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Remembering the rivalry: Auburn 38, No. 16 Georgia 21, Nov. 13, 1999

Looking back at the last time Auburn pulled a major upset against Georgia.

No, this photo isn't from the 1999 Auburn-Georgia game, but it was another beautiful moment in the rivalry.
No, this photo isn't from the 1999 Auburn-Georgia game, but it was another beautiful moment in the rivalry.
Kevin C. Cox

The 1999 season wasn't one to remember for Auburn fans. In Tommy Tuberville's first year, the program was still recovering from the catastrophe that was the final days of the Terry Bowden Era. Going into the Georgia game, Auburn had managed a meager record of 4-5, and three of those wins were against Appalachian State, Idaho and Central Florida. During a five-game SEC losing streak leading up to the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry, the Tigers were averaging a 26-11 defeat. The season was not going well.

The 1999 edition of the Georgia Bulldogs was not outstanding, but it was solid. Before the Auburn game, Georgia compiled a 6-2 record, with its only losses at the hands of No. 9 Tennessee and No. 10 Florida. The Bulldogs had Quincy Carter at quarterback, who was averaging 246.6 passing yards per game and had thrown for 17 touchdowns. Playing at home and averaging 26 points per SEC game, compared to just 16 for Auburn, No. 16 Georgia was the heavy favorite.

But that was an interesting period in the Auburn-Georgia rivalry. In the previous 17 years, the home team was 3-13-1, and the Bulldogs had not defeated the Tigers in Athens since 1991. So, while Georgia may have had talent on its side in 1999, Auburn had weird, cosmic football fate. Once the game kicked off, the Tigers quickly erased any doubt of who would be the victor between the hedges.

Five words: Ben Leard to Ronney Daniels.

Daniels was the SEC's top receiver in 1999, and his crowning performance came in Athens. The freshman caught nine passes for 249 yards and two scores against the Bulldogs, and Leard was 24 of 32 for 416 yards and four touchdowns, setting the school's single-game record for passing yards in the process. With the offense playing like a bat out of hell, Auburn's defense stepped up, too. John Lovett's bunch compiled four tackles for loss, four sacks and forced two turnovers. The Tigers didn't let Georgia sniff the end zone until the game was well out of reach.

Auburn opened the game with an 80-yard drive that culminated in a four-yard touchdown pass from Leard to Clifton Robinson. Leard added another first-quarter touchdown pass, connecting with Markeith Cooper for an 11-yard score. In the second quarter, Daniels went wild, catching touchdowns of 59 and 78 yards. On both plays, Daniels made catches in man coverage and fought off the defender on long runs to the end zone. After a Georgia fumble, Damon Duval converted a field goal attempt from 17 yards as time expired in the first half. Going into the locker room, Georgia fans serenaded their Bulldogs with a chorus of boos.

On the Tigers' first drive of the third quarter, Auburn marched down to the Georgia 1-yard line on a drive highlighted by another spectacular catch and run by Daniels. Leard scored on a quarterback sneak, giving Auburn a 38-0 lead. After that, Tuberville called off the dogs, and Georgia scored three garbage-time touchdowns. When it was all said and done, the final was Auburn 38, Georgia 21.

The Georgia game was Auburn's last shining moment of the 1999 season. A week later, eventual SEC champion Alabama went into Jordan-Hare Stadium and pulled out a 28-17 victory, the Tide's first ever win on the Plains. But as unsettling as most of the 1999 was, the Georgia game was a sneak peek at what Auburn would be able to do during the Tuberville era. In big games under Tuberville, the Tigers' play reached another level. Against Auburn's biggest rivals -- Alabama, Georgia and LSU -- Tuberville was 17-10 until the disastrous 2008 season. His first win against Georgia was a sign of things to come.