Georgia downs Auburn in home opener, 27-6
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Georgia downs Auburn in home opener, 27-6

Zamir White
Photo: Andrew Davis/UGA

ATHENS, Ga. – The fourth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs defeated the seventh-ranked Auburn Tigers, 27-6, under the lights of Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium Saturday night in front of 20,524 spectators and an ESPN primetime audience.

“It sure felt like more than [20,524], but it felt like a lot of fans out there. I thought the crowd noise was helpful,” said Georgia head coach Kirby Smart. “I thought we showed improvement. We left a lot of plays out there. I thought we played really hard defensively but sloppy on third down. I thought offensively, when we play clean, meaning we don’t have a busted assignment, a penalty, or somebody doesn’t know what they’re doing, we do well; but we can go backwards as quickly as we can forwards offensively, and we probably left more out there.”

Redshirt-junior quarterback Stetson Bennett completed 17 passes on 28 attempts, totaling 240 yards with a touchdown in his first career start directing the Georgia offense. Redshirt-freshman Kearis Jackson recorded career highs with nine catches and 147 yards including a 49-yard catch, a career-long.

“I was really proud of Stetson and the way he handled things, very composed,” Smart added. “He probably had some balls he wishes he could have back, but he’ll only get better from here and he gives us some continuity and we’ll continue to develop the other guys as well.”

On the ground for Georgia, redshirt-freshman Zamir White recorded 88 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns, all career-highs. White added 10 receiving yards for a total of 98 all-purpose yards Saturday.

Defensively for the Bulldogs, redshirt-sophomore Azeez Ojulari totaled five tackles, including three for a loss, and a key sack late in the third quarter. Senior Monty Rice led the defense with seven tackles while junior Adam Anderson picked up two sacks. Senior Mark Webb ended the third quarter with his first career interception.

Junior punter Jake Camarda only needed to punt twice, totaling 103 yards. Redshirt-sophomore kicker Jack Podlesny made two of his three field goal attempts, making 21- and 25-yard attempts and missing a 43-yard try.

As a team, Georgia totaled 442 net yards (240 passing, 202 rushing). The defense limited Auburn to 216 yards including only 39 on the ground and didn’t allow the Tigers in the end zone, holding Auburn to just two field goals.

For Auburn, sophomore quarterback Bo Nix completed 21 passes on 40 attempts for 177 yards. Junior Anthony Schwartz made eight catches for 57 yards to lead the Tigers. Tank Bigsby led Auburn in rushing with 31 yards while Nix carried the ball the most with 10 carries.

Following a three-and-out by each team, the Bulldogs strung together a 10-play, 43-yard drive punctuated by a 5-yard rushing touchdown from White, his second of the young season, with 9:31 left in the opening quarter, making it 7-0 Georgia. The drive was highlighted by a 17-yard completion by Bennett to Jackson despite pressure from an Auburn blitz.

A 21-yard field goal attempt by redshirt-sophomore Jack Podlesny was good to extend the Bulldogs’ lead to 10-0 with 4:00 left in the first quarter. On the drive, Bennett once again connected with Jackson on a 16-yard pass to put the Bulldogs inside the Auburn 5-yard line.

The first quarter expired following another 17-yard catch-and-run by Jackson with Georgia ahead 10-0.

Bennett connected with sophomore George Pickens on a 21-yard touchdown with 11:08 to play in the half, widening the lead to 17-0 on Auburn. The touchdown was Bennett’s third through the air this season and Pickens’ second receiving.

A 49-yard completion from Bennett to Jackson put the Bulldogs on the Auburn 12-yard line. Following a 7-yard McIntosh rush and a pair of 2-yard gains by White to the 1-yard line, White punched it in for his second score of the game. Following a good PAT from Podlesny, Georgia led 24-0 with 6:26 to play in the first half.

The Georgia defense was able to stop Auburn on the Bulldogs’ 3-yard line, forcing the Tigers to attempt a 20-yard field goal. The kick was good, and Auburn picked up its first score of the contest, 24-3, with 1:38 to play in the half.

Georgia and Auburn went to the locker rooms at halftime with the Bulldogs leading 24-3.

The Bulldogs registered 288 total yards of offense (158 passing, 130 rushing) in the first half while limiting Auburn to 81 total yards including just 27 on the ground.

Jackson totaled 104 receiving yards on seven catches, both already a career-best, in the first half of the game.

Starting on its own 18-yard line to begin the second half, Auburn marched downfield but was stopped at the Georgia 28-yard line. A 45-yard field goal attempt was good by Anders Carlson to narrow the Bulldogs’ lead to 24-6 early in the third quarter.

Georgia responded with a 10-play, 67-yard drive ending with a 25-yard field goal by Podlesny to widen Georgia’s lead back to 21 at 27-6 with 5:51 to play in the third.

