Auburn trains the Bulldogs! Tommy Tuberville’s Greatest Games!
War Eagle, everybody! It’s time now for another look at one of Tommy Tuberville’s greatest games. When we last looked at the Tigers, they were steam-rolling through the 2004 season, and clinching an SEC Western Division title. After doing so on Halloween weekend in Oxford, the Auburn Tigers had a much needed week off, to heal various nicks and bruises, and to get ready for the Georgia Bulldogs, in Jordan Hare Stadium.
Georgia came into Auburn ranked 5th in the nation. The Bulldogs’ only stumble had been in early October, against the Tennessee Vols. Georgia had righted the ship after that one, knocking off all comers. The Bulldogs had even defeated Florida in Jacksonville, something that only happens once or twice a decade, lately! The Bulldogs were coming in fresh off a 62-17 beating of Kentucky in Lexington.
For Auburn, it was time to take yet another step forward. The Tigers had clinched their division, and had won all of their games to date, but were still ranked only 3rd in the nation in both polls. The Georgia game was a chance to prove to the college football world, on national CBS television, that the Tigers belonged in the BCS national championship game. The Tigers would need a decisive victory over Georgia, to even have a chance.
It was a cloudy fall afternoon in Auburn, on November 13th, 2004. It had been a long, hot fall on the Plains, but the rains had finally come during the off week. It was only 63 degrees for the 2:30 PM kickoff, and a cool win from the east had temps dropping all afternoon.
Game recap, after the jump!
The Auburn Tigers won the toss, and elected to defer to the second half. Georgia’s dangerous offense, led by 4-year starter David Greene, would have the ball first. Georgia came in averaging over 31 points per ball game. Phillip Yost kicked off into the end zone for a touchback, and the Bulldogs started at their own 20. From there, Greene engineered a drive. A hitch pass to Sean Bailey started it, then Thomas Brown took a handoff right up the gut for 14 yards and a first down at the 39. It was classic Bowden-ball, which Mark Richt had brought to Georgia. The Dawgs threatened to self-destruct, with a missed block on Auburn’s Tommy Jackson, who nailed Thomas Brown at the line. Then the Bulldogs false started. Greene bailed the drive out, turning Carlos Rogers around on the out, hitting Reggie Brown for 22 yards and another first down at the Auburn 44 yard line. A swing pass to Thomas Brown picked up another first, at the Auburn 33. A sweep to Brown picked up six, then Greene found tight end Leonard Pope for 8 more and the Bulldogs were first and 10 at the Auburn 19. From there, the Bulldogs stayed on the ground. David Greene was tripped up by Montae Pitts after only a yard gain. Then Georgia tried a shotgun handoff to Thomas Brown, and Carlos Rogers blew in from the corner position and nailed Brown at the knees, for a 3 yard loss. On 3rd and 12, the Bulldogs came to the line, then called timeout, as Auburn was showing blitz. After huddling, tight end Leonard Pope jumped early, and the Bulldogs went backwards some more. A draw to Brown got it back to the 19, and it was 4th and 10. In came the field goal unit, and it was a discombobulated try. The snap was off, the hold was late, and Bailey short-legged one that may have been tipped at the line. It had no chance, fluttering harmlessly to the ground in the endzone, and Auburn took over at their own 20.
Auburn opened with a screen to fullback Ronnie Brown, and with a couple of great blocks, Brown took it all the way into Georgia territory to the 46. The Tigers would keep it on the ground the rest of the way. Twice the Tigers tossed to the short side, with Carnell Williams picking up 3, and 15. Then it was Williams up the middle for 3. Jason Campbell kept the ball on the option, and picked up 13 yards and a first down to the Georgia 12. Campbell again kept it for 11, and it was first and goal at the one. Campbell kept a third time, was hit near the goal line, and pitched it to Carnell Williams, who took it into the end zone easily! Touchdown, Auburn! John Vaughn added the PAT, and with 6:14 left in the first quarter, Auburn led 7-0.
