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

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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.

No. 5 Georgia out in front of No. 24 Auburn between the hedges at halftime

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No. 5 Georgia and No. 24 Auburn split their two meetings last season in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry but the rubber match in Athens this year might be a one-sided affair as the Bulldogs used a big third quarter to take a 20-10 lead into the locker room at halftime of a fun one between the hedges.

Tigers QB Jarrett Stidham threw for 108 yards in a solid performance for him given the hostile conditions (though JaTarvious Whitlow wound up with a touchdown throw off a trick play). That the signal-caller did it without getting sacked and without much a run game (27 yards total for Gus Malzhan’s squad) was a testament to just how sharp he was early. Senior Ryan Davis was not surprisingly on the other end of six of those passes (50 yards) and became the program’s all-time leader in career receptions early in the first quarter as a result.

Perhaps the biggest moment of the game for the visitors came on defense however. While that unit was quite stout in the first half against a team that can throw a number of playmakers at you, they did suffer a big loss when Big Kat Bryant was ejected for targeting on a third down play in a second quarter. The fairly obvious call on a hit to quarterback Jake Fromm will no doubt have lingering effects on the team as they allowed another long drive on their next defensive possession.

Speaking of which, while the Bulldogs could move the ball between the 20’s, their red zone offense left much to be desired with three trips inside the 10 yard line resulting in just one touchdown. Fromm was 10-of-13 with 148 yards and tossed a beautiful throw across the field to Tyler Simmons in the end zone for a touchdown. The quarterback added another scoring toss when he found a streaking Terry Godwin on fourth down, who promptly took it 38 yards to the house just before the halftime break.

Georgia’s tailbacks were also heavily involved in the first half, as is typical, with Elijah Holyfield recording 50 yards rushing while D’Andre Swift was a typical multipurpose threat with 53 yards on the ground and 33 more through the air.

Both games last season were actually somewhat close at the break before one of the two sides pulled away starting in the third quarter. We’ll see if that is the case once again in 2018 or if Georgia was already starting to assert their dominance in the second quarter and will keep things rolling from there.

No. 6 Georgia holds lead over No. 9 Kentucky as battle for SEC East hits halftime

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The center of the Commonwealth of Kentucky this week was not at the Breeders’ Cup or what was happening around Rupp Arena. No, the center of the state was at Kroger Field in Lexington as the No. 9 Wildcats battled No. 6 Georgia for the SEC East title and an elusive trip to Atlanta at the beginning of the next month.

Unfortunately for the blue-clad fans giving their all, UK will need another rally if they’re to complete this Cinderella season as the Bulldogs jumped out to a 14-3 lead at halftime in a game that was very predictably dominated by the two defenses.

The Bulldogs tried to take part of the frenzied crowd out of the game early, forcing a three-and-out on defense initially and then showcasing Mecole Hardman’s speed with a 65 yard punt return that would setup their first score. That came just four plays later when Isaac Nauta hauled in a short pass from quarterback Jake Fromm, who was otherwise solid (if perhaps unspectacular) in throwing for 86.

The sophomore signal-caller was replaced in a few situations by backup Justin Fields (five yards rushing) but it was mostly the ground game that powered UGA in the half. Elijah Holyfield was the typical workhorse with 33 hard-fought yards while D’Andre Swift capped off a 57 yard effort with a remarkable 20 yard scamper into the end zone up the middle.

Though the scoreboard didn’t indicate it, Kentucky offense wasn’t too bad all things considered but did have a first quarter fumble that stymied one of their drives. Benny Snell finished with 61 yards on 17 carries and QB Terry Wilson threw for 66 yards, often seeing plenty of pressure on his dropbacks and taking two sacks as a result. Defensively, Josh Allen was once again a monster coming off the edge and recorded two fumbles to go along with a tackle for loss.

The Wildcats have trailed before at halftime and rallied several times this season so they’re not in an unfamiliar position. Of course, they haven’t been playing teams like Georgia — who are looking like they want to clinch another trip to the SEC Championship Game today and are, so far, on their way to doing just that.

Cocktail time: No. 7 Georgia thumps No. 9 Florida to make SEC East statement

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No. 7 Georgia heard the question for two weeks: is the team capable of making another run at the SEC title? On Saturday afternoon in Jacksonville, the Bulldogs went a long ways to answering in the affirmative.

Kirby Smart’s squad got back to clicking on offense and forcing turnovers on defense as the Dawgs beat rival No. 9 Florida 36-17 in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party and secured their status as East Division front-runner in the process.

In perhaps the most encouraging part of the game for many fans in red and black, Jake Fromm looked much more like the signal-caller who took his team to the final game of the season last year as a true freshman. The quarterback threw for 240 yards but saved his best passes for the end zone, tossing a trio of beautiful touchdowns while not turning the ball over. Jeremiah Holloman was one of the breakout stars in the game for the Georgia receiving corps, scoring twice to finish with four catches and 48 yards while leaving a few nightmares for Gators defensive backs to get over once they watch the tape next week. Tight end Isaac Nauta was also a big part of the passing game with 73 yards and several huge first downs.

While the Bulldogs had their struggles at times running the ball — including getting stuffed five times three yards away from the goal line — the two lead tailbacks still got their numbers in the end. Elijah Holyfield finished with 71 on the ground while D’Andre Swift busted out for 104 yards and iced the victory with a fourth quarter touchdown that saw him burst through the line and out run everybody on the field.

It wasn’t all bad for Florida as the team did lead in one category: unique penalties. They had one player flagged for a delay of game for not wearing pads covering his knees (which extended a UGA scoring drive) and head coach Dan Mullen wound up with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty as well.

Though the final margin was rough, the Gators did have some chances but continually had to play from behind in the game thanks to turnovers. Tailback Jordan Scarlett (56 yards rushing) fumbled early in the first half and QB Feleipe Franks threw an interception on the very next series. It was all together a bit of a reversion to the mean for the UF offense overall as there was little consistency throughout the game and Franks seemed to get hit on every drop back. It was impressive that he even managed to score twice (one passing, one rushing) but that was otherwise it as the entire unit got stuck in neutral.

When all was said and done from Jacksonville though, it was Georgia that can finally claim (improbably) just their second winning streak in the series in the past two decades. While the Bulldogs still have to play at Kentucky and against Auburn, the victory should all but lock up another division title and trip to Atlanta in the process.

Whether it will all be enough when they face Alabama or LSU in December is a separate issue entirely but, at least this weekend, the Dawgs took a step in the right direction and lived up to their preseason billing by moving toward another title in the SEC East.

Early turnovers hamper No. 9 Florida as No. 7 Georgia leads at halftime in Jacksonville

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Points were at a premium as you would expect in Jacksonville at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party and No. 7 Georgia can thank No. 9 Florida for their hospitality as a few turnovers and ill-advised plays resulted in the Bulldogs taking a 13-7 lead into halftime of this SEC East clash.

The Gators otherwise were the better team in the first half as they posted 4.7 yards per play going into the break and looked like they had the better of the two defenses as well. However they took a bizarre delay of game — for a player who didn’t cover up knees with pads — that extended one drive for Georgia and led to a field goal while setting up another score when Jordan Scarlett fumbled at his own 13 yard line. Mix in an interception from Feleipe Franks and it was not the most crisply executed of rivalry games for Dan Mullen’s side early on.

UF did settle in eventually to at least keep things close though. Franks wound up throwing for only 49 yards but started to get things going with his legs, rushing for 14 more on the ground and punching in the team’s only score from just beyond the goal line. Scarlett had 44 yards rushing while Lamical Perine added another 38 hard-fought yards.

Interestingly, Emory Jones, the Gators freshman dual-threat QB and a Georgia native, did enter in the first quarter but didn’t do much beyond rushing three times for four yards in an interesting change of pace package.

As for Kirby Smart’s team, UGA did show flashes of breaking out of their offensive slump with a late drive as time was ticking down in the second quarter but got a little too cute in a few situations earlier in the game. Jake Fromm was an efficient 8-of-10 for 97 yards, plus a beautiful touchdown throw to Jeremiah Holloman to take advantage of one of those UF turnovers.

Running the ball wasn’t super easy for either side but the Bulldogs’ tailbacks did manage 73 total yards and will likely look to boost that number up considerably in the second half.

It should make for a fascinating finish in Jacksonville as the winner takes control of the SEC East and will likely find themselves back in the thick of the College Football Playoff race when the selection committee releases their rankings on Tuesday. It’s been a bit uneven so far for the two rivals which will make things all the more interesting when both return to the field.