Showdown in Athens!
(Tommy Tuberville's Greatest Games!)
War Eagle, everybody! Time now for another one of Tommy Tuberville's greatest games! This week, we'll take a look at Auburn's wild 2005 win over eventual SEC Champion Georgia, in Athens. The Tigers took on Georgia, in a titanic, made for TV showdown of SEC powers. The game was on Saturday night, November 12, 2005, on ESPN Primetime.
The Bulldogs came into this game smarting from yet another loss to Florida in Jacksonville. With 5th year senior quarterback D. J. Shockley FINALLY getting his year to start, the Dogs had run out to a 7-0 record to start. However, in the annual outdoor cocktail party, the Florida Gators had pulled the 14-10 upset. Georgia was still in the running for the East title, but Florida now had the tie-breaker. Georgia needed a win, to stay a game ahead of Florida, who had losses to Alabama and LSU. The Bulldogs were hoping to bounce back against the Auburn Tigers.
Auburn was still in contention for the Western Division title, as well. Auburn was still recovering from an overtime loss to LSU in Baton Rouge. The Tigers had bounced back with wins over Ole Miss and Kentucky, but had dominated neither game. The offense struggled in a 27-3 win over the Rebels at home, and the defense had been lit up a week later by the Wildcats, in Lexington. While Auburn won it, 49-27, it was an uneasy feeling going into a showdown with a dangerous Georgia offense. The Auburn backfield was ailing, too. Kenny Irons was still starting, but he had been heavily used, during the middle stretch of the season, and was banged up. Brad Lester was trying to shake off a pulled groin. Trey Smith was banged up as well, but still playing. Tristan Davis had electrified Kentucky a week before with a monster running day, but there were still concerns about how the young converted defensive back would do in a big game.
Game recap, after the jump!
It was a cool November evening in Sanford Stadium, in front of a sold out crowd of more than 92000. Georgia won the toss, and deferred to the second half. On the kickoff, the Dawgs overloaded one side of the field, and tried to coffin-corner kick the football. The ball dribbled into the endzone for a touch back, and the officials flagged the Bulldogs for a rare illegal formation penalty. Auburn made 'em re-kick from the 30. Brandon Coutu kicked to the goal line and Devin Aromashodu was buried at the 15 yard line. In addition, the Tigers took an illegal block penalty, and were backed WAY up. Hindsight being 20-20, the Tigers should have taken the touch back!
Starting from the 8 yard line, the Tigers began a 92 yard march. Brandon Cox dumped one to Anthony Mix for 6, then Kenny Irons bashed out a first down at the 19. On first down, Irons was tripped in the backfield for a loss by Quentin Moses. Brandon Cox fired a strike to Devin Aromashodu to bring up 3rd and short. Irons got the call, and bulled to the 30 and another first down. Cox then went play-action, and dumped a screen to Irons, who rambled out to the 45 before being pushed out. Irons was then stopped cold on first down, by Jarvis Jackson. A second down toss for Ben Obomanu was dropped, which brought up 3rd and 10 from the 45. Cox stepped up, and fired a strike to Courtney Taylor, who held on in traffic, right at the stake. It was a new set of downs for Auburn, at the Georgia 45. Brandon Cox went to the air on first down, and found tight end Cooper Wallace in the flat, and Wallace picked up 15 more before going out of bounds. Cox overthrew a swing pass to Irons on first down, then left it with Irons on a draw play, on second and 10. With monumental blocking, Irons ripped right through the center of the Bulldog defense, for a 30 yard touchdown run! John Vaughn added the extra point, and with 9:45 left in the first quarter, Auburn was ahead 7-0!
