In the days leading up to the 116th edition of the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry, some eternally optimistic Auburn fans held out hope for the type of performance the Tigers gave in Week 4 against LSU. But right from the start Saturday night, it was clear that they would be disappointed. Georgia was able to do whatever it wanted, and the Bulldogs cruised to a 38-0 victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
To say the atmosphere in the stadium was depressing would be an understatement. It was as if most every Auburn fan knew what was coming, and they just wanted to get it over with. Judging by the play on the field, most of Gene Chizik's players held the same attitude. Auburn's offense couldn't muster much of an attack at all, and the Tigers' defense put up all the fight of lambs being led to slaughter. Georgia marched off two easy touchdown drives in the first quarter and added two more in the second. For those supporting the Tigers, the loudest cheer of the night came when the scoreboard showed "Texas A&M 29, Alabama 24, final." The only other expressions of emotion were half-hearted cheers after sporadic, ultimately meaningless positive plays and despondent groans and sighs following far too common displays of ineptitude by the Tigers.
The final numbers for Auburn, as expected, were ugly. The Tigers managed 238 yards, with a number of those coming in garbage time, 57 yards on the ground, 11 first downs and 3 of 11 third-down conversions. Jonathan Wallace and Emory Blake provided much of the offensive output. Wallace was 15 of 22 for 181 yards and an interception, and without counting the 19 yards lost on three sacks, he rushed for 28 yards on eight carries. Blake caught six passes for 104 yards, his eighth-career 100-yard receiving game. Auburn's offensive line did little to keep the Bulldog defensive line at bay, evident in the four total sacks compiled by Georgia and the meager rushing numbers put up by the Tigers. Tre Mason led the "attack," picking up 33 yards on 11 carries. Normally, postgame analysis of an Auburn loss in 2012 would call for a questioning of Mason's lack of touches, but that isn't relevant now. Mason could have rushed 30 times against this Georgia defense, and Auburn still would have been shut out.
Trying to choose the most impressive Bulldog is like trying to choose one of the 31 flavors at Baskin-Robbins: They're all good, and there really isn't a bad choice. Aaron Murray completed 18 of 24 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns, and if Mark Richt had elected to truly humiliate Auburn, Murray could have thrown for as many yards and touchdowns as he liked. Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall both found the end zone and eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark, gaining 116 and 105, respectively. Three different Bulldogs caught touchdown passes, and the receiving corps was led by Tavarres King's 73 yards. In all, Georgia gained 497 yards and 24 first downs, and the Bulldogs didn't punt until they had built a 28-0 lead. On defense, Alec Ogletree compiled 10 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack. Georgia defenders hounded Auburn all night, totaling six tackles for loss, seven quarterback hurries and two forced turnovers in addition to the four sacks.
With the win, Georgia evened the series record at 54-54-8, knocking Auburn out of the lead for the first time since 1987. While that is sad, the most disheartening aspect of Saturday's game was watching the Tigers simply go through the motions. Defensive players were lazy and fell into bad habits, leading to more missed tackles than one would care to count. Offensive players barely attempted to push back at the Bulldog 'D' that was imposing its will, and Wallace received little help from those around him. Aside from a select few, most of the Tigers looked like they have given up. Chizik can deny it all he wants, but he has lost this team. With a 2-8 record, it's difficult to blame the young men. Just as it has with the fans, this season has beaten the life out of them.
Auburn hosts Alabama A&M next week, and the Tigers will have a chance to give the seniors -- who have given this team so much -- one final win. After that, Chizik and his team will get their bludgeoning in Tuscaloosa and move on to face the bigger questions that will determine the future of the program. The sooner this chapter of Auburn football ends, the better.