Tigers Make Winning Play in the Nick of Time

A memorable Nick Marshall to Ricardo Louis bomb wiped out Georgia's big comeback and kept the Tigers in the hunt to win the SEC football championship.

Auburn, Ala.--Down 38-37 facing a fourth down and 18 situation at their own 27-yard line with 35 seconds left on the clock, the Auburn Tigers looked like they were about to suffer a devastating loss to their oldest rival, the Georgia Bulldogs.

However, as Yogi Berra once said, "It ain't over 'til it's over" and 87,451 fans at Jordan-Hare Stadium were witness to one of the most amazing comebacks in Auburn football history as Nick Marshall heaved the football toward Ricardo Louis, who was in double coverage.

The pass bounced off the defenders and Louis caught the deflection on the run and raced into the end zone to give the Tigers a 43-38 victory as fans at Jordan-Hare Stadium began dancing in the aisles after roaring their approval of the stunning play.

"He looked at me dead at my eyes and he told me he wanted the ball," Marshall said of the sophomore wide receiver. "I put my trust in him and delivered the ball and he came down with it to get the win for us tonight."

Louis, who had a big night with four catches for 131 yards and five runs for 66 more yards, had this to say about a play that will be talked about for years. "The only thing that was going through my mind was try to make a play," the receiver said. "At first I was going to try and jump for it, but they took the angle so I just kept my eyes on the ball over my shoulder and watched the ball all the way in."

Ricardo Louis is shown on his game-winning play.

Georgia, which had struggled in the first half, got hot offensively in the second half and made Auburn's defense fight to the final second as the Bulldogs tried to stay alive in the SEC East race.

After hitting passes for 22 and 28 yards on its last possession, quarterback Aaron Murray, who had tormented the Tigers the past two seasons, had one more chance to pull out the victory from the Auburn 20-yard line.

However, defensive end Dee Ford smacked the quarterback as he threw and the football fell harmlessly to the ground as the crowd at Jordan-Hare Stadium celebrated the Tigers improving to 10-1 overall and staying alive in the SEC West race with a 6-1 in league mark.

Several Auburn players mentioned after the game that their head coach, Gus Malzahn, was almost at a loss of words on what to say about the victory in the post-game locker room celebration. When he did his post game press conference the coach had plenty to say.

"Obviously, an unbelievable game the way it unfolded," he said. "In the first half, I felt very good about our tempo and the way things were going. I think we had a field goal blocked at the first, and we had to kick a couple field goals, and really that was probably the only negative part of the first half.

"In the third quarter I thought we did a solid job," Malzahn said. "Fourth quarter, they started getting the momentum. They're a top type of team, there's no doubt. We knew it would be a tough one.

"With our guys, we talked about ‘hey, find a way to win. This team has the ‘it' factor. That's just the bottom line.

"They complement each other very well--offensively, defensively and special teams, they step up when they have to," Malzahn said. "They are a joy to coach, and it was one of those memorable moments that I will remember for a long time. I told them a minute ago (in the locker room) that I think we're in the midst of something special."

Georgia head coach Mark Richt said he was proud of his team's comeback. "Fourth and 18 (defensively), that's almost as good as it gets. To their credit they make a play."

"It is just a whale of game, I guess," said Richt, who watched Marshall, his former defensive back, pass for 229 yards and rush for 89 more yards with two touchdowns.

Before and after beating the Bulldogs, Marshall said that playing Georgia was just another game, but his teammate, C.J. Uzomah, said the quarterback had fire in his eyes on Saturday.

"It meant the world to him to get that win," said Uzomah, who like the quarterback is from the Peach State. "This game he was like, ‘alright, we are doing this, we are going to win no matter what.' I don't think anyone envisioned how we were going to do it, but for sure we knew there was a lot of emotion behind what he was saying."

First Half Highlights:

Georgia won the toss and deferred. Auburn took the ball and started in good field position at its own 39 when a short kickoff was returned 27 yards by Quan Bray.

The Tigers kept the football for 16 plays before settling for a 22-yard field goal by Parkey with 8:15 left in the opening quarter.

The drive got new life when a pass to Sammie Coates that he fumbled was ruled an incompletion. The play also looked like it could have been a complete pass with the ground causing the ball to come loose.

After a three-and-out for the Bulldogs on their first opportunity on offense that included a sack by Ford, the Tigers took over at their 37-yard line where they started a touchdown scoring drive that took six plays.

