Georgia vs Auburn: Another Instant Classic?

Kevin C. Cox

Georgia and Auburn have been meeting on the football field since 1892. As is the case in most rivalry games, contests between these two teams have a long and colorful history. Following Georgia’s 38-0 win in 2012, the all time series record stands at 54-54-8. Just over one hundred total points separate the two teams in these meetings, with most of the difference coming in the last two games. As the numbers suggest, the series has seen more than a few close games.

While many of the early games in the rivalry were played in Columbus, GA, meetings have also taken place in Atlanta, Macon and Savannah, GA as well as Montgomery, AL. Since the series moved to campus sites, the road team has a clear advantage. While the Bulldogs lead 15-10-2 in games played at Auburn, the Tigers lead 18-12 when the game is played in Athens. It is also notable that due to the proximity of the schools to each other, many players have been recruited by both coaching staffs (and in some cases have actually been a member of both teams, like current Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall). Auburn frequently boasts many players from the state of Georiga. In addition, legendary Georgia coach Vince Dooley played collegiately at Auburn, while long-time Auburn coach Pat Dye was an All-American at Georgia.

In honor of the 117th meeting between Georgia and Auburn. I thought it would be fun to look back at some of my personal favorite games in the series. While I am a rabid Georgia fan and, consequently, most of my favorites are Georgia wins, I have included a few Auburn victories as well, simply because they were exciting and hard fought games. With the game traditionally set near the end of the season, many SEC championships and division titles have been decided between the two teams. So many memories…..

1982: In a game Georgia had to win to clinch a third consecutive SEC championship and stay unbeaten, the Dawgs offense, led by Herschel Walker, came up with just enough points to win a 19-14 thriller. As legendary Georgia play-by-play man Larry Munson repeatedly urged them to "hunker down!" the

Georgia defense stopped future Heisman trophy winner Bo Jackson for a loss. Then, following a sack, Ronnie Harris and Jeff Sanchez batted down Auburn’s 4th down pass in the end zone, securing a third consecutive trip to the Sugar Bowl for the Dawgs. As the last seconds ticked off the clock at Jordan-Hare stadium, Munson uttered one of his most memorable calls ever: "Look at the sugar falling out of the sky! Look at the sugar falling out of the sky!"

1986: Georgia entered this game a heavy underdog to an Auburn juggernaut (including future Georgia offensive line coach Stacy Searels on the O-line) which had scored points in bunches. With back-up quarterback Wayne Johnson filling in for starter James Jackson, the Dawgs pulled the upset. Johnson’s touchdown run, and a late interception by the defense, sealed a 20-16 win. After the game, as Georgia fans celebrated a huge road victory, the police turned on high pressure water hoses to dampen the festivities. This turn of events led to the game being forever known as the victory "between the hoses."

1992: Georgia led this defensive struggle 14-10 very late in the game. With less than thirty seconds to play, Auburn had the ball inside the Georgia one yard line. On first down, Tiger quarterback Stan White was stopped short of the goal line. As the clock ticked, Auburn frantically tried to line up for another play. With Bulldog players in no hurry to get up, and Auburn without a time out, the clock ran to zero. Auburn players and coaches complained bitterly to the officials, but to no avail. Another road win for the Dawgs!

1994: Auburn entered this game with a twenty game winning streak, and had missed out on a chance at a championship the previous year because of NCAA sanctions despite a perfect 11-0 record. Georgia was struggling through an average year which ended with a 6-4-1 record despite the prescence of record setting quarterback Eric Zeier. Coached by Terry Bowden, son of Florida State legend Bobby Bowden, Auburn seemed a lock to keep the streak alive. But Ray Goff’s Dawgs had plenty of fight left in them, and they rose to the occasion. The resulting 23-23 tie broke Auburn’s winning streak, and proved that in a rivalry game, anything can happen.

2000: After trailing 23-13, Georgia rallied and sent the game to overtime with a tying field goal in the final minute of regulation. The Dawgs had the ball first in overtime, but could only manage a field goal. The stage was set for Georgia native Ben Leard, who scored the game-winning touchdown on a quarterback sneak. Auburn’s 29-26 win at Jordan-Hare snapped a string of nine consectutive wins by the road team in this unpredictable series.

2001: In an eerie reversal of the 1992 game, this time it was Georgia that had driven near the Auburn goal line in the waning seconds. Even though time was about to expire, the Dawgs attempted to run the ball for the tying touchdown. When the play was stopped short, the clock ran out before the offense could line up again. Final score: Auburn 24 Georgia 17. This one still stings.

2002: For most Dawg fans, "70 X takeoff" is all that needs to be said about this game. That is the name of the play in which David Greene found Micheal Johnson for a nineteen yard, fourth down touchdown pass with 1:25 to play in the game. Georgia had trailed at the half 14-3, despite two interceptions and a fumble recovery by safety Sean Jones. The Dawgs got back into the game in the second half, but still trailed 21-17 with just over two minutes to play. After a long pass to Fred Gibson put Georgia at the Auburn fourteen yard line, three incomplete passes and a penalty put the Dawgs in dire straits. But Greene and Johnson were up to the challege. After the touchdown, Georgia was able to hold Auburn on downs and run out the clock. The win clinched Georgia’s first trip to the SEC championship game, where the Dawgs would rout Arkansas 30-3. I’ve never been more excited about a win than this one!

