ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Auburn’s championship dreams disappeared in a deluge of three-and-outs.
Rodrigo Blankenship kicked two fourth-quarter field goals, Maurice Smith returned an interception for a touchdown and Georgia’s defense shut down No. 8 Auburn in the second half to beat the Tigers 13-7 on Saturday.
The loss ended Auburn’s Southeastern Conference championship hopes and knocked the Tigers out of consideration for a spot in the playoff.
Auburn (7-3, 5-2 SEC, No. 9 CFP) had been in control of its hopes to win the SEC’s Western Division, with one conference game remaining at No. 1 Alabama. Instead, Alabama clinched the division.
Auburn was held to 32 yards with no first downs in the second half, and 164 yards overall.
“The offense didn’t get it done today. It’s a simple as that,” said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, who said he stuck with struggling quarterback Sean White because “Sean is our guy.”
Georgia held the ball about 39 minutes, almost doubling Auburn’s time of possession.
The Tigers couldn’t overcome the loss of star running back Kamryn Pettway , the nation’s No. 4 rusher who hurt his left leg on a long run in last week’s win over Vanderbilt. Pettway was with the team but not in uniform.
“This is the SEC. People get hurt,” said Kerryon Johnson, who filled in for Pettway. “That’s no excuse for us to not have a productive day. We just got outplayed.”
Malzahn said an undisclosed injury prevented White from throwing in practice for the second straight week.
White couldn’t find a passing game to complement Johnson’s 99 yards rushing, including a 3-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. White completed only 6 of 20 passes for 27 yards with an interception.
Georgia (6-4, 4-4) earned its biggest win under first-year coach Kirby Smart. The Bulldogs controlled the clock on two fourth-quarter field goal drives of 13 and 14 plays.
“We told ourselves a few weeks ago we were going to run the ball and we were going to be successful,” said Georgia running back Nick Chubb, who had 23 carries for 101 yards.
Jacob Eason completed 20 of 31 passes for 208 yards without an interception.
After Blankenship’s 21-yard field goal with 2:25 remaining, Auburn was stopped on four downs, triggering a celebration in the stands and on Georgia’s sideline.
Blankenship, the Georgia walk-on kicker who wears black-rimmed glasses under his helmet, barely cleared the cross bar on his 45-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter for a 10-7 lead. Blankenship was short on a 49-yard attempt about three minutes later before kicking a 21-yarder late in the game.
Auburn had only 25 yards passing in the first half and opened the second half with three straight passing plays — two incompletions and a third-down pass intercepted by Smith and returned 34 yards for a tying touchdown.
“He looked like a receiver on the play,” Smart said.
Auburn: The Tigers likely will be headed for a sharp drop in the Top 25. The inability to compensate for Pettway’s injury revealed Auburn’s lack of offensive balance and inability to retain its spot as a championship or playoff contender.
Auburn strong safety Tray Matthews, who began his career at Georgia before he was dismissed from the team in 2014, delivered the key defensive play of the first half. Matthews picked off a pass from receiver Terry Godwin, who took the snap in the wildcat formation, in the end zone for his first interception of the season.
Auburn took advantage of the turnover with an 80-play touchdown drive capped by Johnson’s 3-yard scoring run.
Smith transferred to Georgia from Alabama, Auburn’s top rival.
“The team I am with right now, we have been counted out, and for us to get this win is big,” Smith said. “This makes it definitely worthwhile. It’s a blessing. For me to be part of this team and be able to help the team, I just love it.”
Auburn: The Tigers will play their final home game against Alabama A&M next Saturday as they hope to gain momentum for their Nov. 26 game at Alabama.
Georgia: Georgia hosts Louisiana Lafayette next Saturday before closing its season with another home game against in-state rival Georgia Tech on Nov. 26.
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WIAT 42 | Auburn | Georgia
Follow the running log below:
(0:28) Kerryon Johnson runs in a TD from 3 yards out. Auburn leads 7-0.
End of 1st Quarter.
(14:37) Mo Smith returns a Sean White pass 34 yards for a pick six. Georgia ties it up, 7-7.
End of 3rd Quarter
(13:44) Rodrigo Blankenship hits a 45 yard field goal to give Georgia the lead. Dawgs lead 10-7.