By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - In a performance so dominant that another Prayer in Jordan-Hare was not required, No. 10 Auburn easily cleared the first hurdle of Amen Corner, defeating No. 1 Georgia 40-17 Saturday.
"They seized the moment," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "I'm extremely proud of our team. It was a huge win for us."
Kerryon Johnson ran for 167 yards on 32 carries, more than tripling the combined output of Georgia's top running backs. Johnson's 55-yard screen pass touchdown, No. 17 on the season, culminated the convincing victory, earning Johnson additional Heisman Trophy consideration.
"He's one of the best running backs in the country, if not the best. He proved it tonight," Malzahn said.
"Jarrett played great," Malzahn said. "Real proud of Jarrett. He had the running touchdown; I thought that was big. When he runs it just enough, I think it changes everything."
Auburn's defense delivered as well, holding Georgia to 46 rushing yards on 32 carries and 230 total yards. After the Bulldogs scored a touchdown on the opening drive, Georgia did not reach the end zone again until the final minutes.
"We've got one of the best defenses in the country," Malzahn said. "They proved it again tonight. We may have played our best game up front. They took on the challenge and they controlled the line of scrimmage."
Trailing 7-0, Auburn answered on its first possession with Carlson's 54-yarder, the third longest of his career.
Jeff Holland secured a three-and-out for Auburn's defense, recording his ninth sack of the season. Carlson's second field goal pulled Auburn within 7-6 after the first quarter.
Auburn took the lead on Carlson's third field goal with 12:03 remaining in the first half.
A personal foul penalty against Georgia for leaping on Auburn's punt extended a Tiger drive, resulting in Stidham's 42-yard touchdown pass to Darius Slayton, giving Auburn a 16-7 halftime lead.
Darrell Williams recovered a fumbled Georgia punt, giving Auburn the ball on the Bulldogs' 23-yard line. Stidham scored on a 7-yard keeper put Auburn up 23-7.
After a long Ryan Davis punt return and personal foul penalty gave Auburn another short field, the Tigers scored in two plays on a 32-yard screen from Stidham to Davis, marking 30 unanswered points.
After the teams traded field goals, Stidham and Johnson teamed up on their screen to put Auburn up 40-10.
"I'm very proud of our fans," Malzahn said. "Our fans were off the charts the whole game and really helped us win this football game."
After a non-conference game against Louisiana-Monroe, Auburn will host Alabama in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 25 with the SEC West, and a rematch with Georgia for the SEC Championship, at stake.
"We have a great opportunity right now," Malzahn said. "Our goal was to win the SEC championship, and here we are Nov. 11, and we're right in the middle of it. All of the dreams we have are still alive."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer