Terry Godwin

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No. 6 Georgia secures sweet revenge over No. 2 Auburn in SEC championship game to punch playoff ticket

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Ticket punched, revenge complete.

No. 6 Georgia more than made up for their lone loss on the season by upsetting Deep South rival and second-ranked Auburn on Saturday evening 28-7 in an old school SEC Championship Game to secure the conference title and book their trip to the College Football Playoff at the same time.

The relatively low-scoring affair was quite the contrast to the Tigers’ victory three weeks ago on the Plains when they throttled the Bulldogs 40-17. Though quarterback Jarrett Stidham led the Auburn offense down the field to a quick strike touchdown on the opening drive of the game, that easy ball movement didn’t seem to return for either side as both defenses showed why they are two of the best in the country across the board. That early bit of momentum for Gus Malzahn’s team looked like it was going to lead to another repeat of the first meeting but that proved not to be the case when the Bulldogs seized control of the game and never let go the rest of the way.

A Stidham fumble early in the second quarter might have been one of the biggest game-changers of the day in Atlanta as it led to points on the other end. Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm found tight end Isaac Nauta wide open in the middle of the end zone off a fake toss play and was symbolic of the kind of bounce-back the freshman signal-caller (183 yards passing, two touchdowns) and the rest of the team would have.

Nothing summed that reversal of fortune up more than a pair of key defensive plays down the stretch in the second half. DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle blocked a short field goal right into the waiting arms of Dominick Sanders, while a fumble recovery at the start of the fourth quarter led to a perfect back-shoulder throw by Fromm to Terry Godwin (who also caught a two-point conversion) from seven yards out extended the lead further.

That kind of lead meant it was time for the UGA ground game to get going to salt away the victory. With Sony Michel was banged up with a left knee injury he suffered in the third quarter, Nick Chubb grabbed most of the carries and finished with 77 yards rushing against that tough front seven of coordinator Kevin Steele. Yet it was youngster D'Andre Swift (88 yards) that truly opened things up in the upset by jetting 64 yards for a touchdown.

Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson did start despite banging his shoulder up against Alabama last week, rushing for a team-high 44 yards but coughed up that costly fumble in the second half. Stidham was far from the kind of quarterback he showed in recent upsets of the No. 1 team in the rankings the past month and threw for only 145 yards on just 16 completions. In the end, the team simply appeared to run out of gas after a hot start and never could make a play to get themselves right back into things.

Now comes the intrigue with the College Football Playoff thanks to that kind of performance. Georgia will assuredly find themselves in the top four come Sunday afternoon and are likely ticketed to the Rose Bowl semifinal as either the No. 2 or No. 3 seed. Current No. 3 Oklahoma punched their ticket earlier in the day with a victory over No. 11 TCU and the winner of the ACC title game is a lock as well.

With No. 10 USC likely set for a Fiesta Bowl trip, that leaves the Big Ten championship game winner facing off for a spot against No. 5 and one-loss Alabama. The Crimson Tide probably would have preferred an Auburn blowout win in Atlanta but that wasn’t the case as the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry went the way of the Bulldogs in the biggest way possible.

Fab frosh Fromm fronts No. 11 Georgia in Bulldog Bowl blowout

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There were some questions entering Saturday night if Jake Fromm could handle the bright lights of an SEC primetime game in his first conference start, particularly against this Mississippi State team that so brutalized LSU last week.

Those questions were answered after Fromm’s first pass of the night.

After forcing a Mississippi State three-and-out, Georgia began its first possession at its own 41. Fromm handed to Nick Chubb, who turned around and tossed the ball back to Fromm, who then hit a wide open Terry Godwin for a 59-yard touchdown. Six minutes later, Chubb raced in from seven yards out for his own touchdown and the Bulldog Bowl was all but over.

No. 11 Georgia cruised from there, defeating their similarly-nicknamed cousins from the SEC West No. 17 Mississippi State, 31-3.

Fromm played an efficient and contained game, hitting 9-of-12 passes for 201 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Chubb spearheaded a versatile Georgia rushing attack, carrying 15 times for 81 yards and two scores, while D’Andre Swift rushed nine times for 72 yards and Sony Michel added seven carries for 32 yards.

While Georgia’s offensive effort was workmanlike, Georgia’s defense was superhuman. The red-and-black Dogs hounded Nick Fitzgerald all night, punishing him into a 14-of-29 night for 83 yards with two interceptions to go with 10 carries for 47 yards.

Fitzgerald’s first interception came midway through the third quarter, with Mississippi State already trailing 21-3, when Deandre Baker ended a promising drive by returning his pick 22 yards to midfield. Fromm ended any hope of a comeback three plays later when he found Isaac Nauta for a 41-yard score.

Georgia’s second interception came two passes later, as Dominick Sanders picked Fitzgerald in Mississippi State territory and set up a 49-yard Rodrigo Blankenship field goal to close the scoring for the night.

With Notre Dame and Mississippi State behind them, Georgia (4-0, 1-0 SEC) can begin eyeing a possible 12-0 season. Kirby Smart‘s team will go on the road to Tennessee and Vanderbilt over the next two weeks and plays only two more ranked opponents: No. 20 Florida in Jacksonville and No. 15 Auburn in Auburn.

