AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Georgia’s defense entered the fourth quarter vying for another shutout. The fifth-ranked 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.
Fromm was 13-of-28 passing for just 110 yards, but had a 51-yard touchdown pass to Dominick Blaylock and a pair of 5-yarders to Eli Wolf and Brian Herrien. Swift ran for 106 yards on 17 carries.
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.
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