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.”
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.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg