Big Plays Doom Auburn Defense

Auburn let a chance for another road win slip away in quick fashion Saturday in Athens.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn looked like it had the Georgia Bulldogs right where they wanted them. Leading 20-17 with 6:47 left in the third quarter following a field goal from Wes Byrum, the Tigers had scored 17 consecutive points to put themselves in position to take yet another road win against a Top 10 team.

"I did and everybody on the team did," senior Quentin Groves says of his thoughts that Auburn would win after taking the lead. "We can't give up big plays and let them back in the game. Everyone knows that's what let them back in the game, the third down deep ball to Sean Bailey. They got right back in it."

From that point on things changed and changed in a hurry. Georgia scored just under two minutes later to take the lead back and over the next 13 minutes would add three more touchdowns to put the game out of reach. As someone with a first hand view of what happened, cornerback Jerraud Powers says Auburn's 45-20 loss in Athens was a strange game..

"I was talking to Patrick Lee about it and I have never been a part of anything that happened so fast like that," Powers says. "The lead just got out of reach. Georgia came to play. They put it to us. We came to play, we just didn't execute. We were ready to play. They came to play."

Perhaps the key play of the game came in the next possession for Georgia following the Auburn field goal. At that point the Tigers had held the Bulldogs to minus five total yards on their previous four possessions and intercepted quarterback Matthew Stafford once. They were on track to do the same on this drive as the first two plays were a three-yard loss on a run and an incomplete pass. However, Auburn's Sen'Derrick Marks got called for a late hit on Stafford while Georgia was called for having an ineligible receiver downfield.

Marks hits Stafford and is called for the late hit.

Because the penalties offset, Georgia was able to play the down over. That was just what the doctor ordered for the Bulldogs as Stafford hit Sean Bailey for a 45-yard gainer and two plays later Knowshon Moreno scored from 24 yards out. The big play got Georgia's offense untracked, something Groves says was the biggest problem area of the night for Auburn's defense because he notes they seemingly blinked and were down 11.

"Big plays," Groves says. "Big plays, and not getting off the field on third down. That's kind of what hurt us. They have a great offense. Not to take anything away from Georgia, but we didn't execute to the best of our ability. That's the thing that we emphasize the most is execution."

In what has been a solid season defensively other than the Georgia game, the Tigers are now allowing 305 total yards per game and 17.3 points, good enough for second in the league in both categories behind LSU. The biggest problem area continues to be giving up the big play. Against Georgia the Bulldogs had six plays of 20 or more yards while Auburn had just one on offense. Senior Josh Thompson says when you look back it's easy to see why Auburn lost to the Bulldogs for a second straight time.

"They made big plays and we weren't making big plays," Thompson says. "They got after us quick and scored quick. They broke a big running play on us. Other than that we just weren't executing and getting off the field on third down."

Auburn now has to regroup and prepare to face Alabama in the regular season's final game on Nov. 24th. The good news is the Tigers finally get a chance to take a break with an off week, something that Groves says will help them physically. However, he adds that it won't take away the sting of a long day in Athens.

"It's tough for the simple fact that you're a senior and you don't get to play them any more," Groves says. "It's even tougher because it's Georgia, one of the biggest rivals you'll ever play in your life. That's the thing that makes it so tough, that they were able to hang 45 points on us. We know we're a much better team than how we played."

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