He’s healthy, he’s fast, he’s elusive and, oh boy, is he Swift!
All the promise and potential Georgia tailback D’Andre Swift displayed as a freshman in 2017, while playing behind two of the Bulldogs’ all-time running backs, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, has burst forth in the stretch run of Georgia’s 2018 season.
Saturday night in an electric Sanford Stadium, the 215-pound sophomore out of Philadelphia, Pa. posted his career-best rushing performance for the third consecutive game. After going just over the 100-yard mark in the Bulldogs’ 36-17 win over Florida, Swift sped for 156 yards in the 34-17 triumph at Kentucky and then, he saved his best game for running against Auburn’s stingy defense.
Exploding for a 77-yard touchdown gallop in the final quarter, Swift compiled 186 yards on 17 carries to spark the 5th-ranked Bulldogs to a 27-10 spanking of the Tigers. If you recall, just the week before in Lexington, Swift fashioned an 83-yard touchdown run.
As Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs climbed to 9-1 and capped their SEC slate with a 7-1 league mark, it’s become evident that Swift has more than proved to be a worthy successor to Chubb and Michel, who are now playing in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots, respectively.
But this huge win over Auburn, Georgia’s 11th victory over the Tigers in the two rivals’ last 14 meetings, wasn’t just a D’Andre Swift production. He had excellent blocking once again from the Bulldogs’ offensive front as well as the Georgia wide receivers, in particular Jeremiah Holloman who threw the key block to spring Swift on his 77-yard jaunt with 13:53 still left to play in the game and drive the final nail in the Tigers’ coffin.
And then there was Swift’s tailback buddy, junior Elijah Holyfield, who came within seven yards of once again surpassing the 100-yard rushing mark again, going for 93 yards on 15 carries as the Georgia running game amassed over 300 yards for a second straight game with 303 net yards against an Auburn defensive front that was allowing just 155 yards per game for the season.
And how about the play and leadership of sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm once again, who completed 13-of-20 attempts for 193 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. With the Bulldogs trailing the Tigers 10-6 until the waning minutes of the second quarter, Fromm put the home team ahead to stay with a perfectly-thrown 14-yard scoring strike to Tyler Simmons; then after Georgia let the clock tick down in the final minute of the half, and on a fourth-down play, Fromm zipped a bullet down the middle to Terry Godwin and the senior receiver raced to the end zone on a 38-yard scoring pass. Just 21 seconds remained when Godwin crossed the goal line and the Bulldogs had dealt a KO punch to the Tigers …Godwin’s score and Rod Blankenship’s ensuing PAT kick giving Georgia a 20-10 halftime lead on the plainsmen.
With the Bulldog defense seemingly getting more stout as the game continued, the Auburn offense was blanked the entire second half with the game’s only additional score coming when Swift went off the left side of the line, made several defenders miss and sped down the sideline on his 77-yard touchdown burst.
Without question, Georgia’s margin of victory could have been considerably larger had not the Bulldogs stopped themselves with numerous self-inflicted wounds. After cleaning up their penalty act in the wins over Florida and Kentucky, the Bulldogs fell back into their early-season rut Saturday night, being whistled an unacceptable 12 times for 85 yards.
And, oh yeah, that old bugaboo of not being able to score down inside the opponents’ 5-yard line against both the Gators and Wildcats reared its ugly head once again against the Tigers. In the first quarter, the Bulldogs moved with their opening possession down to the Auburn 2 but again started going backwards and had to call on Blankenship for a 25-yard field goal. Early in the second period, the Bulldogs again drove to the Tiger 2-yard line but, again, couldn’t get the ball across the goal line and had to settle for another three-pointer by Blankenship, this one from 20 yards. Then in the final period, shortly after Swift’s scoring run, freshman quarterback Justin Fields led a Bulldog march that, with the help of a pass interference on the Tigers, again placed the ball first and goal at the Auburn 2-yard stripe. But a 16-yard sack of Fields put the Bulldogs back at the 18 and Georgia would again come away without any points …. a fake field goal attempt on fourth-and-goal from the AU 14 resulting in Blankenship just overthrowing a wide-open Isaac Nauta in the end zone. (Remember the other fake field goal attempt by Blankenship against LSU when his carrying the ball came up short of a first down).
So, once more, cleaning up the penalties and having success scoring touchdowns in the red zone will be two of the Bulldogs’ priorities in practice this coming week as they prepare for Saturday’s game with UMass, before then capping the regular slate against a surging Georgia Tech team on Nov. 24 between the hedges.
Still, beating the Auburn Tigers by 17 points is something Georgia can hang its hat on. The Georgia defense limited the Tigers to just 274 yards of offense … 102 rushing and 172 passing. Sophomore linebacker Monty Rice again led the tackle chart with eight stops while defensive backs Richard LeCounte and Mark Webb followed with six tackles each. Rice, Tae Crowder, Jonathan Ledbetter, Tyler Clark and D’Andre Walker all recorded tackles-for-loss while Ledbetter and Robert Beal were credited with forced fumbles.
At the same time, the Bulldogs were punishing the huge Auburn defensive front for 516 yards of offense, the 303 on the ground and 213 through the air as in addition to Fromm’s showing, Fields completed both throws he attempted, for 20 yards. Swift also led the UGA receivers with four catches for 43 yards, giving him an offensive total of 229 combined yards. Godwin had three catches for 84 yards while Mecole Hardman and Tyler Simmons snared two passes each. Hardman also set up Georgia’s first touchdown drive in the second period when he hauled an Auburn kickoff back 41 yards.