Auburn, AL (SportsNetwork.com) - Nick Marshall got to experience the SEC
Championship Game during his brief time at Georgia. With the help of a
miraculous play, he has Auburn one win from going there.
The former Bulldogs cornerback and current Auburn quarterback's 73-yard
touchdown pass to Ricardo Louis with 25 seconds remaining added yet another
chapter to the seventh-ranked Tigers' storybook season, as well as a 43-38
triumph over No. 25 Georgia in a classic from Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn (10-1, 6-1 SEC), which went winless in conference play last season and
was handed a 38-0 shellacking at home by the Bulldogs last November, set up a
winner-take-all showdown with No. 1 Alabama for the SEC West title in the Iron
Bowl in two weeks with its seventh consecutive victory -- though the Tigers
had to overcome three fourth-quarter touchdowns by Georgia that turned a 20-
point deficit into a 38-37 lead entering the final minute.
Faced with a 4th-and-18 from his own 27-yard line, Marshall -- dismissed from
the Bulldogs' program in February of 2012 for a violation of team rules --
sent a desperation heave down the middle of the field to Louis with a pair of
Georgia defenders converging.
Bulldogs safety Tray Matthews got his hands on the underthrown ball, but
knocked it up into the air as Louis snared it before running in untouched for
the startling go-ahead score.
"The only thing that was going through my mind was try to make a play," said
Louis. "At first I was going to try and jump for it, but they took the angle,
so I just kept my eyes on the ball over my shoulder and watched the ball all
the way in."
Marshall added a pair of rushing touchdowns and 89 yards on the ground in
addition to completing 15-of-26 passes for 229 yards. Louis finished with 131
yards on four receptions, with Tre Mason rushing for 115 yards and a touchdown
on 27 carries for Auburn.
"This team, they are special. This is a special group," said Tigers head coach
Gus Malzahn. "They've been through a lot, and they rallied, came together and
believed in each other. They bought in to the fact to get better in each game.
I told them before the game, we've been building up for this moment. The
moment was to play with these guys. They did that tonight."
Aaron Murray threw for 415 yards and accounted for four touchdowns, the last a
gutsy 5-yard run on fourth down with 1:49 to play, to nearly single-handedly
lead Georgia (6-4, 4-3). The senior quarterback made good on 33-of-49 passing
attempts with two scores and one interception.
"Obviously, you need your quarterback to play well to get back in the game and
he did," said Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt of Murray. "Early on we didn't
protect very well. As the game went on, we gave him time and that was a big
part of it. Murray did a really wonderful job."
Inspired by the stakes of the game and last year's result, Auburn dominated
much of the first three quarters and owned a seemingly comfortable 37-17
advantage early in the fourth following Cody Parkey's third field goal of the
Murray proceeded to engineer a 9-play, 60-yard drive, culminating with his 4-
yard touchdown delivery to Rantavious Wooten on a slant with 9:35 left to
play, and Georgia's defense stepped up by forcing the Tigers' potent attack to
Todd Gurley took a short dump-off from Murray 22 yards into Auburn territory
on the opening play of the Bulldogs' next series. Four plays later, Murray
found a wide-open Arthur Lynch, who hurled a defender en route to a 24-yard
score that suddenly made it a one-possession game at 37-31 with 5:59 to go.
Auburn's offense then stalled once again, giving Georgia back the ball back
near midfield on a short punt. Three more Murray completions, the last a 17-
yard strike to Michael Bennett, created a 1st-and-goal at the Auburn 7.
The Tigers held Gurley to a short gain and Murray misfired on two throws to
bring on fourth down, but the veteran signal-caller took on two defenders and
just got over the goal line while diving head-first on a 5-yard scramble that
put Georgia ahead for the first time of the day after Marshall Morgan
converted the PAT.
Jordan Jenkins' sack of Marshall on third down in the final minute appeared to
get Georgia one step closer to victory, but Matthews couldn't come down with a
game-clinching interception on the next snap and Louis made him pay.
