In a defensive showdown, Georgia upset #9 Auburn 13-7 in Athens this past Saturday as first year head coach Kirby Smart got a signature win. The Dawgs persevered through offensive struggles and found a way to take down Auburn this weekend. The game’s defining play was a 34 yard interception return for a touchdown by Georgia defensive back Maurice Smith. Smith, a graduate transfer from Alabama, has been a huge addition to the Dawgs this season and made his presence known Saturday. As both offenses struggled to put points on the board, Smith’s touchdown was the difference in the game.
Smith, on his interception, stated, “This makes it definitely worth while. It’s a blessing. For me to be a part of this team and be able to help the team, I just love it.”
Redshirt freshman kicker Rodrigo Blankenship was also key in the Dawgs win. Blankenship, who has quickly became a phenomenon with the fans, was 2/3 on field goal attempts, making a 45 yard attempt while his only miss was from 50 yards. His two second half field goals proved to be the difference in the game, as they helped Georgia pull away from a tied game. Whenever the Marietta native came on for an attempt, the entire stadium would chant “Rod-Ri-Go!”, and the crowd went crazy when he made his attempts.
While Georgia’s offense didn’t put a ton of points on the board, they still had some success moving the ball. Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason played a great game, completing 20/31 of his attempts for 208 yards. Eason’s favorite targets on the day were true freshmen Riley Ridley and Isaac Nauta. The duo had 3 receptions each for a combined 132 yards, with most of the receptions being on key third downs. Ridley hauled in a 57 yard pass midway through the first quarter to put the Dawgs in the red zone. However, two plays later, wide receiver Terry Godwin threw an interception on a trick play. Junior running back Nick Chubb had a strong game as well, rushing 23 times for 101 yards.
Chubb, discussing the running game, stated, “We told ourselves a few weeks ago we were going to run the ball and we were going to be successful. Since then, we’ve been running the ball very well.”
As the offense only scored 6 points, Georgia’s defense was what won them this football game. Auburn, who was without injured star running back Kamryn Pettway, was held to just 18 rushing yards. Going into the game Saturday, Auburn was ranked 7th in the nation in rushing, averaging 282 rushing yards per game. While Pettway being out certainly hurt the Tigers, it is evident that Georgia’s defense did a great job the entire night. Sophomore quarterback Sean White was also held in check, as he completed just 6/20 completions for 27 yards. Georgia’s defense was led by sophomores Roquan Smith (7 tackles) and Jonathan Ledbetter (5 tackles,sack) and junior Reggie Carter (4 tackles, sack, tackle for loss). Since the offense struggled to score, it was key for the Dawgs’ defense to be stellar, and they definitely pulled through.
While Georgia was eliminated from SEC Championship contention last week, the win over Auburn was a huge step for the Dawgs under first year head coach Kirby Smart. While Georgia has lost a couple of key games this season, this past weekend’s victory made more fans believe in Coach Smart. The Dawgs don’t have a ton left to compete for this season, but if they can carry the momentum from this win through the end of the season, it could really help the young team build some confidence going into next season.