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Ashway: You have to give the Bulldogs credit
Denton Ashway
DENTON ASHWAY

Arthur Gustavo Malzahn didn’t sugarcoat his analysis of Georgia’s 27-6 dismantling of his Auburn football team Saturday night in Athens.

“Give Georgia credit,” Malzahn said, opening his post-game press conference. “A very good football team. They won the line of scrimmage. We really got whipped on all three phases. We got outcoached.”

When Georgia and Auburn get together, it’s generally a brutal, physical rumble that lasts the full 60 minutes. And with both teams ranked among the top seven teams in the nation, that’s exactly what the country awaited.

What we got was a dominating performance from a dedicated Georgia team that had the game wrapped up by the half.

Georgia’s offense, the unit that spent the first 20 minutes of last week’s opener searching for a clue, suddenly had all the answers.

After gaining 121 yards rushing against Arkansas, Georgia gained 130 against Auburn. In the first half! The workhorse, Zamir White, put in a full night’s work by halftime: 17 carries for 76 yards and two touchdowns.

Anders Carlson got Auburn on the scoreboard with a 20-yard field goal 1:38 before halftime. It cut Georgia’s lead to 24-3. Georgia dominated the first half statistics in the same fashion.

The Dawgs led in total yardage, 288 to 81; first downs, 15 to 5; time of possession, 18:17 to 11:43. Georgia ran the ball 24 times for those 130 yards. Auburn ran 11 times for 27.

Georgia, with a former walk-on directing its attack, gained 158 yards passing. Auburn, led by a former five-star recruit and SEC Freshman of the Year, amassed 54.

Malzahn again: “You have to give them credit. They got after us up front. They averaged seven yards on first down, and we averaged two. I think we had two third-down conversions. Once again, we just had trouble getting off the field.”

On Georgia’s second possession, Stetson Bennett converted a 3rd-and-10 by rolling out of the pocket, barely eluding two rushers, and throwing a 17-yard strike down the sideline to Kearis Jackson. Three plays later, Bennett completed a 10-yard pass to White on third-and-7. White scored from the one standing up.

Next possession, Bennett hit Jackson again, this time for 16 yards on third-and- 2. Georgia then converted a field goal.

But Bennett was just warming up. He got Georgia’s next drive rolling with a 17-yard pass to Jackson on third-and-4. He concluded it with an almost nonchalant fling to George Pickens for a 21-yard touchdown. The play came on third-and- 9.

At this point, Bennett was 5-of-7 for 81 yards on third down!

At 23:34 into the game, Georgia led, 24-0. After its opening drive was derailed by a pair of incompletions and a pair of false starts, Georgia’s offense was unstoppable: 10 plays, 43 yards, touchdown; 11 plays, 59 yards, field goal; 11 plays, 84 yards, touchdown; and 6 plays, 72 yards, touchdown. Total time of possession: 15:45.

Malzahn again: “The big stat to me is the rushing yards. We only rushed 31 yards, and then we got in a situation, got behind, and had to throw it a lot. Had trouble protecting. Give them credit. Our guys competed in the second half, but we didn’t get it done.”

Down 21 at the half, Auburn could only post another field goal. This despite tossing their entire playbook at Georgia, including some plays that looked as though they had been drawn up in the dirt in the backyard.

“Anytime you find yourself down 21 points that quickly in a game is not a good way to start,” quarterback Bo Nix said at this post-game press conference. “We just tried to come out in the second half and throw all our bullets at them. We threw the ball around a little bit. We had successful drives, and then we just stalled.”

Auburn had three possessions in the second half. The first two each lasted 15 plays and resulted in a field goal and interception. The third ended with a punt after 8 plays.

Georgia’s second half conjured up memories of Vince Dooley sitting on a lead with Erk Russell’s defense holding the fort: 10 plays, 67 yards, field goal; 12 plays, 50 yards, missed field goal; 7 plays, 27 yards, game. Bennett only threw 6 passes, completing 5 for 82 yards, but managed the game beautifully.

“Coming into the game, we didn’t know a whole lot about him,” Auburn safety Jamien Sherwood told uga.rivals.com. “So, we were just going to have to respect him and play football against him. To be a walk-on and play in the SEC and make plays like that, I congratulate him. He played a great game.”

Malzahn concurred. “I thought he played well. They had the running game, and when you have the running game going, the play action follows. We had trouble getting pressure on him. He did a good job directing his offense, throwing the ball down the field.”

You have to give him credit.