ATHENS, Ga. — Too many old feelings came back for Auburn football Saturday in what has been a cauldron of Tiger frustration — Sanford Stadium.
Auburn dropped its fifth straight road loss to rival Georgia on Saturday, 13-7, ending its chances at an Iron Bowl matchup for a shot at the SEC Championship.
Without its best playmaker of the last month, Auburn’s offense went ice cold in its worst performance since the early-season slump against Clemson and Texas A&M. Auburn did not get a first down after halftime and put up just 164 yards in the defeat.
While Auburn’s defense recovered from some early miscues to hang onto a slim lead early, it couldn’t preserve the victory. Auburn (7-3, 5-2 SEC) will now head to Alabama in two weeks with nothing to play for but pride and a better bowl bid.
Sean White throws a pick-six on the opening drive of the second half.
Auburn’s defense took advantage of an early interception by Georgia on an ill-advised Wildcat pass and a pass interference call that wasn’t to keep the Bulldogs off the board early. But Kevin Steele’s unit could do nothing on the touchdown that tied the game, because it was on the sidelines.
White tried a quick out route to little-used wide receiver Will Hastings on a 3rd down play after back-to-back incompletions. The bad throw in a dangerous area was picked off by Alabama transfer Maurice Smith and returned for a quick touchdown.
Auburn never seemed to be in the game from an offensive standpoint after that pick-six. A series of true 3-and-outs came off of the errant throw by White, who looked nothing like his usual self after making his return from a shoulder injury last weekend against Vanderbilt.
Everything that could go wrong for Auburn’s offense did, and the defense couldn’t hold off the Georgia offense in the second half for the points that ultimately became the difference-makers.
Could Auburn grind through the injury situation and get a road win?
Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway was the hottest running back in college football until a pulled muscle at the end of the Vanderbilt game. Pettway was never officially ruled out until Saturday, when he came out onto the field without his uniform on during warmups.
Without Pettway, Auburn’s rushing attack didn’t have the same amount of pop after a couple of solid drives to start the game. Georgia continued to load the box and dare Sean White to beat it downfield. Johnson got off to a decent start as Auburn’s defense pitched a first-half shutout. But it didn’t last.
Auburn picked up even more injuries throughout the game. Veteran cornerback Josh Holsey missed some time as Jacob Eason delivered on several deep balls. Top linebacker Deshaun Davis came up limping on a play. Chandler Cox and Stanton Truitt, who were depth pieces behind Johnson, had their own injury issues.
As the problems piled up for Auburn on the offensive side of the ball, the defense couldn’t hang onto the advantage. White’s pick-six tied the game, and Georgia hammered the ball to work the clock and get into the field-goal situations it needed to win.
How bad is Sean White’s shoulder — and what happened to the play-calling?
White was a no-doubt starter Saturday for Auburn, but he looked far below 100 percent. His pick-six on the third play of the second half gave instant life to a raucous Sanford Stadium. He didn’t try many deep throws, even when Auburn had open receivers downfield. Several short shots were way off-target.
Even with the issues with the passing game, Auburn insisted on throwing the ball at odd times, including several 3rd-and-short situations. Auburn’s running game was limited without Pettway, and Stanton Truitt picked up an injury during the contest.
Auburn struggled with pass protection in the first half and had a quarterback that didn’t look like he could make the big throws. And even though Auburn averaged over 4 yards a carry in the first half, it ran as many passing plays as rushing plays in an abysmal third quarter. The Tigers also went 3-and-out with three straight running plays early in the fourth.
John Franklin III never took a snap as a standard quarterback, even with White’s struggles. In the end, Auburn had only 32 yards of offense in the second half, going without a first down on seven straight possessions.
37. Auburn had 37 passing yards against Georgia, which is the lowest since a run-dominated road win over Tennessee in 2013. The Tigers couldn’t get that same production on the ground, though, in Athens on Saturday night. Nineteen of those yards — more than half of them — came on “fly sweep” plays that weren’t true downfield passes.