"I told [Malzahn] I wanted the ball," said Louis of the play. "I told him the
whole game that I wanted the ball in my hand. Whether it was running or
catching the ball, I wanted the ball in my hands. I told Nick before that play
and told him to throw me the ball and I made a play."
Murray kept the outcome in doubt, however, with connections to Lynch and
Wooten for 22 and 28 yards, respectively, as Georgia got to the Tigers' 20
with three seconds left. His final throw hit the ground, though, while under
pressure as time expired.
"It's like a nightmare," said Murray of the loss. "You try to wake up, and we
are celebrating victory. It's tough. This is going to be a tough one to get
The Bulldogs were put in an early 13-0 hole before recording their initial
first down of the game, with Auburn outgaining Georgia by a whopping 149-4
margin in total yards for the first quarter and registering 10 first downs to
its opponent's none.
The Tigers' offense set the tone with a methodical 15-play, 56-yard drive that
wound up stalling inside the Georgia 10 and resulted in Parkey's 22-yard field
goal. The time-consuming sequence almost ended in a turnover, as Sammie Coates
fumbled at the end of a 33-yard catch and the Bulldogs recovered deep in their
own end. However, the pass was ultimately called incomplete upon review.
After Auburn forced a three-and-out on the Bulldogs' first possession,
Marshall completed four straight throws to put the Tigers back into Georgia
territory, then later handed it to Corey Grant on a fly sweep that the
speedster took 21 yards into the end zone for a 10-0 advantage with 4:29 left
in the quarter.
The Bulldogs had temporarily stopped Auburn on its next series, but a personal
foul penalty nullified a punt and kept the ball in the Tigers' hands. A 14-
yard connection from backup quarterback Jeremy Johnson to Melvin Ray soon
afterward led to Parkey's 35-yard kick that extended the lead less than two
minutes into the second quarter.
Georgia finally got something going following the second field goal. Bennett
took a short pass 42 yards to cross midfield and Murray hit Jonathon Rumph for
a key completion on 3rd-and-3 before Gurley powered off a 9-yard touchdown run
to cut the deficit to 13-7.
The Bulldogs had another near-takeaway negated on the ensuing series, having
appeared to recover a Louis fumble at the Auburn 37 that officials ruled the
Tigers to have kept. The verdict proved pivotal, as runs by Marshall and Mason
totaling 11 and 14 yards, respectively, created a 1st-and-goal prior to
Marshall completing the 6-play, 73-yard jaunt with a 6-yard TD run on an
option read that restored the 13-point differential.
Georgia's Leonard Floyd blocked Parkey's field goal try on Auburn's next trip
to keep the score 20-7, but the Tigers went 61 yards in six plays to reach the
end zone again on their subsequent possession. Mason capped it with a 24-yard
run through a huge hole up the middle with 1:07 remaining in the half.
Murray gave the Bulldogs some momentum heading into the break, hitting on 7-
of-8 passes to put his team in range for Morgan's 37-yard field goal that
pulled Georgia within 27-10. He then began the second half with six
consecutive completions in orchestrating a 10-play, 70-yard drive that ended
on his 16-yard touchdown scramble that trimmed Auburn's cushion to 10 points.
Marshall countered with some sharp passing of his own, firing a deep ball that
Louis hauled in for a 44-yard gain to the Bulldogs' 7 on the Tigers' first
series of the third quarter. Two plays later, Marshall veered across the goal
line on a 5-yard keeper to put Auburn up by a 34-17 count with 8:47 left in
Georgia's offense couldn't keep up, punting on its next two treks, and Parkey
made it a 20-point spread by knocking through a 32-yard field goal early in
the fourth quarter. Louis' 32-yard scamper on an end around helped lead to the
Auburn, which entered the contest averaging 320 rushing yards per game, put up
323 on the ground and finished with 566 total yards ... Murray now has 903
completions for his career, moving him past Florida's Chris Leak for the most
in SEC history ... Georgia had won six of the last seven matchups between the
rivals, with last year's verdict Auburn's first shutout loss at home since
2003 ... Gurley came up with 10 catches for 77 yards ... The Bulldogs are now
minus-eight in turnover ratio for the season after failing to come up with a
takeaway in the loss.
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