Phillip Yost kicked off high to the goal line, and Tyson Browning was chopped down on the return, short of the 20, as Carl Stewart was the first man down on the coverage. Georgia completed two short passes to the sideline that combined for a first down, to Thomas Brown and Sean Bailey. Thomas Brown churned for 4, up the gut. From there, the Auburn defense turned up the heat. First, it was Antarrious Williams who fired through and sacked David Greene. Then Travis Williams was in Greene’s face, forcing a throw-away on 3rd and 10. In came the punting unit, and Ely-Kelso’s 39-yard punt was taken right back at the Bulldogs, by Carnell Williams. Williams took it 28 yards back into Georgia territory, out of bounds at the 41.
The Tigers started with great field position, but could do nothing. Auburn tried three straight passes, and the rush was all over Jason Campbell. A 4-yard toss to Courtney Taylor, sandwiched around two incompletes, and the drive was doomed. Odell Thurman and David Pollack were camping out in the Tiger backfield. Kody Bliss came in for Auburn, and punted a 9-iron shot that rolled dead at the Georgia 4 yard line.
Backed up, Georgia brought in change-of-pace quarterback D. J. Shockley, who promptly dealt the ball off twice to Thomas Brown, bringing up a 3rd and 2 at the Bulldog 12. Shockley play-faked, and tossed it to Leonard Pope, who rumbled all the way out to the 41. For a while, it looked like the Tiger secondary wasn’t going to be able to get Pope on the ground, but Donnay Young finally tripped the big tight end and got him down. Shockley then tried the quarterback draw, which Auburn had been waiting on since Shockley’s first play. It gained only 2, and that ended the first quarter. Auburn still led, 7-0. A Thomas Brown dive picked up 4, and it was 3rd and 4 at the Georgia 47. Auburn shifted, stunted, and blitzed the heck out of Shockley! Antarrious Williams and Stanley McClover came free on the rush, and Shockley had to throw it away. On 4th down, Ely-Kelso pinned Auburn deep at their own 9 yard line.
Backed up, Auburn kept it on the ground with Ronnie Brown, picking up 2 yards. Campbell then checked down, and tossed a screen to Brown, which picked up 10 and a first down. The screen to Brown was a key play for much of the day. Again Brown took it up the middle, for 2. On second down, the Georgia line again crashed through, and Campbell was forced to scramble, finally finding Cooper Wallace behind the line. The pass was caught, but lost a yard. Campbell again found Brown on the screen, but safety Greg Blue came up and downed Brown a couple of yards short of the first down. In came the punting unit. This time, the call was for one of those rolling rugby punts, and the line failed to block David Pollack. Kody Bliss rolled right into Pollack, who rejected the punt right back in Bliss’ face. Will Herring scooped up the blocked ball for the Tigers, and headed around the corner, but didn’t make it back to the line of scrimmage. In the first major mistake of the ballgame, Auburn had given it away to Georgia, at the Auburn 27 yard line. Fortunately for Auburn, Tra Battle decided to slam Will Herring down out of bounds, which backed Georgia up 15 yards.
The Bulldogs started at the Auburn 42, and oddly, decided to try to work on Auburn’s best pass defender. An out route to Reggie Brown picked up an easy 14, and it was starting to look like a good idea. After a dive to Thomas Brown was bottled up in the middle, Georgia went after Rogers again. This time, it was on a go-route in the end zone. Rogers had inside position, and picked it off in the endzone, ending the Georgia threat. Rogers was slung down by the face mask, which went un-called.
Auburn took over on the 20, and went on an 80 yard march. Ronnie Brown took two carries over the right side, picking up 5, and 17 yards. In came Carnell Williams, who took a screen pass for 7, then a pitch-play for 7 and a first down at the Georgia 44. Carl Stewart got a rare carry up the gut for only a yard, then Jason Campbell dumped a middle screen to Carnell Williams, that didn’t pick up much. On 3rd and 6, Campbell hung in and found Ronnie Brown over the middle for 10 yards and another first down. Ronnie Brown took a pitch to the left for only a yard, closed out by Odell Thurman and Greg Blue. The Georgia secondary was crashing the line of scrimmage HARD. Auburn again went with the pitch play, this time, to the right, with Carnell Williams. The Georgia linebackers and secondary were all up in the Auburn backfield, and it looked like the play was going to lose big yardage. Instead, Carnell Williams lofted a wobby pass over the UGA defense, to a wide-open Anthony Mix! Mix cruised into the endzone, for the Auburn touchdown! John Vaughn kicked in the PAT, and Auburn led 14-0, with 5:11 left in the half.
