on a trick play to take a 7–3 lead. On Georgia’s second possession, quarterback Jake Fromm led the Bulldogs back within striking distance, but on a third-and-goal from Auburn’s nine-yard line, the Tigers sacked Fromm to put a stop to the drive—only to have defensive lineman Big Kat Bryant called for targeting, which gave the Bulldogs a new set of downs at Auburn’s four-yard line, Georgia once again had to settle for another field goal.

Between possessions, Fromm went to talk to offensive line coach Sam Pittman and got on his knees to talk to his teammates to try and figure out a solution.

The conversation paid off on the third drive of the night, and Georgia took a 13–10 lead it would not relinquish on a 14-yard pass from Fromm to Tyler Simmons with 2:47 left in the half.

It was all Bulldogs from there. Facing a fourth-and-three with less than a minute to go in the first half, Fromm threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Terry Goodwin to give the Bulldogs a 20–10 lead into the half and swing the momentum toward the red and black sideline for good.

With regular season games against Massachusetts and Georgia Tech plus the SEC title game against No. 1 Alabama, Georgia needs to win out to even be considered for the playoff. The Crimson Tide, Clemson and Notre Dame sit atop the playoff rankings unbeaten, and No. 4 Michigan has only one loss to the Irish. Georgia is close behind in the fifth spot, with its lone loss to LSU. No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 8 Ohio State, No. 9 West Virginia and No. 10 Washington State are the other one-loss teams the Bulldogs would have to win a résumé battle with if one of those unbeaten teams dropped in the final weeks, and a win over the Crimson Tide would be a pretty convincing trump card.