No. 7 Auburn survives No. 25 Georgia, 43-38

Aaron Murray and the Georgia Bulldogs could only watch as their
fabulous comeback fell apart with one painfully unpredictable
play.

Ricardo Louis scored on a deflected 73-yard pass from Nick
Marshall on fourth and 18 with 25 seconds left to give No. 7 Auburn
a 43-38 victory over the 25th-ranked Bulldogs on Saturday
night.

”That’s a freak play,” Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said.
”It’s like a nightmare. You try to wake up, and we are celebrating
victory. It’s tough. This is going to be a tough one to get
over.”

The Tigers (10-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) had blown a 27-7
lead but pulled out one more huge play to continue the biggest
turnaround in major college football. From 3-9 last year, they can
win the SEC West with a victory in two weeks against No. 1
Alabama.

Marshall heaved the ball downfield with two defenders around
Louis. It bounced off safety Josh Harvey-Clemons’ hand and Louis
reached out his left hand to corral it. Marshall said he stiff
armed a defender before letting the ball fly.

”I couldn’t believe it,” Louis said. ”It just landed right
into my hands. I saw it once it got over my shoulder. It got
tipped, I lost track of it … but when I looked over my shoulders,
it was right there.”

Murray, who had engineered the comeback with three
fourth-quarter touchdowns, could only stare helplessly from the
bench. A win could have kept the Bulldogs alive in the SEC
East.

”We played a great team playing great in their house,” Georgia
coach Mark Richt said. ”It looked kind of bleak there for a minute
and the boys just started fighting. We got ourselves in position to
take the lead, obviously late in the game. We gave them a fourth
and 18 and that’s almost as good as it gets.”

Murray led Georgia (6-4, 4-3) all the way to Auburn’s 20 but his
final two passes fell incomplete as time ran out. Dee Ford hit him
on the last pass as Murray ran toward the line before trying to
throw.

Richt said he couldn’t remember being on the sidelines for a
similar loss since his Florida State days.

”When you lose, you tend to think about the things you should
have done,” he said. ”When you win, you just think about how
great it is.

”Let’s face it, as good as Auburn is and has been playing,
they’ve got all the momentum going.”

Some Auburn players climbed into the stands to celebrate with
students, and most fans stayed put to celebrate the victory.

It only came after Murray gave the Tigers a big scare. He had
plowed into Ryan Smith at the goal line for a 5-yard touchdown with
1:49 left.

Auburn challenged the final TD, but replay officials upheld the
call on the field.

That left the Tigers starting at their own 22 with 1:45 left.
They managed one first down but Jordan Jenkins sacked Marshall to
set up fourth and 18.

Marshall then produced the biggest play of his career against
the Bulldogs, where he played as a freshman defensive back. He was
dismissed from the team in February 2012 for violating team rules
and returned to the SEC after a season in junior college.

He finished 15-of-26 passing for 229 yards after attempting only
15 passes combined in the past two games thanks to a steamrolling
running game. Marshall also ran 19 times for 89 yards.

He also threw a game-winning TD pass with 10 seconds left
against Mississippi State, but there was much more on the line this
time. The 2010 national champions are potential contenders
again.

”They find a way to win,” said Gus Malzahn, Auburn’s
first-year coach. ”This team has the `it’ factor. That’s just the
bottom line.”

He had simple plans for celebration.

”This is definitely a Waffle House night,” Malzahn said.

The Tigers deserve something for pulling this one out against
Murray.

The prolific Georgia passer completed 33 of 49 passes for 415
yards and two touchdowns in the final 9:35, with an earlier
interception.

Murray also ran for two scores and had 160 yards passing in the
fourth quarter.

Todd Gurley ran 15 times for 79 yards and a touchdown and caught
10 passes for 77 yards. Auburn gained 566 yards, Georgia 532.

The Tigers ran for 323 yards against a defense that came in
giving up 126 yards a game on the ground, 20th nationally.

They had lost the last two meetings in the Deep South’s oldest
rivalry by 38 points apiece. Now, the Tigers hold a razor-thin
55-54-8 edge.

Auburn rode that punishing running game and Georgia mistakes to
a 27-10 halftime lead, at one point outgaining the Bulldogs 170-4
before the comeback began.

”It was just a whale of a game, I guess,” Richt said.