— Wendi Nix, man. The glasses are doing more for her than Tina Fey and Sarah Palin and Tina Fey-impersonating-Sarah Palin combined.
— The Toro gets run over by Caleb King on the opening drive of the first half and–WHOOPEE–he has to come out with what seems like a possible head injury. Man, how great would it be if Adam Herring was still healthy?
I cannot believe I just thought “how great would it be if Adam Herring was still healthy?” and meant it totally sincerely. This season is weird.
— 3rd-and-3 for the Dawgs at midfield, and those of you who had “early third-quarter” in the “When will Auburn give up a big third-down conversion on a quarterback keeper?” pool just cashed in. I had “late first quarter,” myself. By the way, the 17-yard gain is the longest run of Joe Cox’s career. I know you wanted to know that.
— Deep ball on 3rd-and-9 is just outside the reach of Tavarres King, and on comes Blair Walsh for a 51-yarder … and, wow, there’s not even any doubt on that one. If you’re keeping track, both teams have had drives that resulted in potential 51, 52, 53-yard field goals. Georgia got three points out of theirs, Auburn didn’t. Gee, I wonder if that will matter at all?
— 6 yards for Tate on first down, so hey, good start there. Follow-up’s not quite so good, though: second down is a terrible missed throw by Todd (Zachery is open for a big gain down the sideline; Todd throws it five or six yards towards the middle of the field, nearly getting it picked off) and third down is a coverage sack.
— Dawgs start at their 18 after another good Durst punt, and back-to-back big plays from Antoine Carter leave them in a 3rd-and-8 hole. Huge play here: long Dawg drive followed by Auburn three-and-out means the defense is going to start sucking wind if they don’t get off the field in a hurry.
And so, naturally, Blanc breaks through the line to force Cox into a hurried throw which Bynes has his hands on … only for the ball to slide right through them and into Orson Charles’ lap for 34 freaking yards. On the one hand, that’s lucky as hell. On the other … man, Bynes has just got to make that play. If he can’t pick it, just knock it down, something. He’s just got to.
— And sure enough, there goes the dam: reverse for 8, Ealey for 9, Ealey for 5, offsides, Ealey for 19, Ealey for 1, touchdown. Not only is that 17-14 Georgia, but that’s back-to-back long Dawg drives sandwiching an Auburn possession that took 1:33. Auburn’s defense is always in trouble, but now? They’re in serious trouble. The missed Bynes pick is the play of the game so far.
— Now, sure, this game might feature my favorite college football team squaring off against its oldest rival in a make-or-break contest for both sides played in an electric night-time atmosphere, but do you know what I’m really tuning in for? The possibility of listening to the broadcasters discuss coaching salaries for 10 minutes. That, folks, is what watching a unique, special sporting event like Auburn-Georgia is truly all about. And if one of the broadcasters happens to be a former coach who can offer detailed anecdotes about what his job was like in 1982 as my team commits a costly penalty and looks to be on the verge of collapsing physically, well, that would make me feel genuinely fortunate as a football fan.
So I can’t tell you how appreciative I am that Davie and Jones just spent that entire drive breaking down assistant coaching salaries, faculty-athletics on-campus relations, and the facilities arms race as Georgia put together a potentially tide-turning score. This is brilliant television, ESPN, just visionary.
— Washington brings it out from five yards deep in the corner of the end zone, and in classic WHAT ARE YOU DOING I CAN’T WATCH HOORAY fashion, somehow gets it out to the 23. Why has he not been returning kicks and punts all season, again?
— McCalebb for 12 and a first down–the defense thanks you, Onterio–then McCalebb for 5 on a draw, then a seriously nifty play from Malzahn here: the formation and Fannin’s action scream “swing” all the way, but Todd pump-fakes the swing and finds a wide-open Trott downfield for 34 yards. First down at the Georgia 24.
— 3rd-and-3 … No, Gus! Not right now! Not the Ziemba-out-wide play! AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH. What’s saddest about this play is how funny it would be if I weren’t so sad. And full of rage. That too. Dr. Gustav giveth, Dr. Gustav taketh away.
— Byrum from 37 … good. But just barely–doinking it in off the upright made it a little more dramatic than it needed to be. We don’t have enough heart problems already, Wes?
— Dawg false start and a terrific play by Bynes on second down means Auburn’s about the get the ball back as the quarter opens, assuming Georgia fails to convert on this 3rd-and-16.
Sigh. It’s ASS out of U and ME time, as both Thorpe and Bates are too busy starting into the backfield to notice Tavarres King is running right past them both. Perfect throw by Cox, 47 yard gain down to the Auburn 11. Crushing play.
— Any hope Auburn holds for a field goal? Nope: Caleb King dashes in on first down. 24-17 Dawgs. Dammit. Score since the first quarter: 24-3, Georgia. Despite the fact Auburn’s been in Georgia’s half of the field four different times since then. AAAAIIIIEEEEEEE.
— Washington, fields at the 1 … shifty move there, got some space IS HE GONE? HE’S GONE! TOUCHDOWN! WASHINGTON! 99 yards! 24-24! Oh man oh man oh man oh man, this is a ballgame.
