Georgia (10-3) once led Penn State (7-6) 24-3 in the TaxSlayer Bowl but a furious rally by the Nittany Lions with a backup quarterback fell just shy. Georgia’s 24-17 victory was made official when a Hail Mary attempt from Trace McSorely fell incomplete at the goal line.
Georgia’s defense knocked out Penn State starting quarterback Christian Hackenberg in the first half of the game. He returned on the sideline in the second half in street clothes, giving way to backup McSorely for his first serious playing time at Penn State. It was a rough adjustment once he entered the game but McSorely and Penn State eventually got in a groove and established some momentum through the air. McSorely passed for 142 yards and two touchdowns to lead the second half rally, but Georgia had done enough to grab the win.
Georgia running back Sony Michel and Keith Marshall played a key role on the ground for the Bulldogs. Neither had a big performance, but Michel’s 85 yards and touchdown and Marshall’s 62 rushing yards came at key moments to move the first down markers in the fourth quarter and keep the clock running. Georgia’s Greyson Lambert completed just 10 of his 20 pass attempts for 115 yards, but they also seemed to be picked up at key moments when needed. Malcolm Mitchell hauled in 114 receiving yards and a touchdown, but it was receiver Terry Godwin who caught Penn State’s defense off guard for the touchdown play to Mitchell in the first half.
Georgia’s defense did more than knock Hackenberg out of the game. The run defense was well prepared for Penn State freshman running back Saquon Barkley. Barkley was limited to 69 yards on 17 carries and the Georgia defense always seemed to have a presence in the backfield to shut down any play attempting to develop laterally. Penn State’s offense did gain some juice in the second half though, and the Nittany Lions rolled up 401 yards of offense to Georgia’s 327. Penalties proved costly for Penn State though, with six penalties totaling just 39 yards, but that included a crucial 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call on Austin Johnson on Georgia’s final offensive possession of the game to move the ball into Penn State territory.
With the win by Georgia, the SEC improves to 7-2 in bowl games this bowl season. The SEC still has a handful of games to be played, including Alabama’s national championship appearance against Clemson. The Big Ten closes out the postseason with a 5-5 record in bowl games, including a 1-3 mark against the SEC. Georgia interim head coach Bryan McClendon earned his first career bowl victory as a result of the game as well. Penn State’s James Franklin dropped to 3-2 in bowl games in his first loss since his bowl debut in 2011 with Vanderbilt.
Georgia will now turn the page as a program by ushering in the Kirby Smart era, just as soon as Smart is done with Alabama’s championship run in Tuscaloosa. Smart was on hand for the game to check out his new program. Penn State may also be turning a page depending on what happens with Hackenberg. If Hackenberg is on the move, Penn State got a glimpse of what may come in 2016 by seeing McSorely get some playing time and find himself in the offense. The two-minute drill with no timeouts left plenty of room for improvement, but McSorely was thrown into the fire for the first time for any extending playing time. If Hackenberg turns pro, McSorely will likely be the starting quarterback in 2016 for the Nittany Lions.
Georgia will open the 2016 season in Atlanta against North Carolina from the ACC in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. Penn State’s 2016 season kicks off against Kent State at home in Beaver Stadium before taking to the road to renew an in-state rivalry with Pittsburgh.
Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg has been beaten up over the years, but he has finally been knocked out of a game by the Georgia Bulldogs. In a defensive TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Hackenberg was knocked out of the game in the second quarter and taken to the locker room for X-rays. His return is said to be doubtful for the Nittany Lions, as Georgia leads Penn State at halftime by a 17-3 score.
With Hackenberg out of the game, at least for now, Trace McSorely has taken over the Penn State offense. That should lead to a heavier work load for freshman running back Saquon Barkley, who has carried the football nine times for 18 yards for Penn State.
Georgia has scored the only touchdowns of the game thus far. On 2nd and 8 from the Penn State 44-yard line, Georgia’s Terry Godwin unloaded on a deep pass to Malcolm Mitchell for a touchdown after the Penn State defense bit on the wildcat. The 44-yard wildcat play has been the biggest offensive highlight of the game, with both teams playing well on defense, as expected going in. Georgia’s defense has also forced the only turnover with an interception off a tipped pass from Hackenberg off Barkley on the opening drive of the game. Georgia also added a late touchdown before halftime when Greyson Lambert connected with Godwin for a 17-yard touchdown.
