2014 Media Days: Legge's Look at Auburn

HOOVER, Ala. - Dean Legge's look at the 2014 Auburn Tigers.

November 15, 2014
Sanford Stadium
Overall Record: 54-55-8
Last 10 Meetings: 6-4
Richt vs. Auburn: 8-5

You still do get credit for winning close football games – even in miracle form in back-to-back games.

That’s what 2013 was like for the Auburn Tigers: two weeks of miracles before capping the season off by outgunning Missouri 59-42 in the SEC Championship Game. But Auburn didn’t look that great at the start of the season. The Tigers struggled in the first three games of the year. The win over Washington State was listless. A four-point win two weeks later over Mississippi State was unimpressive. LSU hammered Auburn in Baton Rouge. It seemed the rebuilding season everyone expected was on for the Tigers.

But a few weeks later Auburn went to College Station and beat Texas A&M 45-41. It was the moment the Tigers’ season moved from rebuilding to something more. That game put Auburn 3-1 in the SEC with a manageable scenario going forward: they would have to win at Arkansas, at Tennessee (which was not a huge task), and then get past Georgia (who had humiliated them in back-to-back blowouts) and tree-killing Alabama at home.

The Vols and Hogs didn’t put up much of a fight as Gus Malzahn’s offense and QB Nick Marshall started to figure things out. Yes, that Nick Marshall, the one kicked off Georgia’s team for stealing from teammates (more on bad Dawgs transferring to Auburn in a moment).

Marshall and the Tigers went from scoring 20 and 30 points a game to scoring 40 and 50 points a game – even with a bad to mediocre defense you are going to win a lot of games that way.

And so the Tigers welcomed Georgia to Jordan-Hare for a rare back-to-back home game thanks to the SEC’s schedule restructuring. Georgia wasn’t supposed to play Auburn in 2013… by the time the game was over the Dawgs probably wish they hadn’t.

You know the story of the game – and be ready to see the highlights for the rest of history. Dawgs get down; Dawgs rally back and take the lead; Fourth and forever – Hail Mary.

This time Mary was certainly full of grace… for Auburn.

Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews go up – Matthews tries to intercept the ball – and Prayer at Jordan–Hare happened.

Fast forward to the off-season… Josh Harvey-Clemons is kicked off the team. He transfers to Louisville to be with former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Matthews is kicked off the team for twice depositing checks from the University – in other words he stole.

It didn’t help the “Auburn takes a bunch of thieves” narrative when Matthews decided to transfer there, but nonetheless he’s an Auburn Tiger now. I wonder what Matthews will think when he sees himself on the Jumbotron before games making one of the biggest plays for the Tigers in Auburn history, but while wearing a Georgia uniform.

Auburn and Georgia have gone at it for more than a century. There are so many traditions that each has built as a result of the other. But the 2013 game – with a former Bulldog playing quarterback for Auburn throwing up a miracle to a guy who would have been his teammate in Athens had he not screwed up, but was going to be his teammate now at Auburn because he did – was a lot to take for Georgia partisans.

And it won’t be gotten over until the Dawgs beat Auburn.

13-Year History vs. Auburn

2001 – #19 Georgia lost a classic to #24 Auburn on the last play of the game. First-year coach Mark Richt called a running play with only moments remaining in the game, but the Tigers stopped Jasper Sanks near the goal line to preserve the 24-17 win.

2002 – #7 Georgia defeated #24 Auburn 24-21 on the Plains after a furious second-half comeback to win the SEC East title for the first time in school history. On fourth and goal from the 19-yard line, David Greene found Michael Johnson for the game-winning score in the Auburn student section end zone.

2003 – #7 Georgia's defense dominated the Tigers in Athens on the way to winning the SEC East for the second year in a row. The Dawgs' 26-7 win was punctuated by Odell Thurman's interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter as the Tigers were nearing a score.

2004 – #3 Auburn's undefeated Tigers dropped #8 Georgia 24-6 in dominating fashion on the Plains. The Tigers ended Georgia's hopes of winning a third SEC East title in a row with a powerful defense and a run game reminiscent of the Auburn teams of the 1980s. Still, the Tigers were not allowed to play for the BCS National Title that year – having been passed over by USC and Oklahoma. They would be the last undefeated SEC team in the decade to be left out of the BCS Championship Game.

2005 – #15 Auburn’s John Vaughn kicked the game-winning 20-yard field goal as time expired to give the Tigers a 31-30 win over #9 Georgia in Athens. The play was set up by Brandon Cox's 62-yard pass play to Devin Aromashodu on fourth-and-10 from the Auburn 35-yard line.

2006Matthew Stafford and Georgia shocked #5 Auburn 37-15 on the Plains in one of the biggest upsets in series history. Tra Battle's multiple interceptions – including one for a touchdown – killed the Tigers that day.

2007 – #10 Georgia wore black uniforms for the first time in school history as the Bulldogs ran past #18 Auburn in Athens. Knowshon Moreno ran for 101 yards and two touchdowns while the Georgia crowd – also decked out in black – cheered wildly as the Dawgs intercepted four Auburn passes and scored the final 28 points of the game that magical November afternoon.

2008 – #13 Georgia struggled and needed a late stand from its defense to beat lowly Auburn 17-13 on the Plains. The Bulldogs struggled to score against the Tigers, but found a way to win, albeit unimpressively, on the way to another 10-win season.

2009 – For the first time since the 1940s the Bulldogs won four games in a row against the Tigers with the 31-24 win in Athens. The Tigers jumped out to a lead, but Georgia rallied behind a strong run game to lead late. That's when the Georgia defense stopped the Tigers on the last possession of the game for the win.

2010 – #2 Auburn beat Georgia 49-31 on the way to the 2010 SEC and BCS titles. Georgia had built a 21-7 lead, but the Tigers, led by Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, exploded for 49 points on the Dawgs. It was the second-most points allowed by the Dawgs in the Mark Richt Era.

2011 – Baccari Rambo scored a touchdown on an interception return as #14 Georgia routed #24 Auburn 45-7 in Athens. The Bulldogs built up a 35-7 halftime lead before cruising in the second half to win in a blowout. The win was Georgia's most decisive over the Tigers since 1946.

2012 – #5 Georgia held Auburn to 238 yards of offense while Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall combined for 221 yards during the Bulldogs' 38-0 win over the Tigers. The win, which was Georgia's first shutout of Auburn since 1976, clinched the SEC East for Georgia.

2013 – #7 Auburn needed a miracle play to beat #25 Georgia 43-38. Nick Marshall’s Hail Mary was tipped by Georgia defensive backs Josh Harvey-Clemmons and Tray Matthews and fell into the arms of Ricardo Louis for a 73-yard touchdown. The Bulldogs had rallied to take a 38-37 lead after being down 37-17 with 12:39 to play in the game, and nearly won the game after the miracle play, but couldn’t score from the Auburn 20-yard line with three seconds to play in the game.

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