Now, it was Auburn's turn to botch a kickoff. Matt Clark's boot fluttered, sailed, and curve-balled out of bounds, giving Georgia possession at the 35. Thomas Brown took the toss, and cruised into the Auburn secondary. Will Herring saved the touchdown, holding Brown to 16 yards. From the Auburn 49, D. J. Shockley rolled out, and found tight end Leonard Pope wide open for a first down at the Auburn 35. The Tigers had a lot of trouble getting the big man on the ground. David Irons finally got him by the ankles. Thomas Brown took a handoff up the gut for three, then Sean Bailey dropped a slant pass. On 3rd and 7, Auburn came after Shockley, and backpedaling, Shockley grounded one in the general direction of Kenneth Harris. In came Brandon Coutu, who hammered home a 49 yard field goal. With 8:28 left in the first quarter, the Auburn lead was trimmed to 7-3.
Coutu again kicked off to the goal line, and Aromashodu barely made it back to the 20. From there, Kenny Irons ripped off a 17 yard gallop. A short dump-off to Cooper Wallace picked up 5, and Irons was stuffed by Quentin Moses for only a yard. On third and 4, it was Georgia's turn to bring the heat. Brandon Cox sailed one up for grabs, and it was intercepted by Paul Oliver, who took it back to the Auburn 47. Georgia was in business in Tiger Land.
The Bulldogs wasted no time. Shockley quickly found Mohammad Massaquoi short, and Massaquoi got away. Safety Steve Gandy finally ran him down at the Auburn 14. Shockley then dumped one over the middle, to Leonard Pope. Pope dragged a host of Auburn players down close to the goal line, before Kevin Hobbs finally got him down at the one. Georgia tried to go to a jumbo package, but two Danny Ware dives were stopped for a loss. On 3rd and goal from the 4, Shockley dumped it to Pope again, for the touchdown. The Tigers had no one who could match up with Pope's height. Brandon Coutu drilled the PAT, and Georgia had their first lead of the game, 10-7, with 4:50 still left in the first quarter.
Coutu again kicked off to the goal line, but this time Aromashodu weaved through traffic, out to the 26. Kenny Irons bashed out one first down, on 8 and 3 yard runs. Then, Brandon Cox was sacked for a loss of 7, by Tony Taylor and Brandon Miller. A draw to Irons picked up 11, but then the Tigers took a delay of game penalty. On third and 12, Cox swung it out to Irons, and Irons was off for 22 yards and a first down! From there, Georgia stiffened. Cox could not find Obomanu on first down, then Irons was slammed down by Tra Battle for 2. On third and 8, Cox was flushed out, and dragged down for no gain. The first quarter ended, with Georgia leading 10-7. In came Kody Bliss, who pooch kicked it to the Georgia 13, where it was fair caught by Thomas Flowers.
Kregg Lumpkin got the first carry for the Bulldogs, and was put down by Travis Williams, for a two yard gain. Shockley fired on the curl to Martrez Milner, and Antarrious Williams and Jonathan Wilhite stopped him a yard short of the first down. On 3rd and 1 from the 22, Marquies Gunn fought through, and stuffed Lumpkin for no gain. Head coach Mark Richt played it safe, and sent in the punter. Gordon Ely-Kelso boomed one, for 46 yards, which was fair caught by Tre Smith.
From the Auburn 32, Kenny Irons was loose up the middle, again, galloping right at the Dawgs. A 21 yard gain set Auburn up at the Georgia 47. Auburn pounded Irons three more times, and he picked up the first down at the 37, then limped out of the game. With Tre Smith relieving Irons, Auburn tried an end-around to Courtney Taylor. Taylor had never really recovered from an early-season high ankle sprain, and was chased down easily by DeMario Minter. On second and 8, Smith was held to just a yard on the carry. On 3rd and 7 from the 34, Cox could not find Aromashodu, and in came John Vaughn for an apparent field goal attempt. Instead, Vaughn took a direct snap, and punted short. Auburn was unable to down the bouncing ball, and it rolled into the end zone for a touchback.
Thomas Brown took the handoff and bolted for 14 yards, but then Georgia wilted. Three straight incomplete Shockley passes brought up 4th and 10. Gordon Ely Kelso got off a shaky punt, which Tre Smith failed to field. The ball was downed at the Auburn 25.
