Nov. 14, 2009
ATHENS, Ga.---The stats were nearly identical in a thrilling back and forth game but it was Georgia who held on to defeat No. 25 Auburn 31-24 in Sanford Stadium Saturday. The Tigers' Demond Washington returned a 99 yard kickoff return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to tie it at 24 and set an Auburn school record with 202 kickoff return yards but it wasn't enough.
The Tigers took the opening kickoff and drove right down the field scoring on a Chris Todd 5-yard touchdown pass to Kodi Burns, his first receiving touchdown of his career. The Tigers covered 74 yards in nine plays in 3:47.
After holding Georgia (6-4, 4-3 SEC) to minus four yards in three plays on its first possession, Auburn (7-4, 3-4 SEC) scored on its second straight possession to open the game to make it 14-0 on a 31-yard Todd touchdown pass to Terrell Zachery with 3:15 left in the first quarter. The Tigers had a time consuming 11-play, 82-yard drive in 5:57 while converting three third down conversions.
Auburn again held Georgia to three and out for only one yard on the Bulldogs' next possession. The Tigers outgained the Bulldogs 145 yards to 5 in the first quarter and had the ball for 10:59 in the opening period. Todd, who was 17-of-18 passing vs. Furman last week, completed his first nine passes against Georgia.
"I'm very proud of our team," said Auburn head coach Gene Chizik. "We just kept coming at them and coming back after jumping off to the quick start, and Georgia came firing back. This one is a tough one to handle tonight."
Georgia struck quickly to open the second quarter as it cut Auburn's deficit in half at 14-7 on a 50-yard Joe Cox to Israel Troupe touchdown pass 1:46 into the period. The Bulldogs drove 87 yards in nine plays in only 1:51.
On its first possession of the second half, Georgia cut into Auburn's lead on a Blair Walsh 51-yard field goal to make it 14-10 Tigers only four minutes into the third quarter. The Bulldogs took their first lead of the game at 17-14 on a 1-yard touchdown run by freshman Washaun Ealey, who carried the ball 19 yards the play before to set up his score with 4:51 left in the third.
The Tigers ended the 17 consecutive points scored by the Bulldogs on a 37-yard Wes Byrum field goal that hit the left upright and went through to tie the game at 17-17 with 2:08 left in the third. A 34-yard Todd pass to tight end Tommy Trott down to the 24 yard line set up the field goal.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Cox threw a 47 yard pass to Tavarres King to the Auburn 11 yard line. On the next play, Caleb King ran up the middle for a touchdown to give Georgia a 23-17 lead 35 seconds into the final period.
That's when Auburn junior Demond Washington returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards untouched for his first return for a touchdown in his career to even the game at 24-24 only 14 seconds later. It was the sixth longest kickoff return in Auburn history. Washington's 202 kickoff return yards in a single game broke the previous mark of 182 by Tristan Davis in last year's game vs. Arkansas.
"The kick return team blocked great," said Washington. "My hat's off to those guys. The blockers were great and that was a big momentum shift for us."
Chizik added praise on Washington, "That was really good to see him. He has been in so many roles the past few weeks. It is just really great to see a young guy step up to the plate and perform like that."
From the Georgia 48-yard line and the Tigers driving, Todd threw an interception that set Georgia up at the Auburn 39-yard line. Caleb King ran up the middle for a 24-yard touchdown to put the Bulldogs ahead to stay at 31-24 with 6:52 left in the game.
Auburn continued to make a game of it and was driving for the tying score. From the Georgia 23 on second and 11 with 1:16 remaining, Bacarri Rambo made a huge hit at the 1-yard line on Mario Fannin, who had his hands on the ball for a moment after a beautiful pass from Todd. The game was then delayed for several minutes as Rambo was carted off the field on a stretcher.
The Bulldogs then sacked Todd on the next play followed by a Tiger illegal procedure penalty to set up a fourth and 23 from the Georgia 35 with 1:07 left. Todd then threw to Darvin Adams in the back right corner of the end zone, but Georgia's Bryan Evans broke up the pass to end the Auburn threat.
Ben Tate, who wore No. 4 instead of his usual No. 44 in honor of his roommate, injured Auburn safety Zac Etheridge, finished with a team-high 67 yards rushing. Todd completed 20-of-28 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns to move into second place on Auburn's single season touchdowns thrown record list with 19. Adams caught six passes for 90 yards.
Auburn outgained Georgia in total offense 353 to 342 and ran 11 more plays than the Bulldogs while both teams had 18 first downs. The Tigers rushed for 115 yards and passed for 238 yards compared to the Bulldogs 169 yards rushing and 173 yards passing on only nine completions.
Ealey led the Georgia rushing attack with a game-high 98 yards and one touchdown.
Auburn has an open date before it plays its regular season finale against Alabama on Friday, Nov. 27 at 1:30 pm Central on CBS.