The Georgia football team finished off Auburn on the road thanks to their stout defense and the play of Isaiah McKenzie.
For the first time since 2002, when I was too poor to afford away game tickets, I did not attend the Auburn game in person. Once again, it is because I am too poor. The $115 face value price tag for non-Auburn season ticket holders scared away more than a few Georgia fans, including me. Yes, $115 – it was $95 in 2013, and $85 in 2012. The draw for me was spending the weekend with my family, which I haven’t had a chance to do much of lately.
In 2006, Georgia had losses to Vanderbilt (Homecoming), Florida (Jacksonville) and Kentucky (I saw the goalposts come down in Lexington). Georgia came to No. 5-ranked Auburn for an 11 AM CST kickoff. The Auburn fans were not happy that we sucked so much that we ruined their tailgating plans. Someone forgot to tell our team that year. This year, we weren’t sure which team would rise to the occasion and prove to be the best of the not so great teams.
While the game didn’t matter in the SEC and playoff realm, and real life seemed so much more important after hearing news of Pinkel’s retirement and the horrific events in Paris, the game was a three-hour escape from that reality. The winner would take the lead in what was a 55-55-8 record between Georgia and Auburn all-time. The last time Georgia held the lead, we beat Auburn on the Plains and the fans got hosed…literally.
The Auburn we faced Saturday is not the same Auburn that lost to LSU, Mississippi State, Kentucky, and Arkansas, and nearly lost to Jacksonville State. Star defensive end Carl Lawson returned to the field after a hip injury in the first game against Louisville. He returned earlier in the season in a loss to Ole Miss, and had five tackles in the win against Texas A&M, but was held to one tackle against Georgia.
Finally the Georgia offense and whoever was calling the shots this game showed some guts as the Dawgs went for it on 4th-and-4 on the Auburn 36 as the first quarter was coming to a close. No field goal unit came out, and the offense stayed on the field. Again, Georgia went for it on 4th-and-1 on the 2-yard line after not being able to run it in, and the short pass to Malcolm Mitchell fell incomplete.
On Auburn’s ensuing possession, Malkom Parrish’s interception resuscitated Georgia’s chances, but we had to settle for a field goal… again.
Dad said, “boy, halftime came quick” and I pointed out that both Georgia and Auburn ran the ball on two-thirds of their plays (20 rushes, 8-11 passing for Georgia, 19 rushes, 7-11 passing for Auburn) in the first half.
Auburn’s facemask penalty on Terry Godwin’s 3rd-and-1 run saved Georgia’s drive and eventually led to Georgia’s first touchdown. During this point, CBS showed a red zone stat, and Mom wanted to know what the red zone was. I started my own Football 101 clinic for my family.
Unfortunately, Georgia’s first penalty came just as the fourth quarter was getting started and put us in a tough 1st-and-25 situation deep in Auburn territory. The Dawgs quickly followed with a false start to make it 2nd-and-30, and I started thinking I needed liquor to get through this game. Then a holding call made it 2nd-and-40, and I thought I needed an entire case of Jack Daniels. I had flashbacks to the Tennessee game when Drew Butler had to punt on 4th-and-56.
Isaiah McKenzie once again showed his skills on the punt return touchdown, and I had to explain to my sister-in-law why he is known as The Human Joystick. A high-five from my brother, and it was back to playing defense for the Dawgs. Isaiah McKenzie scored both touchdowns for the Dawgs, one offensive, and one on special teams.
Ricardo Louis, hero of the 2013 game, became the goat as he fumbled on Georgia’s 1-yard line. The other two heroes for Auburn that day, Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons, of course, are no longer Bulldogs. Harvey-Clemons is in Louisville with his former defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham, and Matthews, now an Auburn WarTiglePlainsmen, of course, was inactive for the game.
By the way, if we thought we had it bad with the quarterback situation, just take a look at Auburn. Jeremy Johnson and Sean White combined for 15-27 with just 62 yards passing. Our defense is good, but it has been in the lower third of passing yards given up in the SEC and NCAA.
After Auburn’s opening drive touchdown, the Georgia defense held strong and limited Auburn to two field goals for the remainder of the game. McKenzie along with the defense producing three turnovers were clearly the stars of the game. The offense, led by game manager Greyson Lambert, were consistent with no turnovers, and a run-heavy attack (45 rushes vs 17 pass attempts) was what we should have had all year.
As soon as Malcolm Mitchell recovered Auburn’s onside kick, I started packing up to beat the traffic back to Atlanta. My brother asked me if he could get a bat signal light shaped like a Super G to drive around Auburn for the next year. He did attend the University of Georgia for a couple of years, so he is a true Dawg, but I know that he just likes to annoy his neighbors.
The drive back to Atlanta with the rest of the Dawgnation was super-sweet. We may not have world-beaters of a team, but a win against my No. 2 rival, Auburn, is just as sweet.