Coach Hugh Nall talks about the Ole Miss game and the play of the offense as a unit.
An old-fashioned whipping
"Coming into a game like this, you could never predict it to go the way it did," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "You hope it goes like this."
The win moved No. 7 Georgia (8-2, 5-2 SEC) closer to a season-ending tie in the SEC East between the Bulldogs, Tennessee and Florida. The Vols and Gators both won Saturday, and if Georgia and Tennessee win the rest of their SEC games, all three teams will finish 6-2 in the SEC and the championship will be determined by BCS rankings.
The Bulldogs play Kentucky at home next week before finishing the season with a non-conference game against Georgia Tech.
"It's fun to be at Georgia right at this moment," Richt said.
Auburn partisans can't say the same. All the Tigers did was inch closer to the end of a disappointing season. Auburn was picked No. 1 in the nation in two preseason polls but fell to 6-5 overall and 4-3 in the SEC.
"We're not doubting ourselves," Tiger defensive end Reggie Torbor said. "It's just hard. You prepare yourself all week and lose like we've been losing, it's hard."
Georgia's defense, fittingly, clinched the victory when Tony Taylor tipped a Jason Campbell pass at the goal line that linebacker Odell Thurman picked out of the air and returned 99 yards for a touchdown. Billy Bennett's extra point gave Georgia a 26-0 lead with 11:07 left.
Thurman led a smothering defensive effort with 11 tackles, including three for loss. The Bulldogs held Auburn to 81 rushing yards and forced two turnovers. (Georgia's special teams also forced a turnover.)
The Tigers, who entered the game second in the SEC in rushing, gained just 9 yards on eight carries as Georgia built a 13-0 lead in the first half. Four of Auburn's first-half runs were scrambles by quarterback Jason Campbell.
"With all the people out, particularly (safety) Sean Jones and (defensive tackle) Kedric Golston, I wondered how we'd do," defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said. "It was more a feeling of we need to contain their running game. I didn't think we could completely shut it down like we were able to do."
Auburn offensive coordinator Hugh Nall said the Tigers felt like they had to throw the ball to win. Auburn finished with 178 passing yards.
"They know we are about stopping the run first," VanGorder said.
Georgia's offense did its part by holding the ball more than 33 minutes and making a handful of big plays.
Wide receiver Michael Johnson led the way and cemented his spot in the pit of Auburn fans' stomachs. Johnson, who caught the game-winning touchdown pass last year, had five catches for 91 yards and a touchdown and completed a 40-yard pass to set up his own score, all in the first half.
"We made enough plays to move the ball efficiently and drive the ball," Richt said.
Auburn got back to basics in the second half, giving the ball to Carnell "Cadillac" Williams on four of its first six plays. Williams, who finished with 45 yards on 12 carries, had a run of 13 yards and another of 16 yards in that span.
"I was like, 'OK, this is the game we were prepared for,'" Georgia defensive tackle Ken Veal said, "and we bowed our necks and said, 'Let's shut them down.'"
Williams' two runs on that drive accounted for 35 percent of the Tigers' running total.
"We looked for them to come out and run the ball, but every time we turned around, they were drop-back passing," Georgia safety Thomas Davis said.
"I'm not sure that was the strategy," said Auburn receiver Jeris McIntyre. "They have a great defense, and we just wanted to make plays running or passing."
That drive ended when Phillip Yost missed a 25-yard field goal wide right.
Georgia put the game away on its next possession, extending its lead to 19-0 on a 16-yard run by true freshman Kregg Lumpkin on third-and-goal with 5:06 left in the third quarter. Bennett missed the extra point. Lumpkin led the Bulldogs with 70 yards on 13 carries.
Georgia's biggest play was Johnson's 40-yard heave to Fred Gibson. The ball hung in the air for several seconds and Gibson made a great play, jockeying Junior Rosegreen out of position and catching the ball with one hand while falling to the ground.
The play moved the Bulldogs to Auburn's 19-yard line and sparked a brief burst from Georgia. Two plays later, Greene hooked up with Johnson for a 19-yard touchdown to put the Bulldogs up 13-0 with 7:54 left in the half.
"We came out today and made some plays," Greene said. "That's really the only thing we've been missing."
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