No. 1 Georgia outlasts Auburn, 27-20
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No. 1 Georgia outlasts Auburn, 27-20

Brock Bowers
Photo: Tony Walsh/UGAAA

AUBURN, Ala. – In its first road contest of the season, the top-ranked University of Georgia football team came from behind to defeat rival Auburn, 27-20, Saturday afternoon before 88,043 spectators at Jordan-Hare Stadium and a CBS national television audience.

Quarterback Carson Beck led Georgia (5-0, 2-0 SEC) as he finished 23-for-33 for 313 yards and one touchdown. Tight end Brock Bowers led all receivers with eight catches for a career-high 157 yards, while running back Daijun Edwards rushed 19 times for a team-high 76 yards and two touchdowns. Linebacker Smael Mondon, Jr. tied his career high with 11 tackles, including seven solo stops and two tackles for loss, while defensive back Javon Bullard returned from injury for a career-best 10 tackles.

After forcing a three-and-out on Auburn’s (3-2, 0-2 SEC) opening possession, Georgia set up its first drive at its own 32-yard line and was able to reach the Auburn 48 before electing to punt on fourth-and-2. The Tigers worked quickly as quarterback Payton Thorne kept the ball for a 61-yard run to the Georgia 30, followed by a 13-yard rush from running back Jarquez Hunter before the drive eventually stalled, leading to a 27-yard field goal from kicker Alex McPherson.

The ensuing Georgia drive was short-lived as Beck was intercepted by cornerback Jaylin Simpson at the Bulldogs’ 48-yard line, the second pick of the season for the Bulldogs’ starter. Setting up in plus territory, the Tigers moved down the field, including a fourth-and-2 conversion, resulting in a 5-yard touchdown run from Hunter to make the score, 10-0.

The Bulldogs used a mixed attack as they took their time on the following possession, culminating in a 10-yard third-down completion from Beck to wide receiver Rara Thomas. Edwards capped off the drive with a 2-yard score, finishing off an 11-play, 56-yard drive that ran five minutes off the clock. On their next drive, the Bulldogs again rode Edwards to the Tiger red zone before kicker Peyton Woodring connected from 37 yards out, concluding a 10-play, 61-yard sequence.

Nearing the end of the half, Auburn began its drive with a pair of long completions before using its run game to reach the Georgia 12. The Bulldog defense came up with two critical stops, first from Mondon on third down before fellow linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson stopped Hunter on fourth-and-1. Both teams would come up empty on their final drives of the half, with each team’s Australian punters posting kicks of over 50 yards.

Coming out of the locker room, Georgia immediately turned the ball over as tight end Oscar Delp had the ball knocked out by defensive lineman Marcus Harris, giving Auburn possession at the Georgia 32. Following an 18-yard first down completion, reserve quarterback Robby Ashford ran up the middle for a 9-yard touchdown, restoring the Tigers’ lead at 17-10.

Georgia reached midfield on its next drive before a long incompletion intended for wideout Ladd McConkey on third down forced a punt. Auburn then reached the Georgia 42-yard line, but a key breakup by defensive back Daylen Everette stopped the drive and resulted in a punt downed at the Georgia 2.

The Bulldogs answered with a terrific drive, ignited by a 16-yard gain by Edwards on first down, followed by a pair of clutch third down conversions from Beck to Thomas and McConkey. After Beck found Bowers for a 29-yard completion, Edwards closed out the 10-play, 98-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown run, tying the game at 17 heading into the fourth quarter.

Following an Auburn punt, Georgia continued to feed Bowers, finding him for completions of 37 and 28 yards to enter opposing territory. After coming up short on third-and-12, Woodring’s try from 38 yards went through the uprights to put the Bulldogs in front for the first time, 20-17, with under 11 minutes to play. The go-ahead scoring drive tallied 71 yards over seven plays and took over three minutes off the clock. Auburn responded with a 9-play, 51-yard drive finished off by a 42-yard field goal from McPherson, tying the game at 20 at the 6:21 mark.

Needing a score, Georgia again moved downfield on the strength of Bowers, crossing midfield with a 16-yard pass on third down before a 40-yard touchdown pass to the reigning Mackey Award winner. Bowers made the catch at the 25-yard line before evading the Tigers’ secondary for the winning score. On its final drive, Auburn neared midfield before defensive back Malaki Starks picked off Thorne on fourth down to seal the victory.

