AUBURN, Ala. — Kerryon Johnson and the Auburn Tigers delivered an emphatic statement to the rest of the Southeastern Conference: Don't forget us.
The 10th-ranked Tigers emerged from the shadows of the nation's top two teams, riding Johnson and a smothering defense to a 40-17 victory against No. 2 Georgia on Saturday.
With Johnson running for 167 yards and catching a 55-yard touchdown pass from Jarrett Stidham, Auburn (8-2, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) remained in Western Division and potentially playoff contention after snapping a three-year losing streak to one of its top rivals. The Bulldogs (9-1, 6-1) came in with the top spot in the playoff rankings and could get a rematch if Auburn can beat No. 1 Alabama in two weeks.
The first go around wasn't pretty for Georgia. The Tigers held Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and the SEC's top ground game to 46 yards, 233 below their season average.
As Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said, "They seized the moment."
"We have a great opportunity right now, and our goal was to win the SEC championship," Malzahn said. "Here we are, Nov. 11, and we're right in the middle of it. And all the dreams we have are still alive."
Johnson ran 32 times and caught two passes for 66 yards. Stidham threw for 214 yards and three touchdowns, all of 30-plus yards. He also ran for a 7-yard score.
Jake Fromm was 13-of-28 passing for 184 yards and a late touchdown pass. Smart said Auburn "whipped" the Bulldogs at the lines of scrimmage.
"Humility is always a week away, and I think this team will answer and respond the right way," he said. "We've got some good leaders in that room, and they want to improve