Georgia Review: Miracle on the Plains

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Fourth-and-18. 

Auburn had the ball on their own 27. 

36 seconds remained.

The Tigers, after building a strong lead and then blowing it, trailed 38-37. 

Quarterback Nick Marshall needed a miracle to beat his former team. 

He took the snap. 

He dropped back. 

He stepped up in the pocket and launched the ball downfield, intended for Ricardo Louis.

Tipped.

Juggled. 

Juggled.

Caught. 

Touchdown Auburn. 

Jordan-Hare Stadium erupted. It was a miracle on the Plains.

Auburn now led 43-38 with 25 seconds to go. Georgia drove the ball down into Auburn territory, but Dee Ford pressured Aaron Murray to force an incompletion on the final play of the game. 

Auburn defeated Georgia in remarkable fashion. 

The Catch will go down as one of the greatest plays in Auburn history. Ricardo Louis and Nick Marshall cemented themselves as Auburn legends by making that play. 

It was an amazing moment. Moments like that are what make college football the best sport in the world. 

Let’s review Auburn vs. Georgia 2013.

The Offense

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The storylines for the Auburn offense coming into this game: 

  • Can Auburn run the ball on Georgia?
  • If they can’t, will they be able to throw it?
  • How will quarterback Nick Marshall, former Georgia defensive back, perform against his old team?

Well, Auburn proved that they can, in fact, run the ball effectively against good run defenses. The Tigers gained 323 yards on the ground. 

The Auburn rushing attack was led, once again, by Tre Mason, who gained 115 yards on 27 carries, including a 24-yard touchdown run. Nick Marshall ran 19 times for 89 yards and 2 touchdowns. Corey Grant carried the ball six times for 53 yards and Auburn’s first touchdown of the day, a 21-yarder. Wide receiver Ricardo Louis got 5 carries on jet sweeps for 66 yards. He broke a couple of them for pretty significant gains. 

Georgia has one of the toughest run defenses Auburn will face all year, and the Tigers were still able to hurt them on the ground. 

 Auburn couldn’t be as reliant on their rushing attack in this game, though. They were going to have to throw it more. And they did. 

Nick Marshall finished 15-of-26 passing for 229 yards, including the 73-yard miracle touchdown. He wasn’t intercepted. He looked really, really good at times. Plenty of his passes were right on the money. He did have a few bad throws, though. Still, I thought Nick Marshall looked good against his former team.

Jeremy Johnson threw one pass, delivering a 14-yard strike to Melvin Ray. I wouldn’t be surprised if Johnson gets a good amount of opportunities in the Iron Bowl…

One player had the biggest impact on the offense.

Ricardo Louis. 

He had the game of his young career. It will quite possibly go down as the game of his life. 

Louis was supposed to be a breakout player this season, but he hadn’t really done all that much… until now. 

As I said above, Louis ran the ball on jet sweeps five times for 66 yards, including multiple runs for big gains. He also did some impressive work on screen passes. Two catches stick out, though. He hauled in a huge 44-yard catch in the third quarter to set up a Nick Marshall touchdown run. The ball was underthrown, and Louis did a good job of waiting on it. The catch everyone will remember, though, will be the big one. Apparently, Ricardo told Nick during the timeout before his miraculous catch on 4th-and-18 that he wanted the ball. Sammie Coates was open across the middle for a first down. But, instead of throwing it to him, Nick Marshall decided to lay it all on the line and put trust in Ricardo Louis to go get it. He chucked the ball downfield in Louis’ general vicinity. It was tipped, and Louis didn’t even see the ball until the last second. He juggled the ball twice. Then, he secured it and carried it into the end zone. It’s every receiver’s dream to make a game-winning touchdown catch. Ricardo Louis will never forget that moment. Auburn fans will never forget that moment.

Auburn did a good job of spreading the ball out between different receivers. Sammie Coates had four receptions (it should have been five, but that didn’t happen, thanks to the outstanding officiating crew) for 39 yards. He looked good with the ball in his hands once again. Marcus Davis had three catches for 29 yards. Other than Louis, Coates, and Davis, no Auburn player had more than one reception. CJ Uzomah, Melvin Ray, Quan Bray, Corey Grant, and Tre Mason each caught one pass. 

Auburn’s offense gained 243 yards through the air. 

The offense as a whole, for the majority of the game, was able to move the ball on Georgia. 

What was a bit concerning was the red zone offense, as the Tigers stalled multiple times after crossing Georgia’s 20. Auburn was held to a field goal attempt three times. One of the field goals was blocked.

Still, the offense was effective for the majority of the game.

However, in the fourth quarter, the offense stalled. They couldn’t move the ball at all after going up 37-17 with 12:39 left in the ballgame. Was it complacency? Perhaps. 

The defense apparently became complacent as well, as they allowed Georgia to score three straight touchdowns to blow the 20-point lead and allow the Bulldogs to go ahead 38-37. 

Overall, the offense did well. Georgia has a pretty decent defense, and the Tigers put 43 points up on them. 

The fourth quarter stall and getting held to field goal attempts after driving into the red zone was a bit concerning, though.

Still, I can’t really complain. Auburn’s offense won the game, and they did it in spectacular fashion. 

The Defense

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The defense looked great to start the game. 

