Heartbreaking loss to Auburn ruins one of Georgia’s greatest comebacks ever

Aaron Murray was big for the Dogs Saturday with both his passing and his running. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Aaron Murray was big for the Dogs Saturday with both his passing and his running. (Jason Getz / AJC)

That was, without a doubt, the wildest, craziest fourth quarter of Georgia football I’ve seen since run-Lindsay-run in 1980.

And absolutely heartbreaking for anyone who calls themselves a Dawg.

A Georgia team that was trailing Auburn by 20 points with 12:39 left on the clock clawed its way back into the game thanks to the incredible play of its senior quarterback and took a 38-37 lead with 1:49 left. It was as if Aaron Murray was willing his team not to lose this one despite plenty of reasons that it should have.

And then, with a mere 36 ticks left, the Tigers faced fourth-and-18 and former Bulldog player Nick Marshall launched a Hail Mary pass that was off-target and yet in miracle fashion was tipped by a Georgia defender and landed in the hands of Auburn receiver Ricardo Louis, who took it in for a score.

That play was one of the most deflating moments in my more than five decades of watching Georgia football.

Even then, it wasn’t quite over, though. An Auburn 2-point conversion attempt failed. Getting the ball back with just 25 seconds left, the amazing Murray — who was 33 of 49 for 415 yards in the air, threw two touchdown passes and scored two more running — brought his team racing downfield and wound up on the Auburn 20 with enough time left for two throws.

As Mark Richt said after the game, “we were very close to having a double miracle — one for us, one for them.”

But, as Richt noted, “It just didn’t quite happen.”

Richard Louis gets the winning score for Auburn on a freak play. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Richard Louis gets the winning score for Auburn on a freak play. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Some folks might be inclined to blame Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons for not batting that pass down like they’ve been taught to, which would have ended the game with a Georgia win, instead of going for an unnecessary pick.

But, actually, Georgia even being in a position to win at that point was in defiance of the sloppy, discombobulated game the Dogs played in the first half (particularly a horrible first quarter).

Yes, Auburn’s uptempo offense was all it was advertised to be, and more, as Marshall and the Tigers burned Georgia on quite a number of passing plays in addition to looking unstoppable at times with the run.

But Auburn got a number of big helping hands in the first half from Georgia’s offensive line, which had awful pass protection when it wasn’t getting called for false starts, and from the Dogs’ continued lousy special teams play and coaching. (It was also a terribly officiated game — by the Penn Wagers crew, natch — but that burned both teams.)

So, overall, the Dogs put themselves in quite a hole, and yet still nearly won the game thanks not just to the offense battling back but also to Georgia’s defense getting some big second-half stops due to more aggressive playcalling by Todd Grantham.

Had the Dogs played the first three quarters like they played the last one, we’d be talking about what a bust the No. 7-ranked Tigers turned out to be.

In the end, as Eric Zeier put it afterward, it was a game Georgia had no business being in and yet had no business losing.

To do so on a freak play hurts, yes. But the fact that Georgia was in a position to win the game at that point says a lot about the never-say-die attitude of this team and its scrappy quarterback.

That’s my take on the game. Feel free to share your own, but keep it civil.

Got something you want to discuss concerning the Dawgs? Or a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Email me at  junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

343 comments Add your comment

AuburnGuy

November 16th, 2013
11:47 pm

By the way, my salute to Aaron Murray. What a great, gutsy performance by a young man who just refused to lose. Some of you should be ashamed by the things you have said about him tonight. Believe me, you Georgia folks are going to miss him when he’s gone.

Humble Fan

November 16th, 2013
11:51 pm

Well…that was quite the game. The summary to me is simple.

Love or hate Murray, you have to respect him. He could have given up and we would be in worse shape without him. He may not be the best quarterback. But he has certainly earned respect for being a leader and fighter through thick and thin, It’s pretty obvious. You don’t have to be on a winning team to have those qualities and fortunately for him, those qualities will last more than a football game win will. He will have his success in the future with better coaching.