Mississippi State (3-1, 1-1 SEC) gets Auburn next week at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Georgia handling Mississippi State in Battle of Bulldogs

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Georgia jumped on Mississippi State early and hasn’t let up, as the red and black Bulldogs hold a 14-3 halftime lead over the maroon and gray Bulldogs at the break in Athens.

After forcing a three-and-out to open the game, Georgia took a bite out of Mississippi State’s jugular on its first play of the game as Jake Fromm hit Terry Godwin for a 59-yard flea-flicker touchdown.

Georgia then forced another punt and this time swiftly marched down the length of the field, moving 78 yards in eight snaps and culminating in a 7-yard Nick Chubb dash.

Mississippi State put together its only sustained drive in its final chance before the half, consuming 4:29 over a 12-play, 51-yard drive that stalled at the Georgia 9-yard line. Jace Christmann punched in a 26-yard field goal with 1:14 left in the half to get the visitors on the board. Nick Fitzgerald has carried the load for Mississippi State, and taken a punishment from Georgia as a reward. He’s 10-of-18 passing for 64 yards with eight carries for a team-high 30 yards.

Fromm has been perfect in his first SEC start, hitting all eight of his throws for 160 yards and the score to Godwin. Chubb leads all runners with 34 yards and a score on eight carries.

Georgia will receive to open the second half.

No. 15 Georgia leaves inaugural South Bend trip with win over No. 24 Notre Dame

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It was a night to remember for Bulldogs young and old — no matter what the final score showed. Still, both groups are going home happy. In its first ever trip to Notre Dame — these programs have each played more than 1,200 games previously, but only once against each other — and the first ever start for true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm, No. 15 Georgia earned a tight 20-19 win over No. 24 Notre Dame.

After the teams traded field goals in the first quarter, Notre Dame (1-1) found pay dirt first on a 1-yard Brandon Wimbush scrambled at the 12:24 mark of the second quarter, which was set up after Jake Fromm fumbled at his own 34-yard line.

Georgia (2-0) immediately responded, moving 62 yards in 12 plays, a drive that culminated in a 5-yard toss from From to Terry Godwin that was originally ruled incomplete before it was overturned on review.

C.J. Sanders momentarily gave Notre Dame the lead back on what was ruled on the field as a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, but review ruled his forearms down at the Notre Dame 36. The Irish moved to the Georgia 24, setting Justin Yoon up for a 42-yard field goal with 4:14 to go before the break.

Yoon pushed the lead to six with a 36-yarder with 6:22 to play in the third quarter, but Georgia grabbed its first lead of the night on a 75-yard drive punctuated by a 6-yard Sony Michel run on the ensuing possession.

Notre Dame put together its longest drive of the night to open the fourth quarter, slicing through the Georgia defense for 73 yards over 12 plays, but an 8-yard Wimbush run came one yard short of the sticks on 3rd-and-9, setting up another Yoon field goal to see-saw Notre Dame back in front at 19-17 with 10:21 remaining.

The Irish had a chance to take control after forcing Georgia into a three-and-out, taking the ball with the lead at their own 25, but Georgia forced a three-and-out of its own and then reclaimed the lead on a 30-yard Rodrigo Blankenship field goal with 3:34 to play.

After forcing three consecutive incompletions, Georgia had the chance to put the game away with a single first down, but a 3rd-and-2 handoff to fullback Christian Payne ended one yard short, giving Notre Dame the ball back for a last-gasp drive with 1:57 remaining. Wimbush moved the Irish 17 yards, but Davin Bellamy sacked Wimbush and forced a fumble, which Lorenzo Carter recovered for the Bulldogs. Georgia expired the final 1:14 to hold on for the win.

The end was emblematic for Wimbush, who hit 19-of-39 passes for 211 yards and spent much of his night running with nowhere to go. He was credited with 16 carries for one yard, and Notre Dame as a team managed only 55 yards on 37 rushes. Georgia rushed for 185 yards as a team, led by Michel’s 73 yards and Nick Chubb‘s 63, while Fromm hit 16-of-29 passes for a modest 141 yard with a touchdown and an interception.

Notre Dame holds slight lead over Georgia at the break

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A tight, competitive first half has ended with Notre Dame holding a 13-10 lead over Georgia.

After the teams traded field goals in the first quarter, Notre Dame found pay dirt first on a 1-yard Brandon Wimbush scrambled at the 12:24 mark of the second quarter, which was set up after Jake Fromm fumbled at his own 34-yard line.

Georgia immediately responded, moving 62 yards in 12 plays, a drive that culminated in a 5-yard toss from From to Terry Godwin that was originally ruled incomplete before it was overturned on review.

C.J. Sanders momentarily gave Notre Dame the lead back on what was ruled on the field as a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, but review ruled his forearms down at the Notre Dame 36. The Irish moved to the Georgia 24, setting Justin Yoon up for a 42-yard field goal with 4:14 to go before the break.

Fromm closed the half hitting 8-of-15 throws for 69 yards with a touchdown and an interception, his final throw of the half. Nick Chubb leads all runners with seven carries for 40 yards, and Sony Michel has added 35 yards on six totes.

Wimbush completed 9-of-16 passes for 114 yards, while Josh Adams rushed 10 times for 26 yards.

Georgia will receive to open the second half.