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.