As I note every year around this time, the Georgia-Auburn series is my favorite of UGA’s football rivalries.
While it’s been a rocky relationship at times, particularly when the Dawgs are playing at Auburn, the rivalry that Vince Dooley once called “feuding cousins” has always been very intertwined. Dooley went to Auburn. Legendary Tigers coach Pat Dye played at UGA. Even this year, the Dawgs face two former UGA defensive coordinators in Brian VanGorder and Willie Martinez.
But probably the biggest reason I’m partial to the Georgia-Auburn rivalry is the way the Dawgs have clinched so many SEC championships — or, in more recent times, SEC East titles — against the Tigers. And in keeping with the absurdly even nature of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, many of those big wins for UGA have come at Auburn, as the visiting team frequently has the upper hand.
Once again this year Georgia has a chance to clinch a division title at Auburn, which set me to thinking about a listing of 10 greatest Bulldog wins over the former Alabama Polytechnic Institute that I compiled several years ago. I was debating whether last year’s big win over the Tigers Between the Hedges deserved consideration for a place on that list.
After all, the Dawgs absolutely demolished the Tigers in that game, racking up 528 yards of offense with two running backs topping 100 yards as Aaron Murray threw four touchdown passes (including a highlight reel snag by Michael Bennett) and Georgia converted on 12 of 15 third downs while holding the Tigers to just three of 11. The Dawgs defense also had 10 tackles for loss and five sacks, with Bacarri Rambo making a terrific return for a pick 6.
Even though last year’s victory over Auburn didn’t clinch the SEC East for Georgia, I think it was such a dominating game that it deserves a place in my top 10. So it’s going to supplant the 1962 Larry Rakestraw-led win at Auburn, which was the biggest victory of coach Johnny Griffith’s short tenure at UGA.
For the enjoyment of you longtime Dawgs fans and perhaps the edification of the younger ones, here’s the rest of my list of the 10 greatest games in the series since I’ve been following Georgia football:
1959: Georgia’s 14-13 win in Athens. After a key fumble recovery by the Dogs’ Dye, who would later become head coach and athletics director at Auburn, Fran Tarkenton threw a fourth-down 13-yard touchdown pass to Bill Heron to secure Wally Butts’ last SEC championship.
1966: Georgia’s 21-13 win at Auburn. The Dogs were down 13-0 midway through the third quarter, but quarterback Kirby Moore engineered three long scoring drives to clinch Dooley’s first SEC championship.
1968: Georgia’s 17-3 win at Auburn. With Mike Cavan having a sensational sophomore season at QB and Jake Scott and Bill Stanfill the defensive superstars, the No. 5 Dogs beat the No. 12 Tigers to secure Dooley’s second SEC title. This was the game where I clearly remember realizing for the first time that Larry Munson really cared whether the Dogs won.
1982: Georgia’s 19-14 win at Auburn. A classic Georgia defensive stand secured the win with Munson pleading for the Dogs to “hunker down” one more time. After which, of course, it was “Look at the sugar falling out of the sky.”
1986: Georgia’s 20-16 win at Auburn. With starting QB James Jackson attending his grandmother’s funeral, backup Wayne Johnson got the nod and led the Dogs to a major upset over the No. 8-ranked Tigers. An interception by Steve Boswell sealed the win. The game is most notable in UGA football history, though, for Auburn officials turning fire hoses not only on those Georgia fans who had stormed the field, but the ones still in the stands, too.
1996: Georgia’s 56-49 win at Auburn. This one started out sucky, with the Dogs down 28-7. But Mike Bobo led Georgia back to tie the game and send it into four overtime periods. Robert Edwards ran for three touchdowns and Hines Ward caught nine passes for 175 yards as Jim Donnan’s Dogs prevailed in the SEC’s first overtime game.
2002: Georgia’s 24-21 win at Auburn. Another one that started out with the Dogs not looking good, as the Tigers led 14-3 at the half. Everyone remembers how this one ended, but often overlooked is the defensive performance by Sean Jones, who snagged two interceptions and a fumble recovery in addition to returning punts. Then came that thrilling fourth-down pass from David Greene to Michael Johnson with 1:25 left on the clock, giving the Dogs the SEC East title and, eventually, Mark Richt’s first SEC championship. As Munson put it: “Touchdown! Oh, God, a touchdown!”
2006: Georgia’s 37-15 win at Auburn. Nobody gave the Dogs much of a chance against the No. 5-ranked Tigers, but in perhaps Martinez’s finest hour the Georgia defense smacked AU quarterback Brandon Cox in the mouth from the get-go. Tra Battle wound up with three interceptions and the Dogs held Auburn to 171 yards of offense (all but 35 on the ground) while Georgia’s Kregg Lumpkin ran for 105 yards.
2007: Georgia’s 45-20 win in Athens. The “Blackout” game was back and forth for a while, with Auburn taking the lead midway through the third quarter before Georgia ripped off 28 unanswered points. One of the greatest games ever held Between the Hedges.
I get goosebumps just thinking about those games. Are there other Georgia wins over Auburn that stick in your memory? Meanwhile, to help get you in the mood, here’s the official trailer for this year’s game.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg