AUBURN, Ala. (WSFA) - The latest chapter in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry was ruled by the defenses. No. 4 Georgia (9-1, 6-1) came out on top with the 21-14 victory over No. 12 Auburn (7-3, 4-3) after holding off a fourth quarter Auburn surge.
Through most of the third quarter, both teams combined for more punts (15) than points scored (14) until the Georgia Bulldogs scored a touchdown to push the lead to 21-0 with 13 seconds remaining in the quarter.
The game opened with a missed 47-yard field goal from Auburn’s Anders Carlson and then back-to-back punts from both teams. With its second possession, Georgia scored the first of its touchdowns in a big way. Quarterback Jake Fromm and wideout Dominick Blaylock connected on a 51-yard pass-and-catch for the touchdown and the Dawgs had drawn first blood.
Following that touchdown, both teams would combine for nine punts, including seven three-and-outs, until Georgia was able to score with just 20 seconds left in the first half. It was Fromm’s second touchdown pass of the game, a 5-yarder to Brian Herrien out of the backfield on a play-action pass and it capped a 7-play, 81-yard drive.
The third quarter was much of the same: a defensive slugfest. Two juggernauts engaged in trench warfare not budging an inch. Combined, both teams sputtered 47 yards of offense before Georgia embarked on an 88-yard drive capped by Fromm’s third touchdown pass of the game. A third-different receiver in Eli Wolf caught this scoring pass. Another 5-yarder and the Dawgs were slowly, but surely, inserting the dagger.
Through the end of the third quarter, the Auburn offense had just 171 yards, just 49 coming on the ground.
Down three scores going to the fourth quarter, the Auburn offense needed to make a thing- something, anything - to happen. And they would. That thing, that something, that anything, was a play-action jet sweep to wide receiver Eli Stove, that Nix ended up throwing to Stove who scored from 3 yards out. With 10:04 remaining in the game, Auburn trailed by two scores now.
That drive was Auburn’s longest in terms of plays, and yards, and time. It was a 75-yard drive that lasted 12 plays and 5 minutes and 49 seconds. It was drive that included a 25-yard completion from Nix to Shedrick Jackson.
The Tigers had their spark and wanted to make a fire. With that, Gus Malzahn dialed up an onside kick that Auburn was able to recover and the offense was thought to be back on the field and life returned to Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Replay review determined the ball had not traveled 10 yards before Auburn’s Anthony Schwartz had made contact with an opposing Georgia player making the play illegal. Auburn kicked the ball deep on the re-kick and thus ensued Georgia’s drive and Auburn’s momentum-shifting play was nullified.
But still, Auburn’s defense stood tall and strong like a medieval fortress, and the Bulldogs were punting again.
Auburn’s offense was now in the groove. The Tigers were inside the red zone in just two plays. A 5-play drive ended with Nix diving into the end zone, stretching the ball across the line and Auburn now had two touchdowns in three minutes of game time.
It was now a one-score ball game with 7:03 remaining in the game.
Georgia went three-and-out on offense after two incomplete passes and a failed quarterback run. Auburn not only had the momentum, but was getting the ball back with lots of time and a chance to tie.
The Tigers looked like they were going to be stopped, but Malzahn kept his offense on the field for the 4th and 5 near midfield. On the play, with no receivers open, Nix scrambled out for a first down. A spectacular catch from Seth Williams was overturned after another replay review and Auburn faced another fourth down after Nix was tackled short of the line to gain on third down.
On 4th and short in Georgia territory, Nix rolled out on a play-action pass and had a wide open running back Harold Joiner, but Nix threw the ball behind him and the pass fell incomplete.
The Bulldogs took over with just over 2:20 to play in the game. Auburn used its timeouts to save up as much time as possible for the offense and got the ball back with 2:03 to play.
The Tigers were unable to get anything going, turned over on downs with 1:39 to play and another miraculous comeback win in Jordan-Hare was stymied. Nix’s first down pass was incomplete, his second down pass was complete for a negative gain, and then his third down pass fell incomplete forcing fourth and long. Nix would be sacked on fourth down, and Auburn’s chance at tying the game or potentially taking the lead with it.
The freshman Nix finished the game 30-for-50 245 yards and a touchdown pass. Wide receiver Seth Williams finished with 13 receptions for 121 yards for Auburn.
Up next, Auburn hosts Samford next Saturday at 11 a.m.