At this point, the Georgia Bulldogs are who they are. Their defense stakes them to a lead, then the offense gets just enough good work done to make it stand up.
That formula worked for the 10th time this season Saturday as the No. 4 Bulldogs (10-1, 7-1 SEC) held on for a 19-13 win over a resilient Texas A&M team visiting Sanford Stadium for the first time in four decades.
The Aggies fall to 7-4, 4-3.
Once again, the Bulldogs took a substantial lead, this time 19-6, only to see the opponent cut into it in the fourth quarter to make it a one-possession game. That was the scenario in wins over Florida and Auburn and that was the script in this one as well.
But once again, the Bulldogs got a big fourth-quarter stop and then a critical, time-killing first down on offense. Georgia won this one in the victory formation at midfield.
“It’s an inability to put people away, on both sides of the ball,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “You feel like you’re controlling the momentum, you feel like you should be ahead further, and you’re not.”
Beloved senior kicker Rodrigo Blankenship gets a lot of credit for getting the Bulldogs ahead. He was perfect on all four of his field-goal attempts in deplorable, rain-soaked conditions to become UGA’s leading scorer of all time.
“That's a tremendous honor,” Smart said of Blankenship's 418 career points, which is the second most in SEC history. “We've certainly have helped him with it. We've kicked a lot of field goals. But what Rodrigo has done and overcome is a story for the ages. ... To be as consistent as he's been in some of the toughest conditions you could ask a kicker to kick in, he's just been tremendous and he's really been a weapon for us.”
So has Georgia's defense. Its offense, not so much. But once again, the Bulldogs got just enough to outscore their opponent.
In keeping up with the theme of the whole season, it seems, A&M scored on a long touchdown drive in the fourth quarter after what had been to that point a dominant defensive game for the Bulldogs. Kellen Mond’s 19-yard pass to Jhamon Ausbon capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive and made it a one-possession game, 19-13, with 11:16 to play. That drive represented half the yardage the Aggies had gained the entire game through three quarters (149).
It looked as if Georgia had provided an answer on offense as Fromm’s 20-yard completion to Swift quickly got the Bulldogs into A&M territory. But they would regress from there, forced to punt after Fromm was sacked for an 8-yard loss on third down.
A&M was quickly on the move again, and reached the Georgia 45 in three plays. But a 10-yard sack by Tyler Clark was followed two plays later with a pass breakup by cornerback Tyrique Stevenson on third-and-11. A&M elected to punt from its 43 and the Bulldogs took over at their own 10 with the game on the line.
The Bulldogs got out of their initial hole as Brian Herrien’s second effort resulted in a first down at the 21. But Swift lost two yards on the next play, a zone-read left. Swift, who ran into a brick wall of A&M defenders, yelled at Fromm after the play for not keeping the ball on the play.
“We wanted to win; we wanted to succeed on offense and we weren't doing it at that time,” Swift said. “So it was just being competitive and trying to make plays.”
The tension was all for naught. Fromm hit Dominick Blaylock on a slant play for 11 yards, then Swift got a 11 more on a quick pitch to effectively put the game away.
“Whew, tough way to finish it off,” Fromm said. “It's been a long journey, tough one, physical one, just the SEC. But we finished off tonight and I'm really thankful to come out of here with a win.”
After the Aggies used their last timeout at the 1:42 mark, Swift would get two more yards for the game-clinching first down.
Swift finished with the ninth 100-yard game of his career -- 103 on 19 carries -- and Fromm had 163 yards passing, completing 11 of 23 attempts.
The real story was Georgia's defense, which had 22 players record a tackle and held Texas A&M to 274 yards, including minus-1 yards rushing.
Now all that’s left is one more regular-season game, at archrival Georgia Tech Saturday, and the Bulldogs presumably will play No. 1 LSU in the SEC Championship game Dec. 7.
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