The way this game is going, Georgia is lining up another win for the SEC, and unless Penn State can make anything happen with a backup quarterback in the second half, it could be another double-digit victory for the SEC.
UPDATE (1:58 PM): Hackenberg has now officially been ruled out for the rest of the game.
At the beginning of the season it was thought Saturday’s game between Auburn and Georgia could serve as a preview of the SEC Championship Game. That, obviously was not the case and we saw the latest exmaple of why in the afternoon’s early slate of games. Georgia (7-3, 5-3 SEC) scored 17 striaght second-half points to hand Auburn (5-5, 2-5 SEC) a 20-13 loss and drop the Tigers to .500.
Georgia’s Isaiah McKenzie returned a punt 53 yards for a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. Moments earlier, on Georgia’s previous possession, the Bulldogs offense got caught going the wrong way with penalty after penalty setting up a 3rd and 41. It was the second touchdown of the half for McKenzie after rushing for a four-yard score in the third quarter to tie the game at 10-10. Georgia later added a field goal to pad the lead.
Auburn lost two fumbles in the second half, including one by Ricardo Louis on 3rd and 2 at the Georgia five-yard line. With the Tigers down 10 points, the Tigers had their most promising drive of the half until Louis pushed up the middle and lost the football as he reached for a touchdown. He may have already had the first down if he held on to the football. There was a certain bit of irony in Louis being the one to lose the fumble, of course. It was Louis who caught the deflected pass from a pair of Georgia defenders two seasons ago that handed the Bulldogs a loss.
Neither offense did much to deserve a win. Auburn had three turnovers, but the Tigers outgained Georgia 275-243. Neither team eclipsed the century mark througfh the air. Greyson Lambert of Georgia completed 12 of 17 passes for 97 yards, and Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson completed 14 of 22 passes for 61 yards. Neither threw a touchdown pass.
This was Georgia’s final SEC game of the season, with Georgia Southern at home on the schedule next week and the regular season finale against rival Georgia Tech in Atlanta the following week. The Bulldogs won five games in SEC play in all but just three seasons since Mark Richt has been the head coach of the program.
Auburn was a popular preseason pick to make a run for the SEC, playoff and perhaps the national championship. The reality of this season is now that Auburn must beat Idaho next week to become bowl eligible, because a win against Alabama is probably not very likely in this year’s Iron Bowl the way Alabama has been playing.
Georgia’s offense has, at times, found ways to move down field against an Auburn defense that tends to have plenty of holes, but the Bulldogs have managed to sneak just three point son to the giant scoreboard at Jordan-Hare Stadium this afternoon so far. Auburn leads Georgia 7-3 at the halftime break.
Auburn took the game’s opening drive right down the field for an early touchdown. The 11-play drive spanning 75 yards featured a couple of big runs by Ricardo Louis and Jovon Robinson, and quarterback Jeremy Johnson completed all four pass attempts along the way before Kerryon Johnson capped the drive with a seven-yard touchdown run.
Georgia had one drive stall just shy of the end zone when Mark Richt opted to go for a first down rather than kick a field goal from inside the two-yard line. Keep that in mind if this thing is a tight game later on in the second half.
At the half, Auburn and Georgia have combined for 91 passing yards between Johnson and Georgia’s Greyson Lambert. Johnson started in front of an injured Sean White, who has not seen the field. He has also been picked off once.
The Georgia Bulldogs have lost three of the last four games, seeing its preseason favorite status dwindle down to a possible third-place finish in the SEC East this season (remember, Tennessee has a head-to-head tiebreaker against the Bulldogs). Knowing there is little time to waste now, Georgia head coach Mark Richt says Greyson Lambert will get the start at quarterback today against Kentucky, but others should be expected to see some playing time as well.
This season, the transfer from Virginia has completed 64.1 percent of his pass attempts for 1,276 yards and nine touchdowns, with two interceptions thrown. In Lambert’s last start, against Missouri, he completed 71.9 percent of his passes for 178 yards, but the Bulldogs managed to score juts nine points in a tight 9-6 victory.
Lambert had been Georgia’s starter for the first seven games of the season, but he was replaced in the starting lineup by Faton Bauta last week in Jacksonville against the Florida Gators. Bauta completed 15 of his 33 pass attempts for 154 yards and he was picked off four times in the 27-3 loss.