The third quarter ended when Webb intercepted Nix to give Georgia the ball heading into the fourth quarter. The interception ended Nix’s streak of 251 pass attempts without an interception, which was the second-longest active streak in the country.

Neither team scored in the final quarter as the 27-6 advantage for Georgia would hold en route to Georgia’s home-opening win over the Tigers.

Next up, Georgia hosts Tennessee Saturday, Oct. 10.

POST-GAME NOTES

*Another Stout Defensive Effort In The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry: Fourth-ranked Georgia held seventh-ranked Auburn to just a pair of field goals in a 27-6 victory. The Tigers were limited to 216 yards of total offense on 63 plays. It marked the fifth time in the last six meetings in the Kirby Smart era that Auburn was held to 14 points or less. It was Auburn’s lowest point tally since Georgia blanked the Tigers 38-0 in 2012 in Auburn and its lowest in Athens since 1967 when Georgia won 17-0.  Georgia is now 9-4 against top 10 teams in the Smart era.

Senior Monty Rice led the Bulldogs with 7 tackles while junior Adam Anderson had two of the team’s three sacks and junior Azeez Ojulari had five stops with 3 TFL. At the end the third quarter, Georgia forced Bo Nix to his first interception of the year, ending a streak of 251 passes that was an Auburn record and ranked second nationally behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. Bulldog senior Mark Webb notched his first career pick on the play. Senior Richard LeCounte was called for targeting with 3:49 left in the first half and missed the remainder of the contest.

Bennett Directs The Offense: Junior Stetson Bennett (17-for-28, career-high 240 yards, 1 TD) made his first career start and finished the first half 12-for-22 for 158 yards and 1 TD as the Bulldogs built a 24-3 lead with 288 yards of total offense on 46 plays. Georgia finished the night with 442 yards of offense on 73 plays in the victory.

Bennett had a career-long 49-yard strike to Kearis Jackson that helped set up Georgia’s third TD of the night. Bennett had a key 3rd down conversion on the first scoring drive. On a 3rd and 10 at the AU 32, Bennett fired a 17-yard pass to Jackson. Georgia would go 10 plays and cover 43 yards for the score. Bennett had another key 3rd down conversion on the next TD drive. On 3rd and 9 at the AU 21, Bennett hit George Pickens for a touchdown, his second this year and 10th of his career for a 17-0 lead with 11:08 left in the first half. The scoring drive went 11 plays for 84 yards in 5:26. Then, Georgia went up 24-0 following a six play, 72-yard drive in 3:27. Last week at Arkansas, Bennett entered with 10:07 left in the first half and finished the day 20-for-29 for 211 yards and 2 TDs, all career highs. Georgia was just 6-of-20 on 3rd down attempts versus the Razorbacks and fared much better tonight, going 9-for-14.

Huge Night For Jackson: RS-sophomore Kearis Jackson (9-for-147 yards) established career-highs in catches and yards tonight including a career-long 49-yarder in the first half. Last week in the road win over the Razorbacks, Jackson led the team with a then career-best six for 62 yards. It was the best night for a Bulldog receiver since George Pickens earned MVP honors for his 2020 Sugar Bowl performance in the win over Baylor with 12 for 175 yards and 1 TD.

Rushing Attack: Georgia gained 202 yards on 45 attempts. RS-Sophomore Zamir White finished with 88 yards on a career-high 19 attempts. He had posted a career-high 2 TDs in the first half. Junior James Cook added 41 yards in the first half before leaving with a right shoulder injury. White’s TD runs were aided by freshman Nose Jalen Carter coming in as a lead blocker. Georgia tallied 130 rushing yards on 24 attempts for a 5.4 average in the first half. True freshman Kendall Milton saw extended action in the second half and ended with 30 yards on six carries.

*Series History: With tonight’s 27-6 win, Georgia leads the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry 61-56-8. It is the second most played active series in the NCAA FBS. Georgia now has won nine of the past 11 meetings including four straight dating back to the 2017 SEC Championship Game. Saturday marked the sixth time in the series that it was a Top 10 matchup, and the Bulldogs have won the past two such meetings including winning the 2017 SEC title game. Georgia now has won seven in a row over Auburn in Athens. ESPN College GameDay was in town for the sixth time in school history and Georgia has won the game now on its last two visits, the previous one over No. 7 Notre Dame last year.

*Special Teams Summary: Junior Jake Camarda punted only twice (both in the first half) for a 51.5 average. His first punt went 63 yards, which tied his career long. Redshirt sophomore PK Jack Podlesny connected on a 21-yard field goal for a 10-0 edge in the first quarter and finished the first half with three PATs.  He added a 25-yard FG in the 3rd quarter. Sophomore Kenny McIntosh had one kickoff return for 38 yards while redshirt sophomore Kearis Jackson had a pair of punt returns for six yards.

