Faced with a Georgia defense that was determined to not let Nick Marshall run read option to the outside, Auburn still managed to assert its will in the running game with Tre Mason up the middle and adjustments to the read option.
Also, Marshall was good enough in the passing game when he had to be, especially when Auburn needed his big arm the most. He launched the fourth-down bomb the resulted in the tipped-ball Hail Mary to Ricardo Louis to win the game.
For three quarters, Auburn had one of its best performances against one of the top SEC quarterback/running back combinations.
The Tigers kept pressure on Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray with mostly four-man rush. Dee Ford, in particular, couldn’t be blocked off the edge, and Murray’s happy feet caused him to overthrow a potential touchdown pass and throw an interception.
But in the fourth quarter, Auburn’s bent-don’t-break defense broke to surrender a 37-17 lead in an 11-minute span, forcing Auburn to produce a miracle to win.
Auburn’s performance was nothing like last week’s at Tennessee, but then 312-return-yard performances are rare. Too, Georgia deployed a pop-up kickoff and tried to punt away from Auburn’s return men.
Auburn’s special teams had two glitches that proved crucial, starting when Georgia’s Leonard Floyd was able to push up the middle and block a Cody Parkey field goal in the second quarter.
Steven Clark delivered Auburn’s special teams highlight with a high, spiraling punt that bounced laterally to pin Georgia inside its 5-yard line in the third quarter, but he shanked a 31-yarder before Georgia’s go-ahead drive.
Auburn’s offensive staff made adjustments in how the Tigers approached the read option to counter Georgia’s strategy to deny the outside run to Marshall. In the second quarter, Marshall started cutting in or running midline.
Also, Auburn threw in a screen-option wrinkle, with Marshall running outside and either throwing the screen or keeping the ball. That kept at least one defender spread to the outside.
But it’s hard to understand calling all passes when Auburn was protecting a 37-31 lead. Two incompletions and a sack gave Georgia time to score the go-ahead touchdown.
No. 7 Auburn showed it belonged in games like this against No. 25 Georgia, dominating for three quarters, but withered before producing a miracle.
It wasn’t that Auburn looked past Georgia … at least, not until leading 37-17 with 12:39 to play.
In the end, the Tigers looked up to see themselves on the right side of the scoreboard an on track for one of the biggest Iron Bowls in the rivalry’s history. They also played what will have to go down as one of the most memorable games in Jordan-Hare Stadium.