Every week, UGASports.com teams up with 11Alive.com and hands out grades to Georgia’s position groups. Here is the Bulldogs’ report card from their 28-7 win over Auburn in the SEC Championship Game:
Playing a much more patient game than during the first meeting against the Tigers, Jake Fromm performed years beyond his young age. On two different third-down occasions, the true freshman waited for wide receiver Mecole Hardman to run a post route before the pair connected for first downs. Those types of plays aren’t going to make the highlight reel, but they did attribute to Fromm’s excellent stat line versus Auburn: 16-of-22 for 183 yards and two touchdowns. Composed even when he was getting pressured early in the game, Fromm remained levelheaded and led the Dawgs to their first SEC Championship since 2005. Bravo, freshman, bravo.
Running Backs: A
Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and D’Andre Swift combined for 210 rushing yards on 27 carries and a touchdown—and each player contributed to the victory in a different way. Chubb carried the bulk of the rushing duties, Swift was the change-of-pace back, and Michel did a nice job of picking up yardage before exiting the game with a knee injury. A 20-yard run by Chubb late in the third quarter led to an eventual field goal, giving the Bulldogs a 13-7 advantage. Although the run may not be memorable, it was a huge momentum jolt that helped swing the game into Georgia’s favor. Another prominent run was the 64-yard touchdown jaunt by Swift that sealed the fate of the Tigers and put the Bulldogs up 28-7. This group was the most improved on offense since the initial meeting with Auburn when the Bulldogs amassed just 46 rushing yards.
Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends: A-
The wide receivers, led by Terry Godwin and Hardman, did a great job of getting open against coverage from a very tough group of opposing defensive backs. Fromm’s favorite target, Javon Wims, could not get open as he was bottled up for essentially the entirety of the game; therefore, other weapons, like tight end Isaac Nauta, Michel, Swift, and Chubb stepped up in his place. Nauta made only his second touchdown reception of the season, and it came at an opportune time. Godwin also hauled in a touchdown pass, and then added an ensuing two-point conversion to give the Bulldogs a 21-7 fourth-quarter lead. Although Wims may have not caught a pass in the game, he had a great block on the 64-yard scoring run by Swift, springing the running back to pay dirt.
Offensive Line: A-
The offensive line appeared to be a completely different unit than the one which was manhandled at Auburn just a few short weeks ago. The first quarter for the group wasn’t easy—no questioning that—still, their early miscues seemed to fade after they got comfortable and their feet underneath them. Center Lamont Gaillard was calling protections on the fly for Fromm, resulting in he and the rest of the line producing one of their best performances of the season. Another name that doesn’t get mentioned enough, but should, is Andrew Thomas. A reason he isn’t recognized as much is he doesn’t make many mistakes, and the game against the Tigers was business as usual for the freshman right tackle. The line looked extremely prepared and a lot of credit goes to offensive line coach Sam Pittman for getting his men ready to play.
Defensive Line: A-
Notably, this group isn’t going to be plastered all over the final stat line, but that is by design. Georgia’s defensive line exists to disrupt the running game and put pressure on the quarterback. Against Auburn, the defensive line did just that after the Tigers ran all over and through it in the first meeting. However, Auburn was limited to 114 rushing yards and just 3.7 yards per carry the second time around. Julian Rochester did a good job of plugging up the middle and John Atkins played through an injury, which shows how much this game meant to the senior. With Auburn’s offensive line up for multiple group awards, the Bulldogs’ defensive line lessened the chance of the Tigers being honored.
Although he wouldn’t win the award—Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield is likely to do so—Georgia’s Roquan Smith should be in New York City as one of the finalists for the Heisman Trophy. The junior linebacker was again all over the field and probably made himself a lot of NFL money on Saturday. Smith finished with 13 tackles, including 10 solo stops, two tackles for loss, including a sack, and two fumble recoveries. Besides Smith, outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter was also impressive, totaling six tackles, one quarterback hurry, and one forced fumble.
Defensive Backs: A
The defensive backs played a much more complete game than the previous meeting against the Tigers. Even with Malkom Parrish out with an injury, the playmakers in the secondary were able to improvise. Deandre Baker was called for a questionable facemask penalty negating an interception, but otherwise was amazing in coverage. Tyrique McGhee stepped up in Parrish’s absence, tallying a great pass break-up that stopped Auburn cold in its tracks. Also, Richard LeCounte might have totaled just one tackle, but he was very effective in coverage. Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham was just 16-of-32 passing for 145 yards and a first-quarter touchdown. Following the Tigers’ score, the Bulldogs’ defensive backs stuck like glue to the opposing wide receivers.
Special Teams: B
As has been the case for most of the season, Rodrigo Blankenship was automatic. The placekicker made both of his field goal attempts: a 27-yard attempt in the second quarter and a 35-yard try in the third. Not having one of his best outings, Cameron Nizialek punted four times, one of which was short and another that traveled into the end zone for a touchback. Hardman had a seam on his only punt return, but he slipped—and then caught an earful from Kirby Smart on the sidelines.