No two games in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry are alike, but the 119th meeting between UGA and Auburn was reminiscent of the 2014 edition.
Last season, Auburn (5-5, 2-5 SEC) took an early 7-0 lead on UGA (7-3, 5-3) in Sanford Stadium. The Bulldogs went on to win that game 34-7. This time around the venue was different but the result was the same.
The Tigers opened the scoring with an early 75-yard touchdown drive, but they scored just six points the rest of the way as UGA held on to win 20-13.
Both teams struggled offensively, but Georgia wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie broke a 10-10 fourth quarter tie with his fifth career punt return touchdown to give the Bulldogs the lead for good.
The Tigers had a chance to cut the deficit to three points late, but wide receiver Ricardo Louis fumbled inside the Georgia five-yard line with 3:22 remaining in the game. Auburn finished the contest with just 275 yards of total offense.
Here is the postgame reaction:
Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson started for the second consecutive game, but he was ineffective. Sean White replaced Johnson for two drives in the third quarter and one in the fourth, but the result wasn’t any better. White was clearly hampered by his left knee injury.
Johnson completed 14-of-22 passes for 61 yards and an interception. White was 1-of-5 on pass attempts for one yard. He also fumbled on a sack by UGA linebacker Jordan Jenkins.
Malzahn: Made the call to play both quarterbacks before the game. Sean still isn't 100 percent
— Tom Green (@AUBlog) November 14, 2015
After a quick start, Auburn could not gain any rhythm on offense. The Tigers turned the ball over for the first time since the end of September.
Johnson threw a bad interception on an overthrow to a wide-open Tony Stevens. White’s fumble led to three points for the Bulldogs, and Louis’ fumble killed a late comeback attempt.
The 275 yards of total offense are the second-lowest total of the season. Auburn only had 260 yards in a 45-21 loss to LSU earlier this season.
Why passing game so ineffective? Gus Malzahn: "We just didn't get it done. I think that's the best way to put it."
— Brandon Marcello (@bmarcello) November 14, 2015
A big story line entering the game surrounded Auburn safety Tray Matthews. Matthews was one of the main players in “The Prayer at Jordan-Hare” in the 2013 season as a Georgia safety.
He dressed out on Saturday, but he never saw the field in his first chance to play against his former team. Matthews missed last week’s game as well.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn says S Tray Matthews wasn't healthy enough to play today. #MGMAuburn
— Matthew Stevens (@matthewcstevens) November 14, 2015
Auburn’s defense had a good performance for the second consecutive week, but the offense could not come through.
The Tigers held UGA to 243 yards of total offense, including just 97 passing yards.
The Tigers would likely have allowed 10 points if not for White’s fumble deep in Auburn territory and McKenzie’s punt return touchdown.
Gus Malzahn: "That was a tough one today. Our defense, I thought, played very well."
— James Crepea (@JamesCrepea) November 14, 2015
Auburn must bounce back quickly with Idaho coming to The Plains next week. The Tigers need one more win to become bowl eligible. If Auburn does not win, it will enter the Iron Bowl needing to beat a highly-ranked Alabama team reach bowl eligibility.
Auburn's Gus Malzahn's locker room talk: "Show your class, show your character." And bounce back
— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) November 14, 2015