Georgia returns home next weekend as it plays host to Kentucky (5-0, 2-0 SEC) on Saturday, Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. at Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium. The game will air on ESPN.

POST-GAME NOTES

*Extending The Streaks: With today’s 27-20 win, top-ranked Georgia (5-0, 2-0 SEC) has extended its school record for consecutive victories now to 22. The streak began during the 2021 season (Dec. 31) when the Bulldogs beat #2 Michigan 34-11 in a CFP semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl.

The Bulldogs extended their school record for consecutive regular season wins to 32, which leads all of FBS, and is the second longest active streak in the NCAA behind DIII Mount Union (58 straight). This Georgia streak began during the 2020 season with a 31-24 win over Miss. State. on Nov. 21.

Georgia now has won 21 regular season SEC games in a row dating to a 31-24 win over Miss. State on Nov. 21, 2020. The school record is 23, set during a stretch from 1980-83.

*Tight Contests & Series History: With today’s win, Georgia now holds a 64-56-8 edge in the series history including winning the past seven meetings. It’s the longest streak of success since the record nine-game streak from 1923-31. Today marked the 12th win for the Bulldogs in the Kirby Smart ear when Georgia entered the fourth quarter either tied or trailing late. In 2016, the UGA-AU game was tied 7-all entering the 4th and the Bulldogs won 13-7. The last time Georgia and an opponent was tied entering the 4th quarter that the Bulldogs won came in the overtime Rose Bowl win over No. 2 Oklahoma in the 2017 season. It was 31-all and Georgia won 54-48 in 2OT. Today was only the third in the Smart era that a game was tied at halftime. Georgia is now 2-1 in these games.

*Inside The SEC Numbers: Through two SEC games this year, Georgia’s average margin of victory is 8.5 points. The past two years, Georgia has posted back-to-back 8-0 marks in SEC action with the average margin of victory of 25.5 (2022) and 31.9 (2021).

*Bowers Moving Up In the Bulldog Record Book: Junior TE Brock Bowers had a team-best nine catches for a career-high 157 yards with 1 TD and it covered 40 yards and put Georgia in front for good at 27-20 in the fourth quarter. He has nine career games with 100+ rec. Yards.

He has 23 career TD catches which is third in school history. His 2,237 receiving yards ranks eighth in school history.

*Offensive Summary: Junior QB Carson Beck finished 23-for-33 for 313 yards with one TD and one INT in the win. On the 2nd possession of the game, Beck threw his 2nd INT of the year as AU got it at the UGA48 and the Tigers turned it into a TD and a 10-0 lead. On Georgia’s next possession, Beck directed an 11-play 56-yard drive in 5:11 to trim the deficit to 10-7. After the defense held the Tigers, Georgia’s fourth possession resulted in a game-tying 37-yard field goal by Peyton Woodring culminating a 10-play, 61-yard drive in 3:55.

For the 2nd time this year, Georgia had a 98-yard TD drive (UT-Martin). Today’s covered 10 plays in 4:24 to tie the contest at 17.

On the next possession, Georgia started at the nine and went 71 yards before Woodring made a 38-yard field goal for a 20-17 edge.

Georgia took its first lead with 10:57 left in the contest today (20-17).

The game was tied at 20 with 6:21 left. Then, the Bulldogs went ahead 27-20 with a 75-yard drive on seven plays capped by a Brock Bowers 40-yard catch in 3:29 with 2:52 left in the contest. It gave Bowers a career-high 157 receiving yards and 9th career 100+ yard game.

Senior RB Daijun Edwards had 76 yards on 19 carries and two TDs while sophomore Dillon Bell had 25 rushing yards on four carries.

Georgia’s longest play of the first half was a 41-yard kickoff return by redshirt sophomore Mekhi Mews that helped setup the first TD. He came in averaging 30.8 yards per KOR this season and finished today with three for 80 yards.
Georgia had two turnovers (INT, Fumble) that led to two TDs.

*Red Zone Report: Georgia went 4-for-4 (2TDs, 2FGs) in the Red Zone while AU went 3-for-4 (2TDs, FG, Downs). Coming in today, Georgia was 19-for-22 in the Red Zone with 15 TDs while opponents were 7-for-8 with 6 TDs.

*Defensive Review: AU finished with 307 yards on 63 plays. The Tigers were the first team since LSU (275 yards) in 2018 to rush for at least 200 yards against the Bulldogs as they had 219. The Tigers became the first team this season to score on the Bulldogs in the third quarter, going 32 yards for a TD following a turnover.

With the game tied at 10, Auburn went for a 4th-and-1 at the UGA 12 and was stopped led by junior Jamon Dumas-Johnson.

Leading tacklers: Juniors Smael Mondon tied career high with 11 plus a sack while Javon Bullard had a career-high 9.

Senior Tykee Smith had his first sack of the year and second of his career plus made three tackles including 1.5 TFL.
Redshirt sophomore Xavian Sorey notched his first career sack and had two tackles.

Auburn QB Peyton Thorne had a 61-yard keeper to the UGA 30, the longest rush and play by an opponent this season.
Auburn turned two turnovers into 14 points as those drives covered just 32 and 48 yards.

Sophomore Malaki Starks sealed the victory with his 2nd INT of the year on a 4th-and-9 at the AU 48. He made five tackles.

*Captains, Coin Toss and For Starters: Senior Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint (WR), junior center Sedrick Van Pran (C) plus juniors Jamon Dumas-Johnson (ILB) and Kamari Lassiter (CB) served as the game captains. Georgia won the toss and elected to defer the ball.

Junior Ladd McConkey (WR) saw his first action of the season while junior Javon Bullard (DB) started after missing the past two games. Van Pran made his team-leading 35th career start.

*Honoring #77 Devin Willock: Redshirt sophomore Dylan Fairchild (LG), normally #53, wore #77 today in honor of his late teammate Devin Willock. A different Bulldog offensive lineman will be wearing #77 each game this season.

*Up Next: Top-ranked Georgia (5-0, 2-0 SEC) plays host to Kentucky (5-0, 2-0 SEC) Saturday, Oct. 7 at 7 pm ET (ESPN). Earlier today, the Wildcats posted a 33-14 home victory over No. 22 Florida.

POST-GAME QUOTES

Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening statement… 
“Yeah, a lot of credit goes to Auburn and their atmosphere. I told the television stations afterwards it’s an incredible atmosphere every time we come here to play. They got one of the most loyal fanbases there is. I got a lot of respect for Hugh (Freeze), the job he has done and a great atmosphere to play in. Obviously, we did not play our best game today, but we are a very resilient team. Proud of the way we competed, and we got to continue to get better. That is the most important thing for our team. So lot of things we did wrong, lot of things we did well. We aren’t going to get to where we want to go if we don’t get better, and that is the biggest thing.”

On his postgame message to his team…
“I was proud of them. They are resilient as hell and competed. The leadership of this team has shown twice. You don’t know how many times you are going to be able to do that when you turn the ball over and give people extra possessions. You just can’t do that. Good football teams don’t do that, and good football teams don’t let people run the ball on them for 200 yards. That is one of the things we knew they would do well. I thought they really ran the ball well, and they used the quarterback and rushed the ball on us. We can’t do that.  We have to run the ball better, too. But, proud of the way the guys fought.”

Carson Beck, QB

On the confidence of the team so far…
“It feels good. I would say I am confident. I am confident in our offense. We are going to continue to improve. We are going to go in tomorrow, look back and watch the film. Then go in on Monday and start prepping.”

On the win on the road and the toughness as a team…
“Yes, absolutely. This showcased our toughness and our composure. When the going gets hard, we get harder. We keep pushing and keep going.”

Ladd McConkey, WR

On how the character will be surrounding the team…
“We can definitely play better football. You can see our resilience. We got the job done. A win is a win. We will go back tomorrow and clean it up and fix our mistakes. Anytime you come out with a win on the road in the SEC, Coach Smart is always pumped up about that. We can play better football.”

Malaki Starks, DB

On Carson Beck’s plays today…
“I think Carson [Beck] is really stepping up his game. A lot of people were down on him at first but one thing about this team is we never doubted anything about him. He can go out and do whatever he wants as long as he puts his mind to it.”

Brock Bowers, TE

On the halftime message…
“We just had to take that first punch and come out swinging again.”

On the preparation that led to the win…
“We practice hard during the week. So much preparation goes into it.”

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