Brad Lester entered the game for the Tigers, and immediately took the first handoff through the hole. Lester was off like a shot, rumbling 30 yards into Georgia territory! A second Lester handoff netted 4, and then Lester limped off, having re-injured himself. Irons came back in. Brandon Cox faked to Irons, then loaded one up deep down the sideline. Anthony Mix came down with it at the 12 yard line, then Paul Oliver ripped the ball out at the 6. Fortunately for the Tigers, the ball rolled sideways out of bounds. The Tigers had first and goal at the six! The pass play from Cox to Mix had covered 35 yards. On first down, the Tigers went with the pitch play out of the bunch set. Irons took it to the end zone! Auburn had the lead back. John Vaughn added the PAT, and Auburn was ahead, 14-10, with 6:18 left in the half.
Matt Clark kicked off for Auburn, to the 6. Tyson Browning slithered out to the 29, tripped up by Tre Smith. Shockley immediately went back to his best weapon, tight end Leonard Pope, on a short pass. Pope was covered, but it didn't matter. Pope shed Auburn tacklers like water, pounding for a 22 yard gain. Karibi Dede finally toppled the giant. Danny Ware and Thomas Brown took handoffs, and brought up 3rd and 3. Shockley found Massaquoi for a 5 yard quick strike, and a first down at the Auburn 37. Georgia went back to the ground, and Marquies Gunn fired through and took Thomas Brown down for a loss of 3. Shockley went back to Pope, who picked up 8. On 3rd and 5, Shockley took off, and picked up the first down himself, to the Tiger 27. Thomas Brown galloped around the corner on a counter play for 9, then fullback Brannon Southerland plunged up the middle for 5 more. Georgia had another first down, at the Auburn 13. The Tigers stood up. Travis Williams submarined Thomas Brown for a loss of 1. Shockley tried the quarterback draw again, but T. J. Jackson held it to 4 yards. On 3rd and 7, Shockley could not connect with Massaquoi in the end zone, and in came Brandon Coutu. Coutu banged in the 28 yard field goal, and Auburn still led, 14-13. Only 1:13 remained in the half.
Coutu drilled a touch back kickoff, and Auburn stayed on the ground with Kenny Irons, who picked up 11, and the first half clock wound down. At the half, the Tigers clung to a narrow 14-13 lead. Most pressing question? How would the Tigers cover Leonard Pope, in the second half? At the risk of opening up the running game, coordinator David Gibbs opted to start dropping a linebacker into the flat on obvious passing plays. While this didn't completely stop Pope, it did make it harder for him to get downfield, and helped keep his rhythm off. Georgia had other weapons, though, as the Tigers were about to find out.
To start the second half, Matt Clark boomed a rising fastball of a kickoff, that went for a touch back. Georgia caught Auburn flat-footed on a play action fake, and D. J. Shockley turned the corner for a 25 yard gain. Shockley couldn't get it to Massaquoi on first down, but then a draw to Thomas Brown through a vacant gap picked up 13 and another first down. Shockley found Massaquoi for 9 on the out route. It took two handoffs to Southerland to pick up the first down, but the second did the trick and the Bulldogs were in business at the Auburn 29. Shockley missed Massaquoi on first down, then took off on the next play. Steve Gandy temporarily saved the touchdown at the nine, taking Shockley down after a 20 yard gallop. From first and goal, Shockley fired a dart to Massaquoi, for the touchdown, working on Jonathan Wilhite. Brandon Coutu added the PAT, and Georgia led, 20-14, with 10:45 left in the 3rd quarter.
