ATHENS, Ga. (AP)Georgia gets held to an almost impossible standard these days. That goes with being the defending national champions.
”I think we just got to play football,” quarterback Stetson Bennett said. ”I mean, it’s just football. It’s X’s and O’s. It’s have fun with your brother and go jump on him.”
The Bulldogs had plenty to enjoy Saturday in a 42-10 victory against rival Auburn that started a little sluggish, but turned into a laugher.
Bennett sprinted 64 yards for a touchdown, Daijun Edwards scored three times on the ground and No. 2 Georgia ran over the listless Tigers.
”I think we’re getting just like, `Ah, well, you know it wasn’t perfect, so I’m going to be miserable.’ Like, no. We played a good game. We got a lot of things to get better at. We just get better at them next week,” Bennett said. ”But we’re going to enjoy this week.”
Bennett’s career-long run on the first play of the fourth quarter was the biggest of the day for a Bulldogs offense that mostly plodded along for the first three.
The Bulldogs (6-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) got two short touchdown runs by Edwards and one from Kenny McIntosh to build a 21-3 in the third quarter.
Then Bennett found a huge swath of empty green grass on a quarterback draw and managed to beat a chasing pack of Tigers to the goal line to make it 28-3.
”Usually, I’m pretty smart about getting down because I know I’m not the biggest guy. But there was nobody there. And I was like, alright, well, we’re just gonna keep rolling,” Bennett said.
Georgia ran its winning streak to six in the series, has not lost the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry at home since 2005 and leads overall 63-56.
Getting little help from its offense, Auburn’s defense seemed to wear down and gave up 292 yards and six touchdowns rushing.
Robby Ashford was 13 for 38 for 168 yards while frequently scrambling to elude pressure for the Tigers (3-3, 1-2).
Coming off consecutive lackluster performances, the Bulldogs were once again spotty offensively in the first half.
Georgia opened up a 14-0 lead in the second quarter, turning two short-field possessions into touchdowns.
First, a failed Auburn faked punt in Georgia territory set up the Bulldogs at the Tigers’ 36. McIntosh finished with a 1-yard TD run.
Ladd McConkey’s 38-yard punt return put Georgia at the Auburn 31 and Edwards scored from a yard out to put the Bulldogs up two scores.
And that was pretty much all they needed against an Auburn team that has not scored more than 17 points in any of its last four games under beleaguered second-year coach Bryan Harsin.
Harsin said he was mostly pleased with his defense.
”At some point you got to put some points on the board. You got to even the game out. You got to keep it close. You got to give your guys hope,” he said.
Auburn snapped a streak of two straight games without a second-half point, when it got a 29-yard field goal from Anders Carlson after a Georgia fumble deep in its own territory on the first possession of the third quarter.
Any chance the Tigers had to make it a game disappeared quickly. Georgia put together its best offensive drive, marching 81 yards and making it 21-3 on Edwards’ 2-yard run.
Georgia center Sedrick Van Pran said coach Kirby Smart wasn’t thrilled with the first half performance.
”He just honestly told us like, who are we? Who are we going to be? You know, I think a lot of guys took that personally,” Van Pran said.
The Bulldogs put up 357 yards in the second half on 42 plays.
”Guys are tired, but you know you got to play when you’re tired,” Tigers linebacker Owen Pappoe said.
The Tigers have been outscored 125-31 in the second half of their last nine games against Power Five teams.
Auburn: There is an if-not-when vibe with the Tigers regarding Harsin. It was clear coming off the university’s attempt to push Harsin out in February that his future at Auburn was ify at best. Now, it would seem as if time is running out.
Georgia: The Bulldogs’ offense once again lacked the big-play pop it displayed in its first three games, but the defense was just fine without star defensive tackle Jalen Carter (knee). Carter was injured last week against Missouri. Georgia still held Auburn to 93 yards rushing.
No. 1 Alabama hung on to beat Texas A&M without quarterback Bryce Young, so maybe there is an opportunity for Georgia to retake the top spot Sunday after losing it a week ago.
Auburn: No let up next week with a road game at No. 9 Mississippi.
Georgia: The Bulldogs face Vanderbilt before an open date leads to a tough four week stretch of Florida, No. 8 Tennessee, No. 23 Mississippi State and No. 13 Kentucky.
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