AUBURN - Most of a sold out Jordan-Hare Stadium looked on in stunned disbelief as A.J. Green hauled in a perfectly thrown 40-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Murray to put Georgia up 21-7 on No. 2 Auburn in the first quarter of Saturday’s game.
Auburn's Nick Fairley puts a big hit on Murray/AuburnUndercover.com
Had the pressure of being highly ranked and dealing with more than a week of nonstop rumors about the eligibility of Cam Newton taken its toll? Were the distractions too much for a team that hasn’t tasted a championship in six years?
Not this Auburn team. Not on this perfect fall Saturday in the Loveliest Village.
The guys in that locker room just never cease to amaze me,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “...Nobody gets rattled.”
Auburn fought back to score touchdowns on its final five possessions to win the Deep South’s oldest rivalry 49-31 and clinch the SEC West title.
Auburn’s march to its first SEC West championship since 2004 has been a season of overcoming deficits. The Tigers have trailed in seven of their 11 wins this season including double-digit deficits against Clemson, South Carolina and now Georgia.
Its the first time since 1970 that Auburn has been able to overcome three double-digit deficits in one season.
“We got off to a slow start at the beginning but knowing this team and what we’ve been through this year, we just fought through adversity and came back. Now we are 11-0 and heading to Atlanta,” senior safety Zac Etheridge said.
The Bulldogs scored touchdowns on its first three possessions largely on the pinpoint passing of Murray and the grace and athleticism of Green, who many project as a high first round pick in next year’s NFL Draft.
Murray completed 6-of-8 passes for 121 yards and three touchdowns in the first quarter. Green hauled in two of those touchdowns and totaled 98 receiving yards.
But the defense made some adjustments and forced Georgia to punt on its next two possessions of the first half. In the second half, Auburn’s defense held the Bulldogs to 151 total yards and 10 points.
Auburn had four sacks in the game and three of them came in the second half. Murray completed just 9-of-20 passes after the first quarter.
“When you can get pressure with four and get heat on the quarterback, that changed the whole deal,” defensive coordinator Ted Roof said.
Offensively, Auburn scored on its first possession of the game but failed to convert on the three of its next four. Newton’s first interception in more than a month came when his pass bounced out of the hands of receiver Emory Blake.
“We kind of killed ourselves early,” offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said. “We had a big reverse that was called back and then the interception.
“But our guys kind of figured out what they were giving us ... and went out and executed.”