Coutu booted it to the end zone, and Auburn started at the 20. Kenny Irons bashed for 6, then 5, to give the Tigers a first down. Then, a rare pass to fullback Jake Slaughter picked up 7. Kenny Irons was then dumped for a big loss by Tony Taylor, and Brandon Cox faced 3rd and 5. Cox tried to get it to Mix, but textbook coverage by Paul Oliver made it impossible. In came Kody Bliss, and it really looked like Auburn was in trouble. Bliss boomed one high, to the UGA 23, for 41 yards. The Bulldogs' Thomas Flowers made the catch, avoided the first man, but ran into trouble 5 yards later. Steve Gandy raked the ball out, and Karibi Dede recovered at the Georgia 30! Auburn went with the bunch left, and faked to Irons on the dive play. Cox then dealt it off to a streaking Ben Obomanu on the reverse. With great downfield blocking, Obomanu set sail for the end zone! Touchdown, Auburn! John Vaughn booted the PAT through, and Auburn had the lead back, 21-20, with 8:21 left in the third!
Matt Clark kicked off to the goal line, and Tyson Browning took it back out to the 25. Now, it was time for the Tiger defense to dig in. Leonard Pope started the drive, by false starting. Shockley then tried to pick on Wilhite again, but Wilhite had help, this time, as Karidi Dede dropped into the zone. The pass to Massaquoi was no good. Georgia then went with a throw to the back side, and Bryan McClendon rumbled for 22 and a first down. Danny Ware tried to get outside on the toss, but David Irons came up and sliced him down for a 3 yard gain. On second down, Stanley McClover anticipated the snap count perfectly. McClover was around the tackle before Shockley even completed his drop, and barely held onto the ball, as McClover threw him down. On 3rd and 14, Shockley tried to get it to McClendon again, but Irons was there, and the pass fell incomplete. Gordon Ely-Kelso knuckled a short punt, which was fair caught by Tre Smith at the Auburn 28.
Needing a drive to take control of the game, the Tigers couldn't do it. Irons pounded for 3, then Auburn tried the screen to Irons. After 6 quarters of being eaten up by Auburn screens to running backs, the Bulldogs were ready. DeMario Minter slung Irons down for a 6 yard loss. On 3rd and 13, the conservative draw play nearly worked! Irons got 10, stopped short by Tra Battle. Kody Bliss came in, and BOOMED one 47 yards to the UGA 17. Thomas Flowers brought it back to the 20.
For a couple of plays, it looked like Auburn might get its first three and out of the game. Josh Thompson stopped Thomas Brown for no gain, then a blitz by Karibi Dede brought Shockley down for a 5 yard sack. On third and 15, though, Shockley launched one to a wide-open Massaquoi. Will Herring had to come over and make the tackle, after a 22 yard gain. The Bulldogs then tried a middle screen to Massaquoi, and were lucky not to turn it over. Stanley McClover had stepped into the lane, and was too surprised to handle the hot ball. The drive was derailed, when Georgia was flagged for holding on a 27-yard pass play. On 3rd and 17 from the UGA 30, Danny Ware took the safe handoff for 9. Gordon Ely-Kelso punted away, for a towering 47 yards. Tre Smith fair-caught at the Auburn 14.
The Tigers went with the dive to Irons, which picked up only 1. The 3rd quarter was over, and Auburn led, 21-20. On second down, Auburn ran the bootleg, and Brandon Cox fired to a wide-open Cole Bennett for 19 and a first down. From there, though, the UGA defense turned up the heat. Cox threw three straight incomplete passes, and took some shots. Kody Bliss came in, and boomed a 54 yarder, that Thomas Flowers dropped at the 12, but had time to pick up and dart back out to the 18.