On replay: great downfield block from Blake to take it from a long return to a TD, and a big one earlier in the play from Nick Fairley, but this mostly the cutback here from Washington; to see that hole to his left even as the wedge shifts right is just a fantastic show of vision. Also, yeah, Washington comes very close to letting the ball go before getting it across the plane … but he doesn’t. It’s a touchdown.
— Normally, there wouldn’t be any negatives with a kickoff return for touchdown … but this Auburn team is not normal, and so you have to wonder about how the defense will come out after getting zero in the way of rest on that “possession.”
Aaaaand … well, the Dawgs help Auburn out by throwing deep and then running outside (after picking up one first down by running smack up the middle) to set up 3rd-and-11. But results is results, and after Blanc forces a quick throw the result is a Georgia punt. Huge, huge, gutty stop by the Auburn defense. Come on, offense.
— Not looking good: Tate tripped up by the ever-active Rambo for a 3-yard gain on what was a promising-looking buck sweep, then Todd throws his weekly “how the hell was that not picked?” deep ball into double-coverage. 3rd-and-7 …
… and Todd buys himself some time by rolling right, finds Adams, first down! Sure, the game is tied, but giving the ball back to Georgia that quickly would have just about Game Over anyway.
— Swing to Blake (!) for a solid gain of 8 on first down. Burns over the right side, plows his way for eight more. Could Auburn have something going here?
No, no they could not. Adams is wide open on an out route, but it doesn’t matter when Isom is getting torched (by the defensive tackle!) and Todd is (as we find out later) expecting Adams to run a different route. Easy, easy pick in the middle of the field. Returned to the Georgia 48.
You would think that would be wound enough, but here’s some salt to rub into it: Trott is whistled for a “facemask” that’s actually I think supposed to be a horse-collar–he grabbed the back of the shoulder pads–even though he didn’t even end up making the tackle. I have never, ever seen that called. Ever.
I would say that play–obviously the kind of play that could have just turned this game around all on its own–makes me want to throw up. Except that several things about it make me want to throw up. Ugh.
— Yep: Ealey for 7, Ealey for 2, Ealey for 6, King for 24, touchdown. 31-24. I’d be furious if that wasn’t exactly what I expected to happen.
— After that display, even though Auburn has all three of their timeouts still, this drive is touchdown or bust. It’ll start at the 25 after Fannin’s return. (Washington was off the field, and even at the time, I thought “he’s exhausted.” Which apparently he was. I’m fine with him having a seat here.)
McCalebb picks his way for 5. Tate: strong, strong run for 11 along the sideline. Tate again, for 9. Tate, pushes forward for the first down at midfield. It’s a hell of a start, at least.
— Malzahn dials up the patented flip-to-Burns-throw-to-Zachery play that’s open every single time, and it’s open again and would be a big gainer … except that Burns is apparently totally incapable of not screwing this play up in some fashion or another, this time forgoing the “throw 10 yards out of bounds” option in favor of “break out of stance early to draw crippling illegal shift penalty.”
In a word: DAMMIT.
— McCalebb for 3. Mcalebb for 5, 10, fumbles the ball in the air, recovers, FIRST DOWN! 20 yards! 34 more to go. Come on, Auburn.
— Tate for 2. Swing to Fannin, 7 more. 3rd-and-1, Tate … stuffed. Fourth down. Good heavens. You have to make this, Auburn. You have to.
Wildcat. Handoff to McCalebb … FIRST DOWN. Again. Still alive. Breathe.
— Buck sweep right … loss of 1 as the Auburn line gets beat all over the place. 2nd-and-11, seam route, Fannin … dropped. Dropped. Big hit again by Rambo, who …
Uh-oh. That arm is not supposed to do that. Oh damn. Not right now. Ohhhhhh crap. Flashbacks. Hope he’s OK. Be OK, dude. This is going to be a long while.[And it is.] [The replay is the same every time: Fannin just doesn’t grip it cleanly. Maybe he wouldn’t have held on anyway. But he was already dropping it before Rambo ever got involved. Another play, like the Bynes missed pick, that you can’t get that mad about … but that teams that end up winning this kind of ball game end up making.]
— Back to football, hard as that is: two downs to make 11 yards. Or, after McCain is horribly beaten and Todd is sacked, one down and 18 yards. Horrible. Probably your ball game.
— Timeout, Auburn. Another timeout, Auburn. This drive has eaten up nearly six minutes: with those two timeouts gone, this is it. Auburn will not get the ball back if they don’t convert,
— 4th-and-18 … here we go …
False start. Ziemba. After two timeouts.
Honestly, it’s almost funny by this point.
— Todd steps up, throw to the end zone … incomplete. That’s it.
— Four years in a row. Dammit to hell.
— That last drive? Auburn’s sixth that took a snap in Georgia territory and end without points. How do you end up outgaining your opponent and dominating special teams and still lose? Two turnovers, those six fruitless possessions, that’s how.
— For me, it’s still not nearly as bad as the Kentucky or LSU losses: I’d rather lose with the offense moving the ball and squandering opportunities than never earning the opportunities in the first place. This season is about the future, and coming into Athens against a desperate football team and outplaying them save for, really, that one horrible Todd interception that decided the game is a very good sign for the future.
But it still sucks. War Eagle anyway.