The first four plays were passes and the next two were runs with Corey Grant racing around right end from 21 yards out for the score to put the Tigers on top 10-0 with 4:29 left in the first quarter.

Corey Grant runs for yardage against Georgia

The Tigers also scored on their third possession thanks to a mistake from the Bulldogs' special teams. A 15-yard personal foul penalty on a punt by Stephen Clark led to a 35-yard field goal by Parkey. The drive covered 56 yards on 11 plays as the Tigers took a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Georgia couldn't pick up a first down until the second quarter when the Bulldogs put together a quick-score drive that covered 75 yards on eight plays. Todd Gurley, who had 79 yards on 15 carries to lead the Bulldogs in rushing, raced through a hole at right guard for the final nine yards to cut the lead to 13-7 with 10:11 in the half.

Auburn responded with a long drive, racing 73 yards on six plays running its pace attack. Marshall put the ball in the end zone on a six-yard run up the middle to put the Tigers ahead 20-7 with 8:32 left in the half.

The only turnover of the half led to Auburn's next score when senior safety Ryan Smith intercepted a deep pass over the middle thrown by Aaron Murray. The Tigers quickly took advantage of the big play moving 61 yards on just six plays and 1:33.

Using their pace offense the Tigers opened a big hole up the middle for Tre Mason, who raced in for the touchdown from 24 yards out in the middle of the defense. That put Auburn up 27-7.

Georgia managed to add a field goal from 37 yards out by Marshall Morgan on the final play of the half to cut the score to 27-10 at the break.

The Tigers racked up 22 first downs to eight for UGA in the half. Auburn rushed for 246 yards on 38 carries while Georgia netted 36 yards on 10 carries.

Marshall and Jeremy Johnson combined to complete 8-12 passes for 81 yards while Murray was 12-17 for 138 yards.

Second Half Highlights:

Georgia came out strong to start the third quarter, throwing the football. The Bulldogs moved 75 yards on 10 plays with Murray scoring on a draw play at right guard with 11:01 left in the third quarter.

That drive was the signal that it was game on for the Tigers and the Bulldogs were going to make it a 60-minute battle in the best tradition of the rivalry. Murray finished the game with 415 passing yards, completing 33-49 balls for two touchdowns and one interception.

Although Auburn answered UGA's score with a drive that covered 77 yards in seven plays as Marshall ran in from five yards out, the UGA offense had gotten its confidence, but the Tigers looked to be in good shape with a 34-17 lead and 8:47 left in the third quarter.

Auburn stretched the margin to 37-17 with 12:39 left in the final quarter, but after that the Murray went to work on the AU defense and led the Bulldogs touchdown TDs on drives of 75 yards, 56 yards and 45 yards.

The final score was a controversial one when on fourth and goal Murray dropped back to pass, couldn't find a receiver and ran up the middle. He was hit by Jake Holland in front of the goal line. The ruling on the field was a TD, but the replay it looked like the ball may go over to AU on downs just shy of the end zone, but the Tigers didn't get the call.

Auburn got the ball back at its 22 with 1:45 and three timeouts left, setting the stage for the Marshall to Louis touchdown.

After making a first down on a third and one with a four-yard run by Marshall, the quarterback threw two incomplete passes and was sacked at his 27 before launching the bomb that put the Tigers over the top.

Georgia had time to run four plays before the game ended as Ford hit Murray as he tried to throw a pass on a first and five call at the Auburn 20.

Dee Ford hits Aaron Murray on the final play.

"I am at loss of words said," said tailback Mason, who rushed for 115 yards for the Tigers. Mason said that maybe Heisman voters need to look at his quarterback when deciding who the best player is in college football this year.

Mason noted that he knew the quarterback had the arm strength to make a spectacular throw. "When he came here this summer he threw the ball from one 10-yard line to the other one and I said, ‘This guy has one of the strongest arms I have ever seen.'"

With the victory the Tigers continue to control their destiny for a spot in the SEC Championship Game. "It's a blessing," Mason said. "It took a lot of hard, work, dedication and motivation."

Stat of the Game: Auburn averaged 5.7 per rush and finished the game with 323 yards on the ground to 117 for the Bulldogs.

Worth Noting, Part 1: Auburn's seven-game turnaround in the win column from 2012 to 2013 is the best in college football year and the best in Auburn history that began with a game vs. Georgia in 1892.

Worth Noting, Part 2: The Tigers regained the lead in the all-time series 55-54-8 while ending a two-game losing streak to the Bulldogs.

The Tigers return to action a week from Saturday to close the regular season with a home game vs. Alabama.

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