The Tiger defense, which had slowed the Bulldogs down pretty well the past couple of drives, started shooting itself in the foot. Shockley, with all day to throw, found McClendon up at the UGA 45, and Merrill Johnson got flagged for the late hit out of bounds. It was close, but they called it. From the Auburn 40, Shockley couldn't get it to Leonard Pope with Antarrious Williams jamming him. Next play, though Shockley found tailback Danny Ware wide open on the wheel route, for 20. A dump to Pope picked up 7, with Karibi Dede refusing to let the big man go. Shockley tried the keeper next, but Marquies Gunn tackled him for a loss of 2. On 3rd and 5 from the Tiger 15, Shockley dumped it to Pope in the flat, and Pope was wrestled out of bounds at the 6 by Herring and Kevin Hobbs. The Bulldogs went first and goal, and all Tiger eyes were on Leonard Pope. Unfortunately, Thomas Brown took the handoff, and easily reached the end zone for the tying touchdown. Georgia was going to go for two, to try and make it 28-21, but didn't get the play set in time. They were flagged for delay of game, then got a second delay of game trying to get the kicking team out. Brandon Coutu made the PAT anyway, and Georgia led, 27-21, with 12:33 left in the game.
Auburn, needing an answer for the Georgia score, did not start well. On Coutu's kickoff, Auburn was flagged for an illegal block on a short Aromashodu return, and started from the 7 yard line. The Tigers started with a hitch pass to Aromashodu, which picked up 9. Kenny Irons picked up the first down up the middle, then carried for 8, zero, then 8 for another first down, out at the Tiger 33. On first down, Cox went play action, and then launched probably the longest successful throw of his career. Georgia had come with the corner blitz, Cox had Aromashodu manned up on safety Greg Blue on that side, and Cox let it rip. Blue made the tackle after the catch, but the play picked up 53 yards! On first down at the Georgia 14, Kenny Irons lost the handle after a three yard gain, and the Bulldogs recovered at the 11. A promising drive was seemingly derailed. After a first down incompletion, Georgia came to the line in the I formation, and Shockley faked it, and dropped to throw. Shockley dumped it off to fullback Brannon Southerland in the flat, who was wrapped up immediately by linebacker Kevin Sears. The ball squirted out, and Karibi Dede was there, for the scoop and score! Touchdown, Auburn! With John Vaughn's extra point, the Tigers took the lead back, 28-27, with the defense getting the score! 9:28 remained in the game, and Auburn had to stop Georgia!
Matt Clark boomed the kickoff for a touch back, and Georgia had it at the 20. Shockley went right back to his weapon, Leonard Pope, who dragged Auburn tacklers for 25 yards, with Jonathan Wilhite finally tripping Pope up. Shockley then was forced to miss two downfield passes, by a ferocious pass rush. On third down and ten, the Bulldogs burnt a timeout. They decided to go with another short dump to Leonard Pope, to beat the rush, but this time, Auburn only rushed 3, and had a defensive end on Pope, Marquies Gunn! The pass was broken up, and Georgia had to punt. Ely-Kelso tried to pin Auburn deep, but shanked it, and Tre Smith fair caught the ball on the sideline at the 20.
With 8:44 left in the game, Auburn needed to run some clock. Kenny Irons was stuffed after a 2 yard gain, then Brandon Cox found Cooper Wallace for 7 more on the crossing route. Unfortunately, Wallace went out of bounds, and stopped the clock. Cox snuck for the first down, but the Tiger drive melted down from there. Cox threw incomplete for Mix, stopping the clock yet again. After stopping the clock for the Bulldogs a few plays before, Wallace compounded his error by jumping before the snap. Irons took a handoff into the line for 3, then Auburn could not get lined up correctly. Auburn had to burn a timeout, with 6:34 remaining. The stoppage accomplished nothing, as Dannell Ellerbe fired through on the blitz, and sacked Cox for a big loss. On 4th and 25 from the Auburn 16, the Tigers needed a big effort from punter Kody Bliss. Bliss delivered a 24 yard, wobbling hook shot, out of bounds at the Tiger 39. Georgia had a golden opportunity to re-take the lead.
Shockley went to work, finding Bryan McClendon for 14 on the out route, shoved out by Kevin Hobbs. Then, Leonard Pope finally made a play that went Auburn's way. Pope, harried the entire second half by Tiger ends and linebackers, got caught pushing off. The flag backed Georgia up, to the 39. Ware picked up 6 up the gut, then Thomas Brown got 8 more. On third and 10, the Bulldogs ran Thomas Brown for a yard, to set the ball up. Brandon Coutu came in on 4th and 9 from the Tiger 24, and booted in the 41 yard field goal. The Bulldogs had the lead, 30-28, with only 3:25 left in the game.
