ATHENS, Ga. - This time, Michael Johnson and Georgia did not wait until the end of the game to beat Auburn.
Johnson caught a 19-yard touchdown in the second quarter and Odell Thurman finished off the Tigers with a 99-yard interception return to lead Georgia to a 26-7 victory Saturday.
A year ago, Johnson hauled in a 19-yard TD from David Greene - but that one came on fourth down with 1:25 left to give the Bulldogs a 24-21 victory, clinching the East.
"It's great to get another catch like that in the first half," Johnson said. "Then it's over with. The pressure's off."
For good measure, he set up the TD catch with the first pass of his career, a 40-yarder to Fred Gibson after taking a handoff from Greene on a supposed reverse.
"I'm glad Michael has stepped up against Auburn," coach Mark Richt said. "We've needed him."
Georgia stayed on track to repeat as conference champion by doing something unusual - beating Auburn between the hedges. It was the Bulldogs' first home victory in the series since 1991 and third in the past 14 meetings.
Auburn's last gasp came early in the fourth, when the Tigers drove to the Georgia 3. On third and goal, Jason Campbell rolled right and caught a glimpse of an open receiver in the end zone.
But the pass was tipped by Arnold Harrison, and Thurman grabbed it out of the air at the 1. He did not stop running until he was in the opposite end zone - the second-longest interception return in school history. Charlie Britt had a 100-yarder against Florida in 1959.
The Deep South's oldest rivalry - the teams were meeting for the 107th time - has been known for close finishes. In 2000, the Tigers won in overtime. In 2001, Auburn stuffed Jasper Sanks at the 1 on the last play to preserve a 24-17 win.
Georgia can clinch a tie for the East championship with a victory over Kentucky on Saturday. Florida claimed at least a share of the title with a 24-22 win over South Carolina, and Tennessee is in position to make it a three-way tie.
Vandy snaps 23-game skid
NASHVILLE - Jay Cutler threw four touchdowns, two to Erik Davis, to help Vanderbilt snap the nation's longest conference losing streak at 23 with a 28-17 victory over Kentucky.
Vanderbilt's last conference win came against Kentucky 24-20 in 2000, and it was the Commodores' first conference home win since 1998, when they beat South Carolina 17-14.
Kentucky led 3-0 before the Commodores scored 21 straight to take control. Vandy, which entered the game with a minus-13 turnover margin, fumbled once and did not lose the ball.
The Commodores also sacked Jared Lorenzen four times, and he was 15-of-35 for 234 yards passing. He threw a 10-yard touchdown in the final seconds to Chris Bernard.
Cutler, who finished 14-of-17 for 175 yards, expanded the lead as he led Vanderbilt on touchdown drives on the first two possessions of the third quarter.
Vandy took the lead for good when Cutler found Davis, who eluded a pair of tacklers and stretched across the goal for a 24-yard TD.
Wildcats return specialist Derek Abney had 110 return yards on six chances. Abney extended his consecutive catch streak to 43 games with a 24-yard reception in the first quarter that set up Kentucky's field goal.
LSU 27, ALABAMA 3: Matt Mauck threw for 251 yards and two touchdowns, and the visiting Tigers held the Crimson Tide scoreless until the fourth quarter. With representatives from the Sugar Bowl watching, the Tigers moved within a game of Mississippi in the West heading into Saturday's showdown in Oxford and kept pace with Southern Cal and Ohio State in the BCS standings.
But LSU will have a hard time moving from fourth to second in the standings that determine who plays for the national championship unless Ohio State and USC lose. The Tigers have played the weakest schedule of the three.
Mauck took advantage of soft coverage by Alabama to connect 12 times with Michael Clayton for 130 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Mauck finished 24-of-36.
The loss assured Alabama its third losing season in the past seven years after having one in the previous 40 years. Mike Shula finished 2-5 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in his first year as coach.
TENNESSEE 59, MISS. STATE 21: Casey Clausen threw five touchdowns, three to Chris Hannon, and Jabari Davis ran for two TDs for the host Vols. Tennessee remained in contention for a trip to the SEC title game.
Clausen was 20-of-33 for 330 yards before he was pulled with 46 seconds left in the third quarter. The Bulldogs, who have one of the worst defenses in the league, lost their fourth straight since coach Jackie Sherrill announced he will retire at the end of the season. The Vols rolled up a season-high 535 yards to Mississippi State's 288.
ARKANSAS 48, N.M. STATE 20: Quarterback Matt Jones ran for 132 yards and had three third-quarter touchdowns for the host Razorbacks. Marvin Jackson added a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown during a 28-point quarter that Arkansas needed to win its third straight.
New Mexico State trailed only 14-10 at the half and 21-17 midway through third thanks to a pair of touchdowns by Buck Pierce, who completed 12 passes in a row at one point. He was 19-for-26 for 214 yards. But two plays after Pierce hit Ronshay Jenkins on an 18-yard TD, Jones put Arkansas back in control at 28-17 with a 62-yard TD run.