Phillip Yost boomed another touchback, and UGA started out with Thomas Brown on the ground. Carlos Rogers met him in the hole, and the play picked up only two. David Greene fired on the slant towards Fred Gibson, but Travis Williams had dropped into the zone, and the pass couldn’t get through. On 3rd and long, Stanley McClover came around the corner and buried Greene for a 10 yard sack! Jordan Hare Stadium roared its approval! Georgia got off a good, long punt that might have ended the half, but was flagged for illegal formation. Auburn made ‘em kick it again. Ely Kelso’s punt was low, and Carnell Williams took it back to the Georgia 38, with 3:11 left.
Jason Campbell found Cooper Wallace on the sideline corner route, for 22 yards, and a first down at the 16. From there, the Bulldog defense stiffened. Brown carried twice, netting nothing. A third down screen to Carnell Williams picked up a yard. With 30 seconds left in the half, John Vaughn nailed the field goal, and Auburn went up by 17. Phillip Yost kicked off short, and UGA was called for a block in the back. David Greene took a knee, and the half was over! Auburn held a promising, 17-0 lead, but I think the 2002 Auburn UGA halftime lead was still fresh in everyone’s mind. Auburn had led 14-3 in that one, and had not been able to hold on in the second half. Could the Tigers do it in 2004?
Auburn started the second half after a Georgia touchback on the kickoff. Carnell Williams was stuffed after only a yard gain. Then, Campbell found Cooper Wallace on the out route in the flat, and Wallace raced up the sideline for 22. Two more Williams runs picked up a total of 14, and Auburn had a first down at the Georgia 43. Auburn tried the out to Wallace again, but Quentin Moses was in Campbell’s face, and altered the throw. Williams picked up nothing on a second down carry. On 3rd and long, Campbell found Courtney Taylor on a long curl route, and Taylor had Auburn another first down, at the Bulldog 27. Ronnie Brown bashed for 9 up the middle, and Georgia was flagged for a personal foul, giving the Tigers a first and goal at the 9. Looking for the knockout punch, instead, the Auburn Tigers self-destructed in the red zone. First, a holding penalty on Cole Bennett backed it out to the 19. Then, Campbell floated one towards the end zone, intended for Devin Aromashodu. The pass was picked off by Tim Jennings, giving Georgia the ball back at the 20. A chance to go up by 3 touchdowns went “poof.”
Given new life, the Bulldogs began a drive to try to get back in the game. After a 3 yard Thomas Brown run, and a great rush by Tommy Jackson to force a throwaway, Junior Rosegreen was called for a personal foul, which gave Georgia another first down. David Green hit Reggie Brown on the sideline for 9, then Brown was stood up for no gain by Tommy Jackson and Bret Eddins. On 3rd and 1, Brown got away, plowing 17 yards to the Auburn 36. Will Herring saved a touchdown, hanging on to make the tackle. A missed pass and a contained draw play put UGA in a 3rd and 7 situation, David Greene could not get it to Fred Gibson, but Wayne Dickens had jumped offsides for the Tigers, and gave Georgia another chance. The pressure was mounting. Could Auburn stop the driving Bulldogs? Or would another home game against Georgia start slipping away? On 3rd and 2 from the Auburn 28, Greene fired on the post pattern to Reggie Brown, who hauled it in at the Tiger 12. As Brown turned towards the end zone, he was CLOBBERED on a flying hit by Junior Rosegreen. The ball fell out, and Will Herring recovered and took it out to the 16 for the Tigers. Brown was out cold, and a long delay ensued, as medics and support personnel rushed the field.
