Underdogs Undermine AU's SEC Title Hopes

Auburn lost its second SEC game of the season on Saturday as Georgia put a whipping on the Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Auburn, Ala.--Two-touchdown underdog Georgia dominated all phases of the game on the way to a shockingly lopsided 37-15 football victory on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

The trend of the road team underdog prospering in the SEC's oldest football series continued as the Bulldogs improved to 7-4 while Auburn fell to 9-2.

The Tigers were steamrollered in the first half, giving up 30 points and 236 yards by intermission while the Tigers managed only a touchdown and 79 total yards.

UGA's strong strong safety, Tra Battle, had a game to remember for the Bulldogs. He picked off three Brandon Cox passes in the first half and teammate Paul Oliver added another in the second.

Cox had by far the worst game of his career. He completed just four passes, the same number the Bulldogs intercepted. Two were screen plays for negative yardage. He finished the day with just 16 net yards of offense with 35 passing yards and 19 negative yards on four sacks.

In contrast, quarterback Matthew Stafford was excellent. The Georgia freshman completed 14-20 passes for 219 yards and one touchdown and didn't throw an interception, something that had plagued him in previous games. He also rushed seven times for 83 yards and another touchdown.

"Their offensive line did a good job of giving him time," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said of Stafford. "The quarterback draw hurt us. Heck, we knew they were going to run it, and we still couldn't stop them. We just looked like we were weren't reacting very well. They had us on the ropes and kind of had us guessing.

"When you get things going that way, that happens to you," Tuberville added. "Then, when we got the ball back, we put the defense right back out there."

With another rivalry game next Saturday, Tuberville was asked if the Tigers will be able to bounce back from their beat-down to face their cross-state foe. "I don't think we will have any trouble getting them back," he said. "They know the importance."

Georgia was dominant on third downs. The Bulldogs converted 8-14 while Auburn was 0-7. That explains a huge edge in time of possession as the visitors kept the football for 38 minutes and 12 seconds. Auburn had the football for just 21:48 and the Bulldogs kept the football for 66 plays to just 37 for the Tigers while racking up a 446-171 advantage in total offense.

Auburn gave their fans some hope in the third quarter, cutting the lead to 30-15, but when the AU defense needed to come through with a big series UGA marched 80 yards on 12 plays to end any threat of a comeback.

Georgia took the opening kickoff and set the tone early driving 80 yards on eight plays. The big play was a 53-yard deep sideline route to A.J. Bryant, who got behind cornerback Jonathan Wilhite, who was pulled later in the half in favor of Patrick Lee.

On the next play, running a draw from the shotgun formation, Kregg Lumpkin scored from eight yards out.

More foreshadowing of what was to come happened on Auburn's first possession as Cox was sacked on the first play on a quick three-step drop pass play and the Tigers had a quick three and out to open on offense.

Georgia kept moving the football on its second possession, but the Tigers came up with a big play when Aairon Savage's tackle on Stafford popped the football into the air and linebacker Tray Blackmon caught it at the Auburn 32.

The Tigers kept the ball six plays before giving it back on the first of the trio first half interceptions by Battle. He returned Cox's pass 20 yards to the Auburn 40.

UGA was able to make one first down on a 17-yard run by Stafford, but had to settle for a 34-yard field goal by Gordon Ely-Kelso with 12:07 left in the second quarter to make the score 10-0.

After back to back rushing first downs by Kenny Irons, who netted 49 yards on 10 carries, the Tigers stalled and gave the ball back to the Bulldogs on a 29-yard punt after a low snap to kody Bliss.

Using good field position, UGA scored in just six plays, moving 65 yards with the help of a 40-yard pass to Kenneth Harris, who got behind David Irons. That set up a one-yard run by fullback Brandon Southerland to make it 17-0 Bulldogs with 5:42 left in the half.

It got even uglier as Cox was intercepted three plays later by Battle, who took the ball 30 yards for a touchdown to make it 24-0.

Battle's unsportsmanlike penalty on the play was enforced on the kickoff and Tristan Davis gave the Tigers excellent field position with a 40-yard return to the UGA 41. From there Courtney Taylor ran 20 yards on a reverse and Brad Lester's 21-yard burst through the line for a touchdown cut the gap to 24-7 with four minutes left in the half.

Auburn forced a three and out and Georgia finally had to punt. The Tigers took over at their own 26 with 1:56 left before intermission and finally completed a pass for positive yardage to Taylor for 10 yards.

However, on the next two plays the situation went from bad to worse. Cox was sacked for a seven-yard loss and on the next play a pass tipped by defensive end Charles Johnson was intercepted by Battle, who gave the Bulldogs possession at the AU 20. On third and four, Stafford found Lumpkin on a short pass to the right flat. He broke a tackle attempt by Will Herring and raced in for the score.

The PAT was low and blocked, but the damage was done as the Tigers went into the locker room down 30-7.

Auburn started the third quarter with three Irons runs, but came up a yard short of a first down and punted, an ugly 18-yarder by Bliss after another low snap. However, Georgia then fumbled the ball on back to back possessions to the Tigers.

Sen'Derrick Marks recovered the first one by Lumpkin at the AU 32, but on the next play Cox was intercepted again. This time it was Paul Oliver.

With a heavy rain shower starting, Georgia gave the ball back on another Stafford fumble. This one was caused by Herring and recovered by Jerraud Powers, who returned the bouncing football from his own six to the 14.

It took Auburn just five plays to get on the scoreboard with Brad Lester running the football to move it into UGA territory where Cox hit Rodgeriqus Smith on a crossing route good for 34 yards with 4:27 left in the third quarter.

Stafford showed why he is the quarterback of the future in Athens.

Auburn went for the two-point conversion. On a shotgun pass play, Cox hit Lee Guess as he ran toward the sideline in front of the student section. He was hit at the one, but fought his way in for two points to cut the lead to 30-15 with 4:27 left in the third.

That touchdown gave Auburn a chance to make the big comeback, but Georgia then put the nail in Auburn's coffin by keeping the ball for 6:59. Stafford, on third down at the Auburn eight-yard line, was untouched running up the middle on a draw play with 12:28 left to stretch the lead to 37-15.

Auburn's offense couldn't move on the next possession and punted the football back to the Dawgs, who took over at their 37. Georgia didn't score again, but probably could have if the Bulldogs didn't elect to take a knee near the goal line in the closing minutes.

Lumpkin rushed for 105 yards on 21 carries for the Bulldogs who finished with 227 net yards on 46 carries to 136 on 25 runs for the Tigers.

"They just beat us," Cox said. "They had an answer for everything we did. We just couldn't get anything going."

Lester carried the ball five times for 40 yards for the Tigers and Herring led Auburn in tackles with five solos and four assists.

The Tigers wrap up the regular season next Saturday with a 2:30 p.m. CST game at Alabama.

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