Georgia couldn’t do anything. Auburn was getting consistent pressure on Aaron Murray. Georgia couldn’t run the football, either. 

Auburn held Georgia to only 10 first-half points. 

The defense, as a whole, played pretty well for three quarters.

And then the fourth quarter happened. 

After Auburn went up 37-17, the defense gave up three straight touchdowns to surrender the lead. 

If it wasn’t for the miracle touchdown catch, this game would have gone down as one of the worst defensive meltdowns in Auburn history.

It could have been complacency. It could have also been Georgia realizing that throwing 10-yard slants and out routes will work pretty much every single time against Auburn. 

Whatever it was, Auburn’s defense collapsed. 

I will say that Auburn nearly stopped Georgia on fourth down to prevent giving up the lead. After being stopped by Auburn on 1st-and-goal, 2nd-and-goal, and 3rd-and-goal, Aaron Murray scrambled up the middle and was popped by Jake Holland and Ryan Smith at the goal line. The play was called a touchdown. When I first saw it, it appeared to me that he didn’t make it. Watching the replay, it looked like Murray’s knee probably came down before the ball crossed the plane. However, there wasn’t a camera angle that gave enough evidence to overturn it. I thought it should have been overturned, but I understand why they didn’t overturn it. What I don’t understand is why there isn’t a camera directly on the goal line on each sideline. If there was, there would have been enough evidence to get the call 100% correct. But since there wasn’t, the call had to stand as called, which nearly cost Auburn the game. 

It didn’t end up mattering in the grand scheme of things, but it could have.

The player that stands out the most to me on defense is, without a doubt, Dee Ford. He sacked Aaron Murray on the Dawgs’ first drive. He had six QB hurries. He was getting after Murray all day. He also absolutely nailed him on the final play of the game, hitting Murray as he threw to force an incompletion and seal the deal. If I had to pick, I’d say Dee Ford was the defensive player of the game.

I’ll give credit where credit is due: Auburn’s linebacking corps played a solid game. Jake Holland had one of the best games of his career. He had six tackles. He broke up two passes. He helped stop Aaron Murray on the goal line, despite it still being called a TD. Cassanova McKinzy played well, too, notching four tackles, one of them being a tackle for loss. He also had a QB hurry. Kris Frost had five tackles. The LBs helped hold Georgia to only 117 rushing yards. 

The secondary played pretty well in the first half. In the second half, though, when Georgia started to run slants and out routes, the secondary started giving up some yardage. The defense ended up allowing 415 passing yards. Aaron Murray is one of the best QBs in the SEC, though, and he was having a very good game in the second half. It’d be nice for the secondary to start covering those routes, though. 

The secondary didn’t really give up too many deep passes. There was really only one play where Auburn got beat deep. Auburn doesn’t really get beaten on deep passes a lot, but they can’t seem to cover a 10-yard slant to save their lives. 

Chris Davis had eight tackles and three pass breakups. Robenson Therezie had six tackles. Ryan Smith had six tackles. He also made a good play on a poorly thrown ball, intercepting it to set up an Auburn touchdown. Jermaine Whitehead had five tackles and one pass breakup. 

The defense played very solidly in the first half. The third quarter defense was okay. The fourth quarter was atrocious. If Auburn had lost the game, it would have been because the defense could not stop Georgia. Luckily, a miracle touchdown reception turned the memory of this game into a great one instead of a terrible one. 

Overall, I’d like the defense to play well throughout the entire game. The fourth quarter defense was kind of shocking, honestly. Auburn’s defense usually improves as the game goes on, not the complete opposite. I’d rather start out shakily and then get better in the second half than the other way around. 

It’s alright, though. It didn’t end up costing Auburn the game. But it could have. I’m just really glad it didn’t, because that would have been an incredibly disappointing way to lose.

Overall

Wow.

There’s no way to accurately describe that final play. 

I think Rod Bramblett’s call of the play best demonstrates how we all felt. 

"Alright, here we go, 4th-and-18 for the Tigers. Here’s your ballgame. Nick Marshall stands in, steps up, gonna throw downfield. Just a home run ball, and, uh, it is tipped up AND LOUIS CAUGHT IT ON THE DEFLECTION! LOUIS IS GONNA SCORE! LOUIS IS GONNA SCORE! LOUIS IS GONNA SCORE! TOUCHDOWN AUBURN! TOUCHDOWN AUBURN! A MIRACLE IN JORDAN-HARE! A MIRACLE IN JORDAN-HARE! 73 YARDS, AND THE TIGERS, WITH 25 SECONDS TO GO, LEAD 43-38!"

Bramblett had already given up. You can tell by the tone of his voice. Many Auburn fans had given up, too. You can hear the disappointment with the way the game was going to end. 

Then, the catch happened.

Bramblett went from hopelessness to sheer excitement in a split second, just like the Jordan-Hare Stadium crowd. 

I’ll be honest, I had given up hope too. When it was 4th-and-18 after Auburn had struggled to move the ball the entire fourth quarter, I didn’t think Auburn would win. 

Auburn needed a miracle. And it happened. 

I watched it in person as it happened, and I still can’t believe it. I don’t think I ever will. 

It was definitely one of the best Auburn moments I’ve ever been a part of. 

I will never forget it. I don’t think anyone associated with Auburn will.

Thanks for reading, and War Eagle.

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