Tyler Simmons

Getty Images

No. 2 LSU makes its case for No. 1 seed in downing No. 4 Georgia for first SEC title since 2011


Saturday belonged to LSU, not Georgia, and that fact was cemented when the normally sure-footed Rodrigo Blankenship missed a 37-yard field goal, his second of the day, to keep the Bulldogs’ deficit at 20-3 with 4:17 to play in the third quarter.

But if that wasn’t the play, this was: a weaving 71-yard completion from Joe Burrow to Justin Jefferson, a play that took the ball from LSU’s 20-yard line to the Georgia 9, clinched Burrow’s Heisman Trophy victory and may have just put the finishing touches on the Bayou Bengals’ argument to be the No. 1 seed when the final rankings come out Sunday morning.

Burrow iced the game when he hit Terrace Marshall, Jr., for a 4-yard touchdown on third-and-goal three plays after the completion. LSU’s Derek Stingley, Jr., snared his second interception of Jake Fromm on the next play from scrimmage, and three plays after that Burrow’s fourth touchdown pass put LSU up 34-3 with 45 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Tigers cruised to a 37-10 win, claiming their 12th SEC championship, its fifth of the championship game era and first under head coach Ed Orgeron. The last time LSU (13-0, 9-0 SEC) won the SEC, in 2011, the national title game was played at home, in New Orleans. The title game is on Bourbon Street again this January, and this time there will be no rematch with Alabama — or Georgia, for that matter.

The 2-year-old Mercedes-Benz Stadium has quickly become a house of horrors for the program just up the road. After losing the 2017 national title game to Alabama there, Kirby Smart‘s program has now dropped win-and-you’re-in games to close its past two regular seasons. Georgia (11-2, 7-2 SEC) will now head to its second straight consolation Sugar Bowl to play Big 12 runner-up Baylor.

But while Georgia’s season effectively ended Saturday, LSU’s is just beginning. The Tigers will presumably compete with Ohio State for the No. 1 seed and the right to play No. 4 Oklahoma back in Atlanta, and Burrrow will compete with the Ohio State trio of Chase YoungJustin Fields and JK Dobbins for the Heisman. Burrow’s closing argument: 28-of-38 for 349 yards with four touchdowns and no picks while rushing 11 times for 41 yards.

LSU never trailed, as Burrow found Ja'Marr Chase for a 23-yard touchdown to close an 8-play, 75-yard march on the Tigers’ first possession. He hit Marshall for a 7-yard score to put LSU up 14-0 with 12 seconds left in the first quarter, and would have had a 71-yard touchdown to Marshall to put LSU up 21-3 early in the second quarter, but Marshall dropped it.

For as bad as Saturday went, Georgia came out swinging, as 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 turf and the Bulldogs punted.

Fromm closed the day 20-of-42 for 225 yards with a touchdown (that came with the score 34-3) and two interceptions. The day momentarily looked much, much worse than his stat line, as LSU’s Grant Delpit sacked Fromm late in the second quarter and Fromm’s knee awkwardly twisted as he was yanked to the turf. Stetson Bennett IV entered to throw a 3rd-and-17 pass, but Fromm returned the next series and played the remainder of the game. No Bulldog rushed for more than 24 yards, and Georgia rushed for just 61 yards to LSU’s 134.

No. 2 LSU leading No. 4 Georgia at the half in Atlanta

Getty Images

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.

No. 7 Notre Dame capitalizes on special teams mistake by No. 3 Georgia to lead at halftime

Getty Images
1 Comment

No. 3 Georgia may have been a big favorite against No. 7 Notre Dame coming into Saturday night’s contest of unbeaten teams, but it is the Fighting Irish who reach halftime with the lead. Notre Dame leads Georgia 10-7 at halftime.

Defense has been the theme of the game so far, which makes a mistake on special teams by Georgia even more a factor. Georgia punt returner Tyler Simmons muffed a punt return deep in the Georgia end of the field in the second quarter. Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool came swooping in to recover the live ball and gave the Irish field position at the Georgia eight-yard line. But it would take a fourth-down pass from Ian Book to Cole Kmet to get on the board. Kmet didn’t appear to be the intended receiver, but Notre Dame was happy to take it.

Georgia would respond to tie the game before halftime. On the ensuing possession, the Bulldogs got their running game going against the Irish defense. D’Andre Swift finished off a 12-play drive with a short touchdown run that was upheld by a video replay. Notre Dame had a quick answer in their pockets before halftime though, as Book completed four straight passes to move from the Notre Dame 25-yard line down to the Georgia 12-yard line. The Irish settled for a field goal in the final seconds of the half to take the lead.

Georgia did lose one of their big offensive linemen in the first half. Left Guard Solomon Kindley was carted off the field as Georgia was finishing off their touchdown drive. Earlier in the game, Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes was helped off the field at the end of a play as well.

Will Notre Dame continue to hang with Georgia in the second half, or will the Bulldogs find a way to take the lead and pull away for a big win?

Tyler Simmons now makes three Georgia players arrested for bar-related incidents in last month

Getty Images

On Sunday, Tyrique Stevenson, a 5-star early enrollee cornerback, was charged with disorderly conduct. He was booked and released in less than an hour in the hazy hours between Saturday night and Sunday morning, and details were sparse at the time.

We have more details now, and those details include that he was not the only Bulldog arrested early Sunday morning.

According to a statement released Monday by the Athens-Clarke County Police Department, Stevenson and Georgia wide receiver Tyler Simmons were both arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly fighting with employees of Cloud Bar in Athens.

According to The Athletic‘s Seth Emerson, news of Simmons’ arrest slipped by because he sustained injuries in the fracas requiring medical intervention.

Simmons becomes the fourth Georgia player arrested in the past month. He joins Stevenson, joining linebacker Jaden Hunter and defensive back Latavious Brini. Hunter was arrested for a traffic violationand driving with a suspended license, while Brini was charged with simple battery for allegedly slapping a man outside an Athens bar on Feb. 28.

A rising senior, Simmons played in 13 games last fall and started six. In 34 career games, Simmons has caught 14 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns, both of which came last season.

Georgia has not commented on the Simmons and Stevenson arrests, though one assumes a strongly-worded statement is forthcoming.

RB D’Andre Swift leaves mark on Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry as No. 5 Georgia downs No. 24 Auburn

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Hanging around in a relatively close two-score game, No. 24 Auburn still harbored hope of pulling off yet another comeback in SEC play and winning the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry early in the fourth quarter.

Tailback D’Andre Swift however, had other ideas.

The speedy sophomore from above the Mason-Dixon Line left his indelible mark on one of the sport’s best rivalries by dashing 77 yards to pay dirt between the hedges to help No. 5 Georgia secure a 27-10 victory on Saturday night and make the improving Bulldogs look even more dangerous ahead of their showdown with Alabama in a few weeks.

Swift, who hails from Philadelphia, was a dynamic threat in all phases of the game and finished with 186 yards rushing (and that one TD run) to go along with a team-high four catches and 43 yards receiving. His incredible, weaving runs may have been the highlight of the night for the Bulldogs offense but fellow back Elijah Holyfield wasn’t too shabby at all himself as a guy who had no issues running between the tackles on his way to 93 yards on the ground.

Both players’ efforts kept the clock moving and took plenty of pressure off quarterback Jake Fromm, who had another efficient night with 193 yards passing, two scores and an interception. His two touchdown throws in particular were pretty impressive in their own right, one on a short toss across the field to Tyler Simmons and another just before halftime — on fourth down, no less — to a streaking Terry Godwinwho took it 38 yards to the house.

Even backup QB Justin Fields got into the game and was allowed, much to the crowd’s delight in Athens, to throw the ball a bit against a good defense and completed two passes for 20 yards.

Things were close for much of the first half between the two rivals but the Tigers offense never could hit another gear to make things interesting. Signal-caller Jarrett Stidham threw for only 163 yards, starting quick but fading as the game wore on. Fellow member of the backfield JaTarvious Whitlow was actually the one to throw for a touchdown but running the ball proved to be a problem all around for Gus Malzhan’s crew as the team couldn’t muster much offense at all after the first quarter.

The game, let’s face it, didn’t mean a ton in the grand scheme of things. UGA has already locked up the SEC East Division title and a rematch against Alabama, while Auburn is only playing spoiler down the stretch in the middle of another disappointing campaign on the Plains. The Bulldogs remain in running for another College Football Playoff bid with just one loss though and should continue to sit just outside the top four as they play out the string of the regular season.

Perhaps the bigger question the team might have answered on Saturday night though, was that with Swift coming along and others stepping up on both sides the ball, this Georgia team continues to improve with each passing week and are looking like a stiff test for the top-ranked Tide at Mercedes-Benz Stadium once again in a few weeks.