A far bigger problem is our coaching on special teams and especially defense. You have to wonder if Richt could get over the edge with a better supporting cast. Maybe, maybe not. Maybe we can’t win the big one with him. It does seem quite unlikely without a special teams coach.

What I am 100% sure of is our defense is pathetic. The hail mary play certainly sums it up well we can all agree. Just terrible. The players do try, for better and sadly oftentimes worse. Grantham may very well be the worst defensive coach I have seen in a long time in these parts. The fact that he is even permitted back in Athens to do anything other than collect his belongings is an indicator that many are right…we cannot win the big one with him. We have to have a defense. Until that is fixed, it really doesn’t matter what we think of Bobo, Richt and others. We MUST have a defense!

At least we had hope for a while. The team does have fight for sure. They could have given up when down 20. They didn’t. There is something to be said for that. It will be a complete shame if the coaching is not changed for next year. A true shame.

Coach Grantham, if you need help leaving, I am sure there is no shortage of UGA fans that will help you load the moving truck. You won’t have to pay a dime.

sick of Richt

November 16th, 2013
11:53 pm

Auburn guy I agree with you and would never criticize Aaron Murray. The young man has more heart and grit and guts at 22 years of age than most people accumulate in a lifetime. I’m just still trying to figure out why you were at a Georgia florida game and a Georgia tennessee game.

Mobile Dawg

November 16th, 2013
11:58 pm

jdawg34, after 13 years a lot of us think it’s just time for a change. It’s not about this loss, it’s about the fact that we just seemed to be mired in mediocrity. Richt is to popular, it would take a big set of cahoonas to let him go. McGarity can’t do it, he doesn’t have the authority, and I don’t think he has the backbone to initiate it. I just don’t see light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not a fair weather fan, but it’s a tough business. Coaches are hired to be fired. I would feel sorry for Richt but then I remember the millions of dollars we’re paying him.

Real Problem

November 17th, 2013
12:10 am

Our coaching is AWFUL….
Hire Kirby Smart and watch how things are done the Alabama way. Much needed in Athens.

GoDawgs

November 17th, 2013
12:14 am

Simple fact is this:

Richt won 10 in ‘11, 12 in ‘12, and has a shot to win 9 in ‘13 with all of the injuries and a terrible defensive coordinator killing the team.

I’d love to get rid of Richt if I could get a guy I KNEW could do better. We’re looking at having to get a guy in Saban or Urban’s league to guarantee it. It’s either that or find a top assistant (like we did with Richt) and hope to God that he can elevate the program. Richt had to do better than 8-4 when he got here because that was the kind of season that got Donnan canned. We finished 8-4 in Richt’s first year and people would have hated his guts if 13-1 and an SEC title hadn’t happened the following season.

Nothing short of what Saban is doing at Bama will be good enough for most of us. That’s our problem.

stendek

November 17th, 2013
12:15 am

Hey Auburn Guy goof…I WON”T MISS LOSER ONE NIT!

stendek

November 17th, 2013
12:15 am

Flo-Ri-Duh

November 17th, 2013
12:26 am

YOU prissy TROLLS don’t have the guts to set foot on a football field and no comprehension of how violent college football is… Murray has more courage in his little finger than you do in your whole body.

stendek

November 17th, 2013
12:32 am

I’ve had it with this incompetent “coach” and I use that word loosely, and his inability to inspire a team, hire decent coaches, fire bad ones, or hire a special teams coach. I do have to admire his ability to rake in millions of dollars for being nothing more than mediocre.

Amen my friend.

No next level with status quo.

EVER!

True Dawg fans realize this.

:(

stendek

November 17th, 2013
12:33 am

Shove it Florida troll jerk…

Lamar

November 17th, 2013
12:37 am

WHEN WILL GRANTHAM GET FIRED??!! Time after time the defense looks like it don’t have a clue! Ever since he took over, the defense is pathetic! Remember last year?? A NFL defense that got 8 players drafted, could not stop the run then. GUESS WHAT?? THEY STILL CAN’T AND WANT UNTIL HE GETS OUT OF ATHENS!! He makes Ga VERY HARD TO WATCH!! ENOUGH SAID!!

