Trailing 21-7 after one period of play, the Tigers tied the game 21-21 by halftime, led 35-31 after three quarters and later celebrated a 49-31 victory to improve to 11-0 overall and 7-0 in the SEC.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik noted that his team was too fired up for its own good to start the rivalry game.
In addition to playing to represent the SEC West in the league championship game, the Tigers were trying to break a four-game losing streak vs. its oldest rival. Adding even more urgency for the Tigers, the game was the final home contest for more than 20 seniors.
One of those seniors, wide receiver Kodi Burns, said that Chizik probably had a good point about the start of the game. "Maybe we were a little over-hyper," Burns said. "We shot ourselves in the foot with a couple stupid penalties."
However, being behind early is not unfamiliar territory for the 2010 Tigers. Auburn has rallied from behind seven times this season. The victory over Georgia was the third game in which Tigers overcame double-digit deficits. The other two were in the first month of the season in back-to-back wins vs. Clemson and South Carolina.
Chizik noted that he could sense the Tigers were too fired up to start the Georgia game. "I knew that when we were getting off the bus," he said. "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. 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."
Chizik said that an experienced senior class full of leaders like Burns may explain why Auburn got the game back under control as the Tigers have in other pressure situations this year. Burns agrees that his coach probably has a good point on that subject, too.
"It dates back to 2007 when we all got here," Burns said." It's about finding that extra whatever you have in you no matter what. If you get down or you're feeling sorry for yourself you've got to pick it up and know that you can still do it."
The Tigers did just that in the final three quarters outscoring Georgia 42-10. Auburn took the lead by successfully converting an on-side kick to start the second half and then moved the football 59 yards on nine plays for a go-ahead touchdown.
Later in the third quarter Auburn took the lead for good on Onterio McCalebb's third touchdown run of the game, putting the Tigers on top 35-28 with 5:04 left in the period.
The Auburn offense scored a touchdown on all four of its second half possessions while the defense limited the Bulldogs to just one touchdown and a field goal in the final three quarters. During the fourth quarter Auburn sealed the victory with 14 points enabling Burns and the rest of the seniors to celebrate their first SEC West title on the day they played their final home at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"It means a lot to go out like we did," said Burns as his team improved its home record to 8-0. "All of the seniors have been through a lot since we have been here. We didn't expect things to go the way they did, but these last few years have been great. It has been fun. It is really just been a journey. It's not over yet."
The next part of the journey is to Tuscaloosa to play the regular season finale against Alabama on the Friday after Thanksgiving and then it is on to Atlanta to face South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 4th.
Auburn fans were still celebrating with Burns and the rest of the Tigers long after the Georgia fans departed Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday evening. Many of the fans hung around to celebrate the victory even after the Auburn players departed the field, but Burns noted the players could still hear them chanting. "We clinched the SEC West and it is awesome to see fans stick around and enjoy it with us."
Burns and the Tigers have the day off on Tuesday and will return to practice on Wednesday to begin preparations for their road trip to Alabama.