Tigers Overpower Georgia to Win the SEC West

Auburn's offense churned out 28 first downs as the Tigers improved to 11-0 and clinched the SEC West title with a 7-0 conference record.

Auburn, Ala.--An early 14-point deficit and an inspired Georgia football team were not too much to overcome for the Auburn Tigers, who used a powerful ground game and improved defensive play in the second half as they outscored the Bulldogs 49-31 to clinch the SEC West title.

The victory sets up a rematch of Auburn vs. South Carolina. The teams will be meet Dec. 4th at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta at the SEC Championship Game.

Junior quarterback Cameron Newton was his usual impressive self, rushing for 151 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries and playing almost flawlessly as a passer.

Newton hit 12-15 of his tosses for 148 yards and two touchdowns to tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen. Of his three incomplete passes two were dropped by would-be receivers.

In the process Newton became the first player in SEC history to top the 2,000-yard mark for passing and 1,000 yards in rushing in the same season.

The quarterback played with poise from start to finish even though he was the subject of a week-long of negative media reports all week long concerning the circumstances of his recruitment to Mississippi State.

Coach Gene Chizik and Auburn officials, who would not discuss the subject past statements on Tuesday saying that Newton was eligible to play at Auburn, didn't waiver from their position that the quarterback was eligible to play for the Tigers after discussing the subject with NCAA officials during the week.

Chizik had praise for Newton, who was not made available for postgame interviews for the first time this year. "Cam rushed for (151) yards tonight," Chizik said. "I was just really proud of the way he played. Like I said, he is a really, really talented, extremely gifted football player who means a lot to our football team. By his performance, I felt like he has done just about what he has done in every other game this year."

With the victory the Tigers earned their fourth trip to the SEC Championship Game. They lost in 1997 to Tennessee, lost to Florida in 2000 and the undefeated 2004 team won a rematch over Tennessee.

Senior offensive guard Mike Berry said the Tigers had to play hard from start to finish to get the win against a talented, but under-achieving Georgia team that was trying to earn its first big win of the season as well as continue a four-game winning streak in the SEC's oldest rivalry.

"Georgia came ready to play and we knew it was one of those things where we knew it was going to be a dogfight all night," Berry said. "The offensive line tried to be physical and we tried to establish that early."

Mike Berry picks up Philip Lutzenkirchen after the tight end scored a touchdown.

The Tigers had to punt just two times and ground out 28 first downs and 315 rushing yards vs. the Bulldogs. Despite that the Tigers fell behind for the seventh time in their 11 wins this year.

Asked if he was worried when the Tigers fell behind by two touchdowns in the first half, the senior said, "No, not at all. I know if we get behind we have the ability to come back."

Chizik agreed with Berry. "You are always concerned when it is 21-7, but I don't think a 21-7 score affects you unless you have never been there before," he said. "We have probably been there two to three maybe more times this year. I just think our football team has confidence, and we get things adjusted to the best of our ability, and we try to come back and just keep playing for 60 minutes.

"We just don't look up at the clock," Chizik said. "We just keep playing and when it is 0:00, we will look up and the best man will win."

Chizik admitted he didn't like some of what he saw in the first quarter as the Tigers came out energized in the final home game for the seniors with a berth in the SEC Championship Game on the line. The crowd arrived early and was very loud from start to finish.

Asked if his team was too hyped to start the game, Chizik said, "They were. I think they were very excited to play. I knew that when we were getting off the bus. We were trying to temper it down a little bit. They were extremely excited to play this game.

"The seniors knew that they were never going to play out here again," Chizik added. "That is where it started, and they love Auburn, and they love playing in front of these fans, and they were off the chart in terms of excitement and I don't blame them. But, I think that was a little bit part of some of the play at the beginning--we weren't very smart...Finally we settled down, and I think we played a little bit better."

Auburn lost the toss and chose to receive after Georgia deferred its option. It took the Tigers just five plays to drive 80 yards for a touchdown.

Newton started the possession with a 13-yard run and ended it with a 31-yard keeper at right tackle. The play was reviewed, at length, before it was ruled he got inside the pylon and did not go out of bounds.

Penalties were a big problem for the Tigers in the first quarter. A dead ball personal foul on Eric Smith forced the Tigers to kick off from their 15, but a great kickoff by Wes Byrum and excellent coverage forced Georgia to start at its own 27. Georgia head coach Mark Richt said Auburn's impressive kickoff coverage team was a key factor in the Tigers' victory.

The Bulldogs kept the ball for nine plays before tying the score at 7-7 on a fourth down and two 31-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green, who got behind single coverage by Demond Washington.

On Auburn's second possession the Tigers were their worst enemy as a holding call on offensive tackle Brandon Mosley negated a long run by Onterio McCalebb to inside the Georgia 35. Instead, the Tigers faced a second and 12 at their own 27.

After a run by Newton for just a yard and a late hit call on Byron Isom put the Tigers in a third down and 24 hole at their own 14. Newton found Emory Blake open over the middle, but the receiver bobbled the ball which was intercepted by Bacarri Rambo at the 34. His return to the Auburn nine set up a quick score for the Bulldogs.

On the next play Aaron Murray found fullback Shaun Chapas uncovered in the end zone for a TD giving the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead.

Another Auburn miscue ended the Tigers' third possession when Mario Fannin dropped a perfectly thrown deep pass on a wheel route. The Tigers had to punt two plays later.

Georgia got the ball back at its 20 when the Tigers couldn't stop a 50-yard Ryan Shoemaker punt from getting into the end zone when they had an excellent chance to put the Bulldogs in a big hole.

Four plays later Green got behind Washington again. A small push gave the receiver the cushion he needed for a 42-yard touchdown play with one minute left in the first quarter.

The second period went much better for the Tigers who bounced back to tie the game with a pair of touchdowns.

With 12:26 left in the second quarter McCalebb, who scored three touchdowns, took a pitch from Newton at left end and beat the Bulldogs to the corner on a four-yard scoring play. That completed a scoring march of 62 yards in eight plays.

After that the Auburn defense was able to force a pair of Georgia punts. After the second one, a 29-yarder by Drew Butler, the Tigers got the football at their own 27 with 3:51 left. That was plenty of time for a scoring drive.

With 51 seconds left before intermission Newton threw a perfect pass into the end zone to tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen. With Wes Byrum's PAT kick the Tigers were able to go into the locker room at halftime tied at 21-21.

Cameron Newton responds to the cheers of the student section as he entered the stadium after Tiger Walk.

At the break the Tigers had a 240-203 edge in total offense with Newton hitting 9-11 passes for 111 yards and one TD. He also ran the ball 15 times for 90 yards and a touchdown.

Georgia's Murray was 7-12 passing for 137 yards and three touchdowns.

The Tigers surprised Georgia to start the third quarter with a perfectly executed on-side kick by Wes Byrum, who recovered the ball 11 yards downfield at the AU 41.

The Tigers then went to work running the football and kept the ball for 4:12 before taking the lead on a second and goal run at left tackle by McCalebb. That put the Tigers up 28-21 with 10:48 left in the third quarter.

Auburn's lead didn't last long as the Bulldogs raced 66 yards on just six plays. The biggest one was a third down and 17 conversion when it looked like T'Sharvan Bell would be able to intercept or deflect the ball, but Kris Durham caught the pass. Three plays later Washsaun Ealey powered in from seven yards out at right tackle with 7:54 left in the third quarter to tie the game.

Georgia's lead didn't last long though. Auburn moved 81 yards on seven plays, all on the ground, with Michael Dyer going past Bo Jackson's freshman rushing record on the drive. Jackson, who was at the game, gave the freshman a hug and a kiss on the head after the record was broken.

McCalebb scored his third touchdown of the day taking a handoff and sweeping right end on first and goal from four yards out.

Onterio McCalebb races into the end zone for a touchdown.

Auburn had a chance for a three-and-out on Georgia's next possession that started at the eight-yard line with excellent coverage on the kickoff. However, Nick Fairley's late hit on Murray gave Georgia a first down and got the Bulldogs off the goal line.

With Murray on target with his passing, Georgia moved into Auburn territory, but stalled at the Tiger 10 and had to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Blair Walsh on the final play of the third quarter.

The Tigers responded again with another long drive. This time they passed the ball, too, and Lutzenkirchen got behind the Georgia defense on a 13-yard scoring play on second down and nine with 8:05 left. Newton's pass was perfectly on target as the Bulldogs stacked the line of scrimmage trying to stop the run.

Lutzenkirchen, who is from Marietta, Ga., said it was special to score a pair of touchdowns vs. the Bulldogs.

The Auburn defense then stepped to the forefront by ending Georgia's last serious threat as the Bulldogs failed to convert a fourth down and 13 from their own 27 as Fairley hit Murray and his pass fell well short of the target. A play earlier senior end Antoine Carter sacked the Georgia quarterback on a key third down and four play.

The Tigers got the ball at the Georgia 27 and scored seven plays later as Newton went over the top of the UGA defense from a yard out putting the Tigers up 49-31 with 2:57 to play.

Georgia kept the ball and moved it 11 yards as the time ran out, but got its quarterback injured in the process. The final minutes didn't go well for the Tigers because senior defensive end Michael Goggans was ejected and so was senior defensive tackle Mike Blanc as tempers flared.

"I am going to deal with that tomorrow, and I am not happy about it at all," Chizik said.

Newton wasn't the only standout offensive performer i the game. Georgia's A.J. Green caught nine passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns. Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof predicted that Green is going to make a lot of money for a long time playing in the NFL.

"I made some big plays, but it wasn't enough," Green said. "They are a great team with a great defense, and they were the better team today."

Green added that he is impressed with Auburn's Newton. "He had a great game," said Green, who called the quarterback a great guy. "It's hard to focus when you're a quarterback and you've got all that stuff surrounding you," he said.

Georgia head coach Mark Richt was impressed with the Tigers. "They've done a great job this season and they did a great job tonight. They were a better team than us tonight. We certainly had our moments, but they weren't enough to win. They're a very good football team and I want to give them credit."

The Tigers, who have played 11 consecutive weeks without an off-week, don't play again until Friday, Nov. 26th at Alabama.

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