Desert Fox

November 17th, 2013
12:45 am

Bill. When CTG called for 3 man rush (actually only 2 rushed the AU QB) on 4th and 18, did that remind you of say LSU 4th and 23??? Forget the botched play by JHC and Mathews, what cost GA this game was the prevent win defense CTG employs in these situations but nothing ever prevails from it but bad things. CTG cost GA this game. His pressure finally got to AU late in the game so why do something different when it was working so well?? That’s a lack of good coaching. I hope he goes and CMR w/him. AM deserved better.

RawDawg

November 17th, 2013
12:53 am

Sickened when I saw Penn Wagers and crew had been sent to the Barn. I had predicted this but didn’t believe it until I saw it. The SEC has no shame.

AJC please do some investigative articles on the SEC referees and their agendas. When fans know the names of referees and expectations of cheating, then it’s simply unacceptable to watch it unfold.

Aaron Murray has been targeted more than any player in the nation this year [historically he is legend for surviving attacks by Fairley & Dial], yet there hasn’t been a call for him all year. He was targeted by Auburn’s # 30 Ford just before the end of the first half and on the last play of the game. Both hits were classic head targeting shots that the new rule was implemented to stop. Murray may be the toughest dude on the planet to survive these but how is it that one of the players this penalty was created for is immune to it’s protection? Murray has been hit with impunity this year.

How about the holding on Ray Drew on Auburn’s winning touchdown throw? With only two guys rushing and multiple refs in the backfield, this hold could not have been missed.

How about the Auburn player recovering the fumble with his knees with Clemons clutching the ball to his chest. Penn throwing the flag on Richt on this travesty was Wagers at his best.

The SEC is the best football conference in the NCAA and it deserves to have the best refereeing as well. Sadly enough it has the worse.

7576DAWG

November 17th, 2013
12:55 am

Alabama will beat Auburn at least 17 points but probably more.

NCDawg

November 17th, 2013
1:27 am

Not going to defend the defense… they played well for the last 12 minutes of the game but before that there were too many guys over running plays and missing tackles. There were some good tackles in space but not enough. Auburn’s offense is potent and will give any defense problems but I’m pretty sure our guys could have done a better job.

NCDawg

November 17th, 2013
1:27 am

I’m pretty sure now that Coach Grantham needs to go. His scheme is too complex and creates confusion. And that confusion creates self doubt in our defenders. The same things happen too often. And no, I haven’t “changed” my mind…I have had my observations confirmed beyond doubt now. I am always willing to give the benefit of the doubt and reasonable accomodation due to mitigating factors but now the body of work is to full for doubt.

NCDawg

November 17th, 2013
1:31 am

I think someone else could get more out of this group of players than Coach Grantham can. I don’t think he is a bad coach… I just think he asks too much out of these players as far as his scheme is concerned. There is too much room for error. And without tears of seasoning those errors crop up regularly. Not ideal for 3 and out college football.

NCDawg

November 17th, 2013
1:34 am

tears = years

NCDawg

November 17th, 2013
1:36 am

Auburn will give Bama fits and if their horseshoe doesn’t fall out of their arse… they may just beat them. They can throw the ball and Bama’s Achilles heel is the pass. Even Miss St was moving the ball throwing it against them. Question is how Bama will handle those edges while denying the middle. It won’t be a blow out.

RugbyDawg

November 17th, 2013
1:40 am

I agree about Aaron Murray’s performance. As a whole, UGA fans are oblivious to how hard our teams fights and works to improve every weekend. People can’t pull themselves away from the TV enough to realize that these are actual kids who go to school full time and play football full time too. Our armchair QB’s sit in the basement at Ma’s yelling at Murray and CMR while those guys are out doing great things. It’s not just about wins and losses anymore people. Start waking up to the fact that life is more than black and white, left and right, and winning being the only thing that matters. We need to change the way we think or the future for us is a grim one. It’s Cold War mentality in a Globalized and integrated world and it permeates through everything we talk about and discuss. Children think in black and white terms. It actually takes some courage and thought to look at the grey and figure out what is really happening.

NCDawg

November 17th, 2013
1:52 am

We came into the game wanting to control the ball and were forced into a shootout. Gurley became a factor late but The Barn was bound and determined to nullify him early. We tried going pass happy and that petered out. It wasn’t until we started gaining a bit of balance that the offense started clicking.

Anybody notice JJ Green hasn’t carried the ball hardly at all in the past 3 games? I was thinking we might try and use him on the edge since Auburn was stuffing the run and Gurley is noticeably slower since he came back. No SLOW but not the way he was. He still got some runs to the edge and a few passes.

The opening 3 and outs set the tone for the first half. If we move the ball early, this is a totally different game. I think if we’d gotten the ball first it would have been different.

The special teams weren’t that bad… there was the pooch kick… and the bogus penalty on that 1 punt. Otherwise the snaps were good and the coverage was good. Barber had a couple of bad punts. But even teams with special teams coordinators and sterling traditions of stellar ST play have shanked punts.

Festus

November 17th, 2013
1:53 am

Any lip readers got any idea what CMR said that got him an unsportsmanlike penalty? Mathew Stafford is a pro quarterback who might one day win the Super Bowl. Doubt Murray will make it in the pros. CMR is a better coach than anyone you could get as a replacement. Coaches are over rated. Auburn was a NC with Gene What His Name.

NCDawg

November 17th, 2013
1:55 am

I’m not even going to say anything about the officiating. I’ve seen a few people that saw things the way I did. It just smells rotten. Very bad. Those guys need to be publicly humiliated by the League. But we all know that ain’t happening.

NCDawg

November 17th, 2013
1:55 am

I’m out…

NCDawg

November 17th, 2013
2:16 am

RugbyDawg
November 17th, 2013
1:40 am

Sorry to say this but those sentiments will be excoriated when the regulars return in the morning. Prepare to be told you are part of the problem by not “demanding” better and that is why the Bulldogs don’t win Championships.

These are men that have vested their manhood’s in the fortunes of 18-22 year old on a football field. They are obsessed with keeping up with the Jones’. Every loss is an insult to their masculinity and that requires a visceral reaction in the form of the “blame game” So the Coaches are to blame and if any player makes a mistake it’s their fault too. Losing is seen to be the equivalent of “cold water shrinkage”.

Now don’t get me wrong… I LOVE football. I play to win when I compete. I think competition is essential. But these reactions are just a symptom of the skewed priorities in our society. We are completely out of whack. We ignore the things that are foundational and glorify the transitory. But unfortunately there far too few people that even consider such things.

So prepare to be flamed and don’t be shocked by the rude responses if you check back.

Now I’m out…

ModestoDawg

November 17th, 2013
3:24 am

NCDawg: Don’t even cry ofifciating. Dawgs played their hearts out…

ModestoDawg

November 17th, 2013
3:28 am

NC: After 4 yrs Grantham players can understand his Defense! Stop it!

Eric C.

November 17th, 2013
3:39 am

AuburnGuy, yep…I remember 2002 very well. Does that one still sting? Also, most Dawg fans appreciate Murray.

Eric C.

November 17th, 2013
3:41 am

RRTracker, as an Auburn fan, you seem to be ignorant of Marshall’s situation at UGA. He wanted to play CB at UGA.

Eric C.

November 17th, 2013
3:46 am

Stendek, you are wrong about Murray. If he had any kind of defense behind him, he’d have at least one NC.

Chris

November 17th, 2013
3:48 am

To the people who still actually believe Georgia leads the world in recruiting…nope sorry they do not. Alabama does. And Alabama wins championships. Alabama has had the best recruiting class in the nation quite a few years recently, so it’s not just coaching up your talent, it’s getting the talent. Which Alabama does. Don’t even remember the last time Georgia had the number one recruiting class in the nation.

Chris

November 17th, 2013
3:48 am

Also agree with you Eric C. Georgia hasn’t been the same since VanGorder left.

Eric C.

November 17th, 2013
3:48 am

BigCrimson75, this one doesn’t look good for you…Auburn may wreck your season.

Eric C.

