Auburn Falls to Georgia Tech, 17-3
September 6, 2003
Auburn (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP) has quickly established itself as the nation's most disappointing team, losing its second in a row Saturday when Georgia Tech pulled off a 17-3 upset behind freshman quarterback Reggie Ball and a ferocious defense.
"I never expected this to happen," Auburn running back Carnell Williams said.
The Tigers (0-2) began the season ranked sixth in The Associated Press rankings, and at least one magazine picked them to win the national title. That goal already has gone by the wayside, the victim of an inept offense that seemed totally confused against the undersized Georgia Tech defense.
After getting routed at home by Southern California 23-0, the Tigers were held to 230 yards by Georgia Tech (1-1). Jason Campbell was sacked seven times and took a brutal beating nearly every time he dropped back.
"I don't know," offensive coordinator Hugh Nall said. "We're not catching the ball when we need to, not protecting enough, not making enough good decisions when we throw."
And what about Auburn's supposedly powerful running game? With all the sacks thrown in, the Tigers were held to just 40 yards on 38 carries.
Two games into the season, they have yet to reach the end zone.
"That's a big surprise, especially with the powerhouse offense they're supposed to have," said linebacker Keyaron Fox, one of Georgia Tech's defensive stars. "You can see their capabilities, but they don't have it all together. They have a hard time picking up certain things, such as movement up front."
The game was the first at expanded Bobby Dodd Stadium, where the capacity was raised from 43,000 to 55,000 with the addition of a new deck in the north end zone. Nearly all the new seats were filled with Auburn fans, but they didn't have much to cheer about.
"I was surprised. There was a lot of orange out there," Georgia Tech safety Dennis Davis said. "But, hey, this is still our house."
At the end, most of the orange-clad bunch was already on the streets of Atlanta. The fans wearing gold were left to storm the field, quickly ripping down both goal posts and lifting Ball onto their collective shoulders while chanting "Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!"
Ball, the first true freshman ever to start an opener at quarterback for Georgia Tech, set the tone on his team's first offensive play. Nate Curry got loose behind the secondary and hauled in a 54-yard pass, which set up Dan Burnett's 22-yard field goal.
Ball clinched the victory with the first touchdown pass of his young career, a perfectly thrown ball to Mark Logan for a 26-yard scoring play late in the third quarter. It was Logan's first career TD.
"I basically thought we could do anything we wanted to do," Ball said.
While Auburn still had plenty of time to get back in the game after Logan's TD, the Tigers' offense is a mess. Williams and Ronnie Brown are supposed to carry the load, but Georgia Tech blitzed heavily and dared the Tigers to win through the air. They couldn't.
Amid all the punishment, Campbell managed to complete 20 of 33 passes for 190 yards. That was about it for the offense -- Williams ran 13 times for 37 yards, while Brown was held to 47 yards on 11 carries.
Fox was in on 15 tackles, while Eric Henderson ran right by Auburn's huge offensive line to make three sacks.
"Last week, we played a really good defense," Tigers tackle Mark Pera said. "This week, I don't know what went wrong."
Georgia Tech went up 10-0 in the second quarter on P.J. Daniels' 1-yard touchdown plunge. The drive stayed alive when the Yellow Jackets faked a punt on fourth-and-1, snapping the ball directly to the up-back, safety Chris Reis, who ran for 4 yards.
After Auburn was penalized for roughing the passer, Ball ran 12 yards on a draw to set up Daniels' score.
The freshman had something to prove against Auburn, which backed off on a scholarship offer late in the recruiting process. Georgia Tech is sure glad to have him. He was 9-of-21 for 149 yards, rushed nine times for 26 yards and showed poise far beyond his 18 years.
"Obviously, Georgia Tech was the right place," he said. "I wouldn't even want to go to Auburn right now."
Auburn finally scored for the first time this season with 33 seconds left in the first half. Even that score was a bit of a disappointment as the Tigers couldn't punch it in with first-and-goal at the Georgia Tech 6.
Brown ran for 2 yards, then Campbell threw two straight incompletions before John Vaughn booted a 22-yard field goal.
The schools are among the oldest rivals in the Deep South, meeting for the first time in 1892. But the series ended in 1987 because of scheduling difficulties.
After waiting 16 years to get another crack at the Tigers, Georgia Tech made the most of its opportunity. The victory was its first over Auburn since 1978.
"It was an awesome win," defensive tackle Travis Parker said. "I've never been part of something like that."