AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Georgia’s defense entered the fourth quarter vying for another shutout. The Bulldogs ended it with two big stops – and another division title.
In between, things got interesting.
Jake Fromm passed for three touchdowns and Georgia’s defense delivered in the clutch, clinching the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division with a 21-14 victory over No. 13 Auburn on Saturday.
“Our kids were very resilient to come into this place and lose momentum – obviously lose momentum – and be able to go back out and get it,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “I thought that showed some fortitude and ability to handle some tough, adverse things.”
The Bulldogs (9-1, 6-1 SEC, No. 4 CFP) sailed through three quarters with a 21-0 lead before Auburn (7-3, 4-3) rallied in the fourth.
Georgia held on to become the first team to win three consecutive SEC East titles since Florida won five in a row from 1992-96.
“It’s special and speaks a lot about this football program, our head coach and about our team in the locker room,” Fromm said. “Guys who are willing to come in and do whatever it takes.”
Fromm and De’Andre Swift produced enough to keep the Bulldogs on track for a shot at the College Football Playoffs. Most of the way, though, it was clear the game featured two of the league’s top defenses.
Auburn scored two touchdowns in the fourth, then had a pair of drives stopped on fourth down in the final minutes. Freshman Bo Nix threw three incompletions and was sacked on the Tigers’ final drive starting from their 27.
Nix completed 30 of 50 passes for 245 yards and a touchdown. He also ran 13 times for 42 yards. Seth Williams caught 13 passes for 121 yards.
The Tigers finally scored on Nix’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Eli Stove with 10:04 left, taking advantage of a pass interference call on the previous third-down play. Auburn appeared to recover an onside kick but it was overturned upon review because of an illegal block by Anthony Schwartz.
A Georgia three-and-out and three minutes later, Nix dove into the end zone for a 2-yard score after a play fake.
It was the first rushing touchdown the Bulldogs had allowed all season.
Auburn again drove into Georgia territory with Nix running for 8 yards on a fourth-and-5 play. Harold Joiner couldn’t collect a pass that was slightly behind him on the next fourth-down play.
“It was a sprint out and I threw it behind Harold,” Nix said. “You can’t make mistakes like that.”
Smart didn’t give his defense too much credit for that one.
“The guy just missed the ball, it looked like to me,” the Bulldogs coach said. “He was wide open. I can’t say that we stopped them. We got them to fourth down and they gave us a gift.”
Georgia: Has won 15 of the last 19 meetings. Was outgained by 329-251 in total yards.
Auburn: Continued to struggle offensively against top teams. But the defense remains good enough to keep the Tigers in most games. Fell to 1-3 in games against teams currently ranked in the Top 11, all of them competitive.
Auburn did have a handful of promising drives before the fourth but struggled to cash in with points. In the first half, the Tigers had a missed field goal, a 13-yard loss on fourth down and a fumble by Nix. With the game still in reach, Auburn had the ball in Georgia territory on its first two possessions of the second half but came up empty.
Auburn’s Williams had a catch overturned by replay officials on the penultimate drive. He appeared to get his right foot down but the ball was wobbling as Williams went out of bounds.
“We had the momentum and the crowd was in it,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “We got the ball down to the 22-yard line and we thought we had a completion. They overturned it and it looked like an NFL catch to me. That was a tough one, a real tough one.”
A photographer was taken to the hospital after she was hit on the sideline and carted off the field. A Georgia statement said Chamberlain Smith was sent to East Alabama Medical Center in nearby Opelika for treatment. The school didn’t specify her injury.
A photography intern for the University of Georgia Athletic Association, the Georgia graduate was hurt when Herrien ran into her several feet off the sideline late in the second quarter. Smith was kneeling down to take a picture and appeared to get hit in the head by Herrien’s knee.
Smith drew immediate medical attention and was down on the ground for several minutes. She had her eyes open, along with a bruise above her eye, when she was taken off on a stretcher.
Georgia hosts Texas A&M on Saturday.
Auburn hosts Samford, an FCS team from Birmingham, on Saturday.
He found out Saturday.
Kentucky rushed for a season-high 401 yards and kept its bowl hopes alive with a 38-14 win over Vanderbilt.
“We faced some adversity last week – tough game,” said Stoops, the Wildcats coach. “Sometimes that can linger. It did not this week as you can tell.”
Lynn Bowden and Chris Rodriguez both rushed for over 100 yards for the Wildcats (5-5, 3-5 Southeastern Conference).
Rodriguez led the way, rushing for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Bowden, in his fifth game at quarterback since moving over form wide receiver, added 110 yards rushing and one TD.
“It’s just confidence in your teammates and pushing to get to the end zone,” Bowden said. “Once I see the end zone and once my teammates see the end zone, we try to get to the end zone as fast as we can.”
Kavosiey Smoke rushed for 95 yards and one TD for the Wildcats in a matchup between two teams in the bottom of the SEC’s Eastern Division.
The Wildcats scored 35 consecutive points after falling behind by 11 early in the game.
It was the largest margin of victory in the series since 2001.
“This is a game of momentum and I thought we created some early,” Commodores coach Derek Mason said. “But today we just got out-physicaled on both sides of the ball up front and we lost the line of scrimmage. Didn’t tackle very well. I thought they ran through tackles, through arm tackles and just extended drives and plays.”
Kentucky rambled for a season-high 528 yards in total offense and nearly doubled Vanderbilt in time of possession.
Vanderbilt (2-8, 1-6) scored two touchdowns in 45 seconds to take a 14-3 lead in the first quarter.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn scored on a 5-yard run with 5:21 left in the first quarter and two plays from scrimmage later cornerback Allan George raced to the end zone on a 67-yard fumble return to extend the Commodores’ early lead.
“It would be easy for the guys to panic if they didn’t have confidence in what we were going to do because, let’s face it, we are methodical right now and there aren’t a ton of explosive plays,” Stoops said. “When you go down 14-3 if you’re not a team that has confidence in what we’re doing, you could flinch right there because you know points have been hard, but that wasn’t the case.”
Kentucky’s methodical offense marched down the field for 30 first downs and Vanderbilt mustered only 13.
Kentucky: The Wildcats need a home win over Tennessee-Martin or Louisville in their last two games to become bowl eligible for the fourth straight season.
Vanderbilt: The loss puts more pressure on coach Derek Mason, whose only wins this season were against Missouri and Northern Illinois.
Rodriguez and Smoke, both redshirt freshmen, made impressive strides running the ball. “I noticed it today: a little bit of growth,” Stoops said. “Some of the runs they made today, I haven’t necessarily always seen. You’ve seen flashes, you’ve seen them do some really good things, but today I saw a couple runs they kind of took over – pretty determined, tough runs. And also they showed some really athletic plays.”
Vanderbilt linebacker Dimitri Moore had a career-high 12 tackles.
Vaughn moved into eighth in Commodores career rushing with over 2,100 yards.
Kentucky: The Wildcats host Tennessee-Martin, an Ohio Valley Conference team, on Saturday.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores host East Tennessee State in their home finale Saturday.