- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
ATHENS, Ga. -- Auburn's Michael Dyer entered Saturday's game against Georgia needing only 11 rushing yards to eclipse 1,000 for the season.
He didn't get there until early in the third quarter -- and his team trailed 35-7 by that point.
Once again, Georgia's defense entered a game intending to take away what the opposing offense did best -- and once again, Todd Grantham's unit was successful, leading the Bulldogs to a 45-7 rout.
"When you play an offense like that, obviously the key is to stop the run and make them do something else," Grantham said. "We felt like we did that and really, up until the last three minutes when they got a couple runs based upon that situation, I thought we did a really good job."
They most certainly did.
The Tigers drove 76 yards for a touchdown on their first drive -- with quarterback Clint Moseley hitting Emory Blake on a 45-yard bomb to move into scoring position -- but Auburn's normally effective running game ran into a red-and-black brick wall.
Dyer, who came in averaging 110 rushing yards per game, had six carries for 4 yards in the first half, as the Bulldogs built an enormous lead. Onterio McCalebb had two carries for 7 yards, and the Tigers as a team had 13 attempts for minus-12 yards.
The Tigers finished with 25 rushes for 51 yards -- with Dyer leading the team with a season-low 48 yards on 13 carries -- but the bulk of those yards were almost meaningless. Auburn's offense relies on its running game to set up opportunities in the passing game, but a four-touchdown deficit took away the chance for the Tigers to do what they do best.
Georgia coach Mark Richt credited Grantham for developing an effective plan for shutting down the Tigers' motion-based ground attack.
"Todd is a very outstanding student of the game," Richt said. "He studies offenses as good or better than anybody I've been around. He will have a plan."
Georgia's running game got a major boost with the return of two players who served one-game suspensions last week against New Mexico State. But who would have expected that the most significant source of rushing punch would come from Carlton Thomas?
The 5-foot-7 junior rushed for a career-high 127 yards on 15 carries -- his previous high was 71 yards against Coastal Carolina earlier this season -- and combined with Isaiah Crowell to power Georgia's 304-yard effort on the ground.
Thomas ran nine times for 72 yards in the first half as the Bulldogs built a monstrous lead before Crowell took the baton after halftime, rushing for 114 of his 132 yards as the Bulldogs hammered the run.
"Our backs were finishing runs," Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "Isaiah in the second half, he was taking it to those guys. That's what you want to see a running back do, and I'm just real proud of how he came back tonight and played."
They became the first Georgia backs to each exceed 100 yards rushing in a game since Caleb King and Washaun Ealey both did so in a 2009 win against Georgia Tech. It was the first time a Georgia duo accomplished the feat in an SEC game since Danny Ware and Thomas Brown against Vanderbilt in 2004.
Another pick for Rambo
On several of his previous interceptions, Georgia's defensive linemen waved Bacarri Rambo their way. He finally followed their lead Saturday.
Rambo picked off a Moseley pass in the second quarter and weaved through would-be Auburn tacklers for 24 yards and a touchdown that helped the Bulldogs take a 28-7 lead.
"Every time I catch an interception, my defensive line gets upset with me, like, 'Man, you never run our way. We tell you to come this way, and we set up a wedge for you.' I'd be like, 'I got you next time,' " Rambo said. "So I caught it, and I saw Abry [Jones waving Rambo his way] and I said, 'I'm going to listen to him this time,' and he got me in the end zone. I probably need to listen to him more often."
Rambo's interception was his seventh of the season. That ties former Bulldogs linebacker Tony Taylor (2006) for the most by a Georgia player in a season since Ben Smith in 1989.
It was also Georgia's first defensive touchdown of the season, making the Bulldogs the last team in the SEC to notch a defensive score this year.
Freshman receiver Malcolm Mitchell missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, but the Bulldogs didn't waste any time reintroducing him in passing game.
Aaron Murray hit him with a 44-yard bomb on the Bulldogs' first series, and he caught a 25-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. He finished with three catches for a team-high 85 yards.
"That was a big boost to get Malcolm back," Bobo said. "You saw when he touches the ball he has a chance to score."
Georgia cornerback Jordan Love missed the game with a broken hand suffered in an accident late in the week. ... Georgia's 35 points in the first half were the most by a Bulldogs team in an SEC game since it scored 37 in the first half against Alabama in 2003. ... Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones recorded two sacks, running his total for the season to 10. ... The Bulldogs had their two longest touchdown drives of the season, with one in the first quarter lasting 6 minutes, 3 seconds and one in the fourth quarter spanning 7:23. ... Georgia nose guard Kwame Geathers left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury and did not return.
David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1dEthan Sherwood Strauss