After the delay, Auburn had the ball. With 6:59 left in the 3rd quarter, time was beginning to become a factor. Protecting a 17-0 lead, the Tiger offense started knocking out first downs. A 5 yard Williams run, then a 10 yard screen to Ronnie Brown moved the chains. Then Carnell Williams burst 14 yards out to the 43. Ronnie Brown took a dive up the middle, bruising over UGA defender, for another 15 yards, but the play was wiped out by a holding call. From 2nd and 16, screens to Brown and Williams picked up only a total of 13, and Kody Bliss came in to punt. The punt was fielded at the 8 by Thomas Flowers, but Flowers only made it out to the 12, downed by Courtney Taylor on the coverage.
You had to wonder if Georgia’s offensive play calls were a surrender, at this point. Two Thomas Brown runs brought up 3rd and 3, and David Greene’s sideline throw towards Jeremy Thomas had no chance. Ely-Kelso got off his best punt of the day, but Carnell Williams took it,and weaved his way through traffic for a 40 yard return!
Late in the 3rd quarter, Auburn started on offense from the Georgia 31. Auburn battered the Bulldogs with Ronnie Brown, for 5, then Carnell Williams, for 6. Then Brown went off tackle for 2, to the Georgia 18, as the clock wound down. At the end of the 3rd quarter, Auburn still led, 17-0, and had moved into the Georgia red zone. A quarterback draw by Jason Campell was held to 3 yards. On 3rd and 5, Auburn lined up in a power formation, with a tight end and wingback Ronnie Brown lined up to the right. No wide receiver on that side, and Campbell faked a run to the left, then rolled back right. Campbell lofted a perfect fade into the end zone, to Ronnie Brown, who took it over the shoulder for the score! After John Vaughn’s PAT, the Auburn lead was 24-0! With 14:13 left in the game, the Tigers had delivered the knockout blow!
After another Yost touchback, Georgia went with D. J. Shockley again at quarterback. Shockley picked up one first down on the scramble, then Thomas Brown picked up another on 3 tough runs. With the Bulldogs facing 3rd and 8 at midfield, Shockley’s drive went down in flames. A corner blitz was the call from Gene Chizik, and Shockley’s was wrecked by Carlos Rogers and Travis Williams on the sack! Ely-Kelso punted away again, to Carnell Williams, who fair caught it at the 11.
Auburn continued to pound Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams, picking up two more first downs, and keeping the clock running. A false start by Danny Lindsey set the drive back, and Auburn punted it back to Georgia with only 4:42 left in the game.
Starting at their own 40 after a good return by Thomas Flowers, the Bulldogs went back to David Greene at quarterback. On the arm of Greene, Georgia moved down to a 4th and goal at the five yard line. A desperation toss found tight end Leonard Pope for the lone Bulldog score. David Greene’s two point pass was knocked away by Carlos Rogers. With only 2:13 remaining, Auburn led 24-6.
After a failed onside kick attempt by the Bulldogs, Carnell Williams pounded out one first down, then Carl Stewart took the final two carries for Auburn. The clock wound down to zero, and Auburn had hammered the 5th ranked Georgia Bulldogs, 24-6! Needing a convincing win for the poll voters, the Tigers had done it!
Georgia left the game battered and bruised, but soldiered on, downing arch rival Georgia Tech, and Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl. The Bulldogs finished 10-2, and had positioned themselves for an SEC Championship run, the next season.
With the big win over the Bulldogs, Auburn was now at the pinnacle of Tommy Tuberville’s career. In the coaches poll, the 10-0 Tigers pulled even with the Oklahoma Sooners. If the Tigers could continue their dominant ways, they would be in the Orange Bowl against Southern California, for the national title! Only wounded Alabama and Tennessee remained in the Tiger’s path. Auburn won those two games, to become the only 12-win team in Auburn history, SEC Champions! But, against those two teams, down to their 3rd team quarterback, Auburn failed to dominate. The voters chose Oklahoma over Auburn, and the Tigers were left on the outside, looking in.