2005: A year after Auburn went undefeated, won the SEC championship, and beat Georgia behind running backs Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams, Georgia would win it’s second SEC championship under coach Mark Richt. Quarterback DJ Shockley led the Dawgs, but couldn’t quite pull out a win over Auburn. Shockley’s three touchdown passes paced Georgia, but a long fourth down pass by Auburn set up the game-winning field goal with just seconds remaining. Auburn won the game 31-30. A tough loss to take, but the SEC championship game win over LSU more than made up for the disappointment.

2006: Leading up to this game, Georgia had really been struggling; having lost four out of five games. Auburn was riding high, ranked fifth in the polls. Once again, records and past success went out the window. Led by safety Tra Battle’s three interceptions of Brandon Cox, one of which he returned for a touchdown, Georgia routed the Tigers 37-15. Freshman quarterback Matthew Stafford had a huge game, and tailback Kregg Lumpkin rushed for over 100 yards and a touchdown. Another upset win for the Dawgs!

2007: I’ve mentioned this game in previous posts, but going over it once more couldn’t hurt! Prior to this game, Georgia’s senior players requested that fans "blackout" Sanford Stadium by wearing black to the game. Rumor had it that the team might wear black jerseys, but no one knew for sure. Georgia came out for warm-ups in the traditional red jerseys, and everyone assumed that the rumors had no basis in reality. The team then returned to the locker room for a final word from the coaches. When the Dawgs ran back out onto the field dressed in black as AC/DC’s "Back in Black" blared over the sound system, it was a moment that no Georgia fan will ever forget. Oh yeah, the game went well also. Led by Knowshon Moreno, Georgia routed Auburn 45-20 on the way to a Sugar Bowl berth and a final #2 ranking in the polls.

2009: Auburn jumped to a 14-0 lead, and seemed on the verge of running away with this game. Georgia rallied, however, and took a 31-24 fourth quarter lead on Caleb King’s second touchdown of the day. Auburn threatened late, but a huge pass breakup by Bacarri Rambo (who was knocked unconcious on the play) helped the Dawgs hold on for another close win.

Some of you may have noticed a classic missing from my list. You’re right, there is one missing, but only because I have saved it for last. Here now is my favorite Georgia-Auburn game of all time: "The miracle on the plains."

1996: This game is another example of how anything can happen in a rivalry game. Georgia was having a down year in coach Jim Donnan’s first season. Auburn was a heavy favorite, and the Tigers raced to a 28-7 lead. The only highlight of the first half for Georgia came when Auburn receiver Robert Baker scored a touchdown while running right at Georgia mascot Uga V. Not taking kindly to this display, Uga lunged at Baker and attempted to bite him. While Baker avoided being bitten, a photo of the incident has been immortalized on numerous posters, framed photographs, and T-shirts.

But back to the game. Georgia rallied to cut the Auburn lead to 28-21. Late in the game, the Dawgs began a last ditch drive. Georgia moved into Auburn territory, but when Mike Bobo was sacked at the thirty yard line, the clock ran all the way down to one second before Bobo was able to get the offense lined up and spike the ball. It was down to the final play. I’ll never forget Larry Munson saying "There’s no way we can do it with one second" as Bobo dropped back to pass. As time expired, Bobo fired the ball into the end zone. Touchdown! Wide receiver Corey Allen somehow came down with a jump ball and fell into the end zone. The extra point sent the game into overtime.

The teams exchanged touchdowns back and forth. Robert Edwards took over the game for Georgia’s offense and scored three overtime touchdowns. Finally, with the Dawgs leading 56-49, Auburn faced a fourth down at the Georgia eighteen yard line. Auburn quarterback Dameyune Craig took the snap and tried to get the first down by running a sweep. Georgia’s defense rose to the occasion and hit him a yard short, and the Dawgs won! It was the first overtime game in SEC history, and an instant classic.

Which brings us to this year’s game. On paper, Auburn is the clear favorite. The Tigers have spent the last few weeks steamrolling opponents, while Georgia has gone 2-2 in its last four games. Auburn has an explosive offense, due mainly to the running of Nick Marshall and Tre Mason. The Georgia defense has struggled all year, though the Dawgs have actually been decent against the run for the most part.

On the other side of the ball, Auburn’s defense hasn’t been very good either. Georgia’s balanced attack could give the Tigers fits, assuming Todd Gurley is near one hundred percent for the game.

This one has all the makings of another classic between the two teams. It could easily come down to which team has the ball last. I think that Georgia can play with Auburn, if the Bulldogs don't beat themselves with turnovers and mistakes on special teams. Hopefully after Saturday, I’ll be adding another memorable game to my list!

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