November 17th, 2013
3:57 am

Chris, agreed…BVG really seemed to connect with his players a lot better. There is a disconnect between TG (and WM before) with the players. It has resulted in catastrophic failures, such as not batting down the ball when necessary, and other mental breakdowns. Auburn has won 86 straight games when scoring 30+, while UGA has lost twice this year while scoring 35+.

Chris

November 17th, 2013
4:11 am

and Eric you also look at the way the Georgia defensive players are always looking at the sidelines or at each other and seem to have no clue what the play call is or who they are to defend. That happened on the td pass early in the game. That is a result of very poor coaching. Grantham needs to go, and Georgia needs to find someone who will take care of this D. Which is another advantage Saban has had at Alabama…he’s got Smart who has done a tremendous job with his D and Smart has stuck around for a long time. We need a guy who will coach them up and stay around for a while.

Kenny

November 17th, 2013
6:19 am

UGA was fun with Munson. He called the games from the underdog perspective. 1980 was 33 years ago folks. Not close since except 13-1 and even then CMR lost to Florida. Munson was great because UGA has always been top of the second tier. That’s what made Munson’s dramatic narrative so great. And remember, back then there were more crappy teams on the schedule. Still Dooley won most of the games he was supposed to win. UGA had a very tough schedule this year and devastating injuries. But UGA is right about where they always are. Top of the second tier. That’s where they will always be. That’s the tradition and that’s the history. Top of the second tier. After 13 seasons, CMR is a winner but a winner at the top of the also rans. Next year won’t be any better. CMR is the almost coach. CMR teams only win when they don’t make mistakes and they have given away too many winnable games through terrible coaching and mental mistakes. That’s just who he is.

John

November 17th, 2013
6:33 am

Last 3 QB’s to beat Bama…Tebow, Newton and Johnny Football…what do they have in common…they can extend plays with their feet and are mobile. A drop back QB plays right into Bama’s defensive plans, a mobile QB is the X factor….this read option will give Bama a hard time because the QB reads the defense in real time.

CHDawg

November 17th, 2013
6:44 am

There were people who thought Ruth couldn’t hit and Jordan couldn’t play basketball. Murray is one of the SEC greats of all time, and we have guys complaining? Of course, they could be one of the many faces of St. Simons and not UGA fans at all. I wish somebody would put Drew/Wilson/Moore on youtube along with the three hits by #30 last night and ask, which hit got the penalty? The one CBS highlighted and compared to Fairley’s cheap shots was just roughing the passer. The hits at 30 seconds in the first half and on the last play were some of the worst targeting hits I have seen all year! Top of his helmet, he left his feet, becoming a projectile, and they were both after Murray had released. The one in the first half was from behind Murray! What the refs did was dangerous to Murray. I hope he has no lasting brain damage. Here is what bothers me. Because Richt and McGarity complained about the horrible calls earlier in the season, I am afraid the refs have a vendetta against UGA, and refused to call the targeting fouls, no matter how blatant. If so, it is sad that they would risk these young men’s health. UGA should send the video and complain again to the SEC about these two missed calls imo. I hate talking about this because it was a great win by AU. I think very highly of their staff. Congrats. The war the refs are waging with UGA isn’t AU’s fault. I would talk to 30 because I can guarantee they will call it against Bama. Remember, they let Fairley get away with murder against UGA and then flagged him for nothing against Bama to let him know he would be treated differently against other teams by the refs!

Goldfish

November 17th, 2013
7:14 am

Let’s face it, we are what we are, never quite good enough to run with the big dawgs. Unless something changes the dawgs will always be a tier below Spurrier, Saban, Meyer etc coached teams.

1969 Graduate

November 17th, 2013
7:18 am

Very interesting, mostly accurate, and mostly insightful comments. Thanks, guys. I enjoyed reading this thread.

I thought Aaron Murray would have a game like he had, and carry UGA to a great victory – overcoming bad defense, bad special teams, and incompetent, inept coaching – I was wrong.

I was almost right. Aaron is, I think, a really fine (not perfect), and sometimes amazing quarterback, and a DGD. But, I was wrong in not giving enough credit to the power of our coaches. I’m not sure the greatest Dawg of my lifetime – #34 – would have been capable of carrying these coaches to victory.

