With the way Saturday's game against Auburn started, one had to wonder if Georgia was about to be run out of its own stadium by halftime.
The visiting Tigers, which came in leading the SEC in total offense, were having absolutely no trouble knifing through the Bulldogs' defense in racing to a 14-0 lead.
But just when it seemed the game was about to get completely out of hand, the Bulldog defense stymied the Tigers, limiting Auburn's offense to a lone third-quarter field the rest of the way.
Only a 99-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter by Demond Washington made the final 31-24 score closer than maybe it should have been.
"You've got to give them credit, but for our standpoint we knew the pace was going to be faster than we were able to practice. You can't really simulate that kind of pace," defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said. "They do so many things. We weren't able to get them in third down situations that first series and they were just clicking."
Auburn came into the contest averaging just over 450 yards and with 207 at halftime appeared well on its way to equaling that total.
Especially, after an 87-yard drive on its second possession where the Tigers were able to convert a trio of long third downs.
"That second series was disappointing because we had them in third down and long three times and let them off the hook. That's what we had talked about, look, we're down 14-0 but really we gave it to them letting them out of a hole three times," Martinez said. "Not to take anything away from them because they're really good, but when you get somebody that good in third-and-long, you've got to get them off the field. You can't give them too many chances because they're going to execute."
Fortunately for Georgia the Bulldogs were able to figure out the Tigers after that.
Georgia forced punts on Auburn's next four possessions to give the offense a chance to find its rhythm which finally happened when Joe Cox tossed a 50-yard touchdown pass to Israel Troupe with 1:51 left in the half.
"We knew going in that it was going to be a fast-paced first coupe of series. We were battling, trying to get things together but once we settled down we were clicking on all cylinders," defensive tackle Kade Weston said. "After the first two series, we stopped them like four in a row because we had figured out what they were doing. We just took it one play at a time."
Auburn entered play second in the SEC in rushing with 230 yards a game. However, against the Bulldogs, the Tigers managed just 115 with running back Ben Tate earning just 67 yards on 20 attempts.
"Statistically-wise, they were one of the best stat teams in the nation. They were leading the SEC in everything it seemed and we knew if we wanted to win the game we had to hold them to under 100 yards," Weston said. "I think we did a pretty good job of that, and then it was just about getting to the quarterback. We heard that all the time during practice all week, so much that we got tired of hearing it. It made us want to go out and do it."
Coming into the game, Auburn quarterback Chris Todd had thrown only three interceptions on the year
(244 attempts) and the Bulldogs picked off two Saturday.
Sophomore corner Brandon Boykin grabbed his team-leading third interception of the season late in the second quarter. Later, safety Reshad Jones notched his second interception of the year in the fourth quarter. It led to a touchdown and a 31-24 lead with 6:52 left. For the year, Georgia is minus-14 in its turnover ratio. The Bulldogs have forced eight turnovers for 27 points. The Bulldogs did not have any turnovers Friday, the first time since last year's win over LSU (14 games). Under Richt, the Bulldogs are 16-0 in games they do not have a turnover.
"To hold that group to 17 points is pretty good, especially when you gave up 14 in the first quarter and down 14-0. The kids deserve all the credit," Martinez said. "They hung in there, the leadership was really good and they made some plays to help the offense. The two interceptions set up the momentum. It was a really good effort."
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