Coutu kicked another touch back, and it was do or die time for the Tigers, from their own 20. Cox started by rifling an out route, to Ben Obomanu for 9. Kenny Irons powered for 6 more, and a first down at the 35. From there, things started looking grim. A fade to Anthony Mix went too far out of bounds, incomplete. A draw to Irons got nothing, stuffed by Gerald Anderson. On third and 10, Cox could not get it to Courtney Taylor under pressure.
The Tigers faced 4th and 10, with time winding down. Georgia had been bringing heavy pressure, but curiously, this time, they went with the 4 man rush. The Auburn line protected, and Cox stepped up, firing a dart on the post. Paul Oliver had the coverage on Aromashodu, and let the receiver get inside position. Inside help was late. Aromashodu made the catch, then broke away, racing across the field! Inside the ten, Oliver, giving chase, launched himself in a last-ditch effort. Oliver swatted the ball out, and it rolled loose in the end zone, bouncing precariously towards the in-line! If the ball went out, it would be touch back, Georgia, with less than a minute left, and the lead. Chasing the play was Courtney Taylor, for Auburn. He had wisely avoided blocking Oliver in the back, but was on the scene. As the ball was heading out of bounds, Taylor pounced on it, in the end zone! The play was not a touchdown, however. By rule, the offense cannot benefit from a forward fumble on 4th down. The ball was placed at the spot of the fumble, at the 3 yard line. Auburn ran Kenny Irons 3 times, netting nothing, but winding the clock down to single digits. In came John Vaughn, on 4th and goal. Vaughn, who had missed five field goals in an overtime loss to LSU, was on the spot. With 6 seconds left, Vaughn nailed it, for the 20 yard field goal! Auburn took the lead, 31-30! In addition, UGA was flagged for roughing the kicker.
Matt Clark easily kicked it into the stands from the 50. Georgia had time for one play. D. J. Shockley fired one upfield to Massaquoi, but the speedy freshman ran out of room at the50 yard line, and the clock read 0:00! Auburn had done it! With the 31-30 win, the Tigers were still alive for the Western Division title.
For Georgia, the loss was not fatal to their hopes. Nemesis Florida, who owned the tie-breaker, had been upset earlier in the day by South Carolina, in Columbia. It was an odd thing, for Steve Spurrier to be doing the Bulldogs any favors! Florida's loss gave the Gators 3 SEC losses. Georgia needed only to beat Kentucky the following week, to claim the undisputed title. The Bulldogs blasted the Wildcats in Sanford Stadium a week later, 45-13, earning a trip to the SEC Championship Game. In the title game, the Georgia defense took advantage of an LSU offense missing top quarterbacks Marcus Randle and Jemarcus Russell. Young Matt Flynn struggled, and Georgia bombed LSU 34-14, for the SEC Championship. The Dogs would end on a sour note, in the Sugar Bowl. Georgia spotted West Virginia and Pat White a 35-0 lead. The Bulldogs roared back, but fell short, 38-35. That was the only the second BCS bowl loss for the SEC this decade.
Auburn's title hopes remained, after November 12, but a trip to Atlanta hung on life support. Alabama had failed to knock LSU off in overtime, and LSU owned the tie-breaker over Auburn. Auburn would need to beat Alabama, and hope LSU lost to either Ole Miss or Arkansas. The Razorbacks came close, but LSU eeked out a 19-17 win, and won the trip to Atlanta to face the Bulldogs. With the victory over the eventual SEC Champion Bulldogs, many folks were saying that Auburn was playing the best ball in the SEC, in November! Next up for the Tigers, a Jordan Hare showdown with 8th ranked, 9-1 Alabama.