UGA, Auburn square off after testy 2010 game

So much for those neighborly Georgia-Auburn get-togethers.

The rivalry billed as the oldest in the Deep South got nasty

last year with 10 personal foul penalties, two suspensions of

Auburn players for throwing punches and a couple of injury-causing

hits on Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray.

This is supposed to be the kinder, gentler version of

Alabama-Auburn and Georgia-Florida.

”Yeah, everyone kind of thought it was a friendlier rivalry up

until last year when it got a little more heated toward the end,”

Auburn tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen said. ”We know that they

remember that from last year and we remember them kind of coming

after us toward the end. So I think it’s going to be another

physical game.”

That’s true of just about any Southeastern Conference game, and

certainly any time Auburn and Georgia meet up.

Having the game get as testy as the last one is less common.

Auburn (6-3, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) was trying to stay

alive in the national championship hunt, quarterback Cam Newton was

embroiled in a recruiting scandal and ferocious defensive tackle

Nick Fairley was busy stirring up trouble.

Fairley was called for a late hit on Murray when he appeared to

come in, illegally, helmet-first. Murray sustained a bruised

sternum.

Later, tempers really flared when Fairley hit Murray low on a

clean play, knocking the quarterback from the game with a bruised

knee. A resulting scuffle led fellow Auburn defensive linemen Mike

Blanc and Michael Goggans to draw suspensions for the first half of

the Alabama game for throwing punches.

All three of those linemen are gone. Do the hard feelings

remain? Depends on who you ask.

”No, it’s two completely different football teams,” Murray

said. ”That was last year. A bunch of guys graduated on our team,

a bunch of guys graduated on their team. We’re not talking about

that at all. We’re focused on winning this game and continue to set

us up for chance to get back to Atlanta (to play for the SEC

championship).”

Bulldogs tight end Aron White said some guys were still angry

and holding grudges after Auburn rallied from a two-touchdown

deficit to win 49-31.

”But at the end of the day, it’s still a rivalry game,” White

said. ”You have to expect things like that. Our emotions got the

best of us like they got the best of them. It’s always going to get

a little chippy out there against Auburn.

”Last year happens to be one of those games where it got a

whole lot more chippy.”

The Bulldogs (7-2, 5-1) have the high stakes this time, since

they’re in the driver’s seat in the East Division.

This is typically one of the biggest – and tightest – games for

both teams. Auburn holds a slim 54-52-8 edge.

The scoring margin through 114 meetings: Georgia 1,809, Auburn

1,771. That breaks down to an average score of 15.87-15.5. To

Auburn coach, Gene Chizik this meets the very definition of

rivalry, though he says he doesn’t expect a repeat of last year’s

outbursts.

”A rivalry is always made up of two teams that usually have

something in common and are great competition for and with each

other,” Chizik said.

Former Georgia coach and Auburn quarterback Vince Dooley agrees

with Chizik that the rival programs share many traits.

”It’s always been hard-hitting,” Dooley said. ”But there’s so

much in common. Somebody described it as feuding cousins. I think

that is probably a good description. It’s a great rivalry. There’s

a lot of similarities, a lot of respect for both institutions, and

it’s a hard-hitting football game. Then there’s the fact there’s a

lot of Georgia people who played at Auburn, that adds to it.

”Auburn is very close to the border. It’s a great

rivalry.”

The rivalry even has a gentlemanly history. Georgia is the only

one of Auburn’s major rivals who didn’t raise a fuss about moving

the game from a neutral site to campus. It was played mostly in

Columbus, Ga., until the late 1950s.

Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia Tech indicated they’d rather drop

the rivalry altogether, and the Crimson Tide didn’t play on

Auburn’s campus until 1989.

It remains to be seen whether that courteous relationship will

be evident between the hedges at Sanford Stadium on Saturday.

The players might be willing to let it go, but White said he’s

been hearing from students about payback.

”They’ve been talking about Nick Fairley, things like, `He’s

gone but we can still get their quarterback,”’ White said. ”I’m

not really buying into all that. I’m just trying to win the

game.”

Auburn defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker is from Warner Robins,

Ga. He expects plenty of hard-hitting action, but for the teams to

keep it clean.

”That’s the way it is. It’s Georgia and Auburn,” Whitaker

said. ”When you’ve got a pretty good offensive line, who don’t

mind hitting you in the mouth and you don’t mind returning the

favors, there are going to be some shots. There’s going to be a

little talking here and there. We’re going to respect the game.

We’re going to play until the whistle blows.”

Or maybe until the flags fly.

AP Sports Writer Paul Newberry in Athens, Ga., contributed to

this report.