No. 2 LSU is halfway to its first SEC championship since 2011. At the break in Atlanta, the Tigers hold a 17-3 lead over No. 4 Georgia.
Georgia came out swinging, as Jake Fromm had Tyler Simmons open for what could have been a 75-yard touchdown on the first play of the game, but Simmons dropped it. Then, facing a 3rd-and-9 at its own 44, Fromm had Demetris Robertson open but the pass skipped off the Mercedes-Benz Stadium turf and the Bulldogs punted.
Punting proved fatal against LSU’s offense, as the Tigers went 75 yards in eight plays, scoring on a 23-yard strike to Ja'Marr Chase, a throw made possible because Joe Burrow had about eight seconds to sit and scan against a three-man pass rush. The teams then traded punts, and Rodrigo Blankenship failed to get Georgia on the board when his 52-yard field goal was no good at the 1:56 mark of the first quarter.
The Bulldogs momentarily scored a huge break when Lewis Cine recovered a Clyde Edwards-Helaire fumble at the LSU 37, but replay showed his right forearm down before the ball popped loose, and so the Tigers retained possession. Four plays later, that possession ended in a 7-yard Burrow pass to Terrace Marshall, Jr., putting LSU up 14-0 with 12 ticks left in the opening frame.
Georgia finally got on the board with a 39-yard Blankenship field goal at the 11:28 mark of the second quarter, then gained even more life when Marshall dropped what would have been the easiest 71-yard touchdown of his career on 3rd-and-6. The Bulldogs’ momentum was halted when Grant Delpit sacked Fromm, not only turning a 2nd-and-8 into a 3rd-and-17 but momentarily knocking Fromm out of the game when the Georgia quarterback’s knee twisted while Delpit pulled him to the turf. Stetson Bennett IV entered the game and threw incomplete, and LSU went 57 yards to set up a 41-yard Cade York field goal.
Fromm re-entered the game and led Georgia into LSU territory, but his 1st-and-10 pass down the sideline was intercepted by Derek Stingley, Jr., handing Burrow the ball at his own 13 with 95 seconds left in the first half. He found Edwards-Helaire for 24 yards on the first play of the drive, ran for 17 and hit Chase for 11 on a 3rd-and-5, but fired incomplete on three straight throws from Georgia’s 30 and York’s 48-yard field goal hooked wide left. Burrow ended the half 17-of-25 for 204 yards with two touchdowns (plus a dropped would-be 71-yard touchdown.) He also leads all players with 39 yards on seven rushes.
LSU out-gained Georgia 255-136 in the half, but Georgia remains in the game. Fromm was 10-of-21 for 117 yards and an interception, while Georgia rushed for just 19 yards on 15 attempts.
The Tigers will receive to open the second half.