*For Starters: Junior Stetson Bennett (QB) and redshirt freshman Warren McClendon (RT) made their first career start. The longest active starting streak on offense belongs to center Trey Hill now with 20 while Richard LeCounte leads the defense with 20 straight. Also, tonight marked the latest home opener for the Bulldogs since the 1966 SEC Champions (10-1) beat Ole Miss 9-3 on Oct. 8. That year, Georgia played its first three games on the road. For the first time since 1936, Georgia and Auburn tangled outside the month of November in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. That year, they squared off on Oct. 24 in Columbus, Ga. (20-14 Tigers).

*Captains: Georgia senior Monty Rice, junior Tyson Campbell and redshirt sophomore Zamir White served as the captains. Auburn won the toss and elected to defer until the second half.

*Limited Crowd Due To Pandemic:  Tonight’s crowd was a sellout but was limited to just 20,524 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is Georgia’s smallest crowd here since Sept. 28, 1963 when the Bulldogs beat Vanderbilt 20-0 in a driving rain before an estimated crowd of 17,000.

*Up Next: The Bulldogs (2-0) play host to Tennessee (2-0) Oct. 10 with the time TBA. The series dates back to 1899 with Georgia on a three-game winning streak to take a 24-23-2 lead. The Vols beat Missouri 35-12 today to extend their winning streak to eight dating back to last year.

POST-GAME QUOTES

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening Statement
“First, I want to thank our fans. It sure felt like more than [20,524], but it felt like a lot of fans out there. I
thought the crowd noise was helpful. The temperature was certainly helpful. I know that it was much cooler
than last week. The atmosphere was a lot better. I thought we showed improvement. We left a lot of plays
out there. I thought we played really hard defensively but sloppy on third down. I thought offensively, when
we play clean, meaning we don’t have a busted assignment, a penalty, or somebody doesn’t know what
they’re doing, we do well; but we can go backwards as quickly as we can forwards offensively, and we
probably left more out there. I thought it hurt both defenses not having the signal caller, leader in the
backend with them losing Smoke [Monday] and us losing Richard [LeCounte]. It affected both of us, but I did
think we both played really physical tonight. I think when you play Auburn, that’s where it starts, is the line of
scrimmage and the physicality. … I was really proud of Stetson [Bennett] and the way he handled things,
very composed. He probably had some balls he wishes he could have back, but he’ll only get better from
here, and he gives us some continuity and we’ll continue to develop the other guys as well.”

On whether Stetson Bennett has surprised him…
“[Stetson’s] not surprising me, no. You know, it’s a tough situation where I can recall the day we decided to
offer him to take him back and we had to fight, scratch, and claw to get him to come back, and I’m certainly
glad we did. It was an interesting decision because we had an interesting dynamic on our team, and we felt
like what we knew of Stetson he would be a productive player and a good player. Stetson’s never lacked
confidence in himself, you know. I’m happy for him. I want to temper that enthusiasm that he knows he’s got
to get better. People around him played well and that’s important for Stetson. He did a good job of
understanding what we wanted to do in the game plan, and he executed that really well, so I was very proud
of him, he studied really hard this week.”

#13 Stetson Bennett | Jr. | QB

On the game tempo…
“Yeah, I think Coach [Todd] Monken does a great job knowing when we need to go fast and knowing when
we need to go slow. We know what we’re going to do. We know we will be able to go fast. We are hopefully
in better shape than everyone else. So, whenever the time comes that we need to go fast we can execute.”
On if he thought this moment would ever come…
“It is not really my job to worry about that. If you think of things that broadly, you think about I was starting
my first game, a game day, a top-10 matchup, then yeah it is going to be like ‘oh my goodness.’ But,no, I
just go out every day and play football.”

On if he knew he would start…
“I had an idea that I was going to start. Being able to be comfortable in the offense is easy because I am
surrounded by such great players, and the offensive line gives me time. Coach Monken gives us great calls
every time. So, the week helped because I was able to get reps with those guys. It is pretty easy to feel
comfortable with those guys.”

#32 Monty Rice | Sr. | ILB

On keeping Auburn out of the end zone tonight…
“This game has been played for 130 years. It’s easy to be motivated for it. They have a lot of people over
there that are from here or wanted to go here—deciding between the two. It’s always good to not let
somebody run it in, and if they want to score they have to throw it because I feel like it’s easier than just
running on somebody and scoring. North and south is a quick way to the end zone. That just goes to show
how our practice is paying off and the things that we work on each and every day, Monday to Thursday.”

#10 Kearis Jackson | R-So. | WR

On the type of player Stetson Bennett is…
“Stetson has always stood out, ever since I’ve been here. He’s the starting quarterback now and has a major
role. He’s doing a great job and is confident, it’s part of our job to help him do that.”

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