Auburn Tigers

Auburn Knocks Georgia Out of Cruise Control but Couldn’t Steer the Upset

Auburn Tigers knock the Georgia Bulldogs out of cruise control but still lost 21-14

For all intent and purposes, the game was over, Georgia was leading 21-0 going into the fourth quarter. Most fans were thinking about the after-party tailgate to salvage the evening. After all, game time in the deep south with it’s oldest rivalry is about fun with family and friends. However, it’s better with a victory.

The Bulldogs put it in cruise control, and Auburn pressed on the gas to score fourteen unanswered points, all of a sudden, a game broke out with hearts pounding to the beat of an upset. The Dawgs were in preventing mode, allowing plays underneath, ensuring nothing deep. Auburn accepted the gifts and put together a 12 play 75-yard scoring drive. The sell-out crowd erupted, trying to cheer life into their beloved Tigers. In reality, the score was of little value or concern; they were trapped in the hole with water rising.

We heard all about the Bulldogs defensive accolades, top defense in the country, hadn’t allowed a touchdown, chasing a historical record of twenty years. They are #1 against Red Zone scoring and the likes. Somehow they forgot about Auburn Football, and defense is its signature.

Derrick Brown (5) and K.J. Britt (33) tackle UGA’s James Cook. Auburn football vs Georgia on Saturday, Nov.16, 2019 in Auburn, Ala. Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

They steamrolled Georgia with some outstanding play from Marion Davidson, who sacked Jake Fromm to end any thought of a long drive to cause the time to evaporate. At that point, time was the most important commodity.

Auburn scored again, it took 5 plays and 57 yards later Bo Nix dove into the endzone from two yards out to earn the first rushing touchdown of the season [week 10] against the Bulldogs. The score was 14-21. This is what college football is about, a fight to the finish bringing a dead loyal crowd that did not leave when it was looking bad back to life.

Georgia found themselves in a battle facing 3rd and 10. The defensive backs for Auburn were outstanding best I have seen in quite some time. They had four last-second breakups none more important than the last, by Kearis Jackson, giving Auburn the ball back with six minutes remaining in the game at the 28-yard line. The Tigers were enjoying the view the Dawgs were looking like pups, and they were on a mission to upset the SEC East as Georgia was already penciled in.

A fumbled snap by Bo Nix in shotgun formation sent shockwaves of heart failure, but they maintained possession. Advancing they faced 4th and 4, Nix escaped the pass rush through the pocket and picked up the first down. I could hear what the Auburn fans were thinking; Beat them Dawgs, Beat them Dawgs.

A whistling throw to a toe-tapping Seth Williams on the sideline looked as if though the Tigers were going to be in the Red Zone at the 18-yard line, but after further review, he was out by a centimeter or so.

Malzahn was impressed by the throw and catch:

“We got the ball down to the 22-yard line, and we thought we had a completion. They overturned it, and it looked like an NFL catch to me. That was a tough one, a real tough one.”

It was huge. It set the Tigers back to face 3rd and 7 from the 39-yard line. Nix broke free again but came up 2 yards short of the first down marker. They faced 4th down with 2 yards to go to keep hope alive. The smell of overtime was in the air, and they were mixing a new recipe called upset soup.

Auburn called the perfect play; it was cleverly designed with a drop back and roll by Bo Nix while the running back slipped underneath the lineman like a screen, but he went out into the flats. He was wide open with one defender and a mile of green grass, one problem.

The ball was thrown behind him. His outstretched hand was in an awkward position reaching back, the ball tapped Harold Joiner’s hand and tumbled to the ground, the air went out of Jordan Hare.

Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart on the last two drives

“One of them, I don’t know if we stopped them, they stopped themselves. That was the fourth down, right? The guy just missed the ball; it looked like to me. He was wide open. I can’t say that we stopped them. We got them to fourth down, and they gave us a gift. So, we didn’t play the way we were capable of the whole game defensively. I was proud of the way they played earlier. The last drive was more of; they had to throw. They had no timeouts. They had to burn those. We were able to be aggressive and play the pass. It’s hard to do that when they have the run on those earlier drives.”

With all due respect to Bo Nix, the freshman quarterback who is having a great season learning on the go and developing, but that’s the difference between a big-time quarterback that can throw his team to victory. It wasn’t his night tonight lets chalk it up as a character-building heartbreaking experience. He is going to get there. He is on the road of growth in the SEC, where football lives for these kinds of moments.

When these two teams meet, you know it’s going to be about defense, and this one did not disappoint. Jake Fromm could only produce 110 passing yards completing 13 of 28 attempts. However, the 3 touchdowns were the icing on the cake. Not an impressive statistical day, but he didn’t hurt his team in with turnovers. DeAndre Swift carried the ball 17 times and produced 106 yards in a winning effort. Georgia only produced 251 total yards.

Auburn became the first team to score a rushing touchdown against the Dawgs, and the only team in the Kirby Smart Era to render 86 snaps in a game. They won the time of possession by ten minutes [32:17 to 27:43].

Kirby Smart was asked what happened?

 “They just got hot, got on a rhythm. It’s not like we went conservative. We didn’t call different calls. We were ‘bend-but-don’t-break.’ They hit some plays. They went tempo. I thought Bo (Nix) got a little more confident. We had a couple of busts, and when you combine those things, guys get hot. It wasn’t like they didn’t move it earlier, because they moved it earlier, we just had some really big stops. We didn’t have really big stops on the later drives. We didn’t get behind the sticks.

They did a good job of personelling, Gus did a good job of searching until he found something. We didn’t have enough answers to what they were doing. Earlier in the game, we did, and we kind of didn’t have enough answers when we needed it most. But I’ll say this, they went out there the last time and came up with some big stops.”

Bo Nix threw it 50 times, completing 30 for 245 yards with 1 touchdown. However, the fumble in the first half that ended a potential scoring drive at the 28-yard line was devastating. If he wouldn’t have, should they have scored to make the score 7-7? If the DeAndre Swift fumble had not bounced out of bounds, maybe we are talking about the coming-out party of another Auburn Legend. Wide Receiver Seth Williams was outstanding, contributing 121 yards and 13 catches.

Seth Williams (18) runs after a catch in the first half. Auburn football vs Georgia on Saturday, Nov.16, 2019 in Auburn, Ala. Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

The true MVP is the Georgia Kicker Jake Camarda. His bombing punts of more than 50 yards planted Auburn in bad field position for most of the game. It’s tough to look up and see all that grass from your 2 and 6-yard lines facing perhaps the best defense in the country.

Coach Gus Malzahn spoke on the importance of field position

“Field position in a game like this with two great defenses, we knew it would be a big factor. In the first half, we didn’t win the field position, and in the second half, we were a lot better. That was really a key factor. Field position and third downs would be a big factor. We had one turnover, and they didn’t have any. When two good teams are playing, the little things matter, and that was what some of the stuff came down to.”

It wasn’t pretty. It was a fight to the finish, shall I say it was classic bust-em in the mouth SEC football. The Georgia Bulldogs did what they had to do to take down the Auburn Tigers 21-14. With the win, they locked up the East; for the third consecutive year, they will appear in the SEC Championship Game in Mercedes Benz Stadium scheduled for December 7th.

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