I truly believe those high up in the UGA decision making process are perfectly fine with Georgia being exactly where we are. Someone said it perfectly: Top of the Second Tier.

I predict CTG – I use the C reluctantly – will be given a raise or a contract extension. Mark Richt will be here forever. They’re doing their jobs (according to someone’s standards, and that someone signs their checks).

Our coaches should be run out of town. Their bosses should be tarred and feathered.

I called my son in the first quarter, and told him I think we might be able to beat Kentucky. Of course, that means we might be able to beat them if our coaches don’t shoot us in the foot. Big if…

I’m tired of KA Drinkers saying we can’t fire Richt because who would we get, we’d be Tennessee, etc. Most of us can readily think of several coaches who would have won this game and the other games we’ve lost this year.

I salute our players for almost winning in spite of not having been prepared to do so. They deserve better.

Go, Dawgs. Win in spite of your idiot coaches.

Phil

November 17th, 2013
7:19 am

“I’d love to get rid of Richt if I could get a guy I KNEW could do better”..

We can’t get Saban or Meyer or any of those, so there is no guarantee of that. We would have to go with an unproven assistant most likely. BUT, we DO KNOW what Richt has proven. He CANNOT and WILL NOT ever win a NC at Georgia. That much he has proven.

So do we stick with what we do know? Is that good enough for most of you? It is apparently with McGarity, I say let’s go in a different direction, possibly with Kirby Smart. A Nick Saban disciple can’t be a bad choice I don’t think.

Oh by the way, ask Auburn how did their coaching change work out for them….

dawgfan

November 17th, 2013
7:20 am

Now that the shock has worn off and all the emotion is gone, that was an incredibly dumb play and typical Mark Richt football. An interception right there accomplishes absolutely nothing. Bill just assumes that our players are being coached to bat the ball down in such a situation. To the contrary, it was a sloppy undisciplined play that unfortunately is the chief characteristic of Mark Richt football now. Nobody should be surprised anymore.

Just bat the ball down and game over. It’s that simple. No wonder Mark Richt can’t beat good teams. Success is in the details.

Phil

November 17th, 2013
7:28 am

dawgfan,
Exactly. just knock it down and the game is over. Instead we have 2 guys fighting to see who gets the interception. Neither one tried to knock it down, they were both going for the interception. And I don’t believe for one minute that our guys are coached to knock it down. More dumb coaching from Richt and Grantham. Defense was a joke all game long, not surprised they would let something like this happen.

legionaire

November 17th, 2013
7:30 am

As usual UGA was unprepared, confused, & could not make the adjustments needed on the sidelines to stop the run game. To say that Richt and Grantham were outcoached is being kind. Auburn was the 7th ranked team and showed a number of different looks and were clearly the superior team. McGarrity has some real thinking to do about Grantham. He ain’t no Erk Russell or Van Gorder.

Charles Sikes

November 17th, 2013
7:34 am

Gator friend of mine told me five years ago that Ga. would never win a NC because we are content with winning 9 or ten games a year. I’m beginning to believe him.

DatDawg

November 17th, 2013
7:39 am

A real defensive coordinator would have told his secondary to, ‘KNOCK THE BALL DOWN!!!’ Not try to intercept the ball. Poor coaching. Whatever – I’m going to hang with the rest of the fans who question the validity of certain fans who desire more than mediocrity. It’s why the state-of-Georgia is always on the outside looking in on championships – we just expect mediocrity. From now on, I’m going to follow the pack. Nick Saban is evil.

wiseoldawg

November 17th, 2013
7:46 am

The main thing to learn fro this is that when you have a talented player on your team who breaks the law, make sure he goes to jail and not to a rival school

Daniel#12

November 17th, 2013
7:48 am

How many times this year on 3rd or 4th and forever have we rushed 3, dropped 8 into cover and gotten burned? I cannot believe Grantham did it again.

oakisland

November 17th, 2013
7:55 am

Thanks coach Grantham, you made me start drinking, smoking, and cursing again.