— For your listening pleasure, Auburn fans, tonight’s game will be broadcast by none other than the dynamic duo of Mark Jones and Bob Davie! Let’s give them a round of applause! Or, toss rotten fruit at them! With rocks hidden inside!
(Seriously, far and away the best–and maybe only genuinely good part–of watching this game live in a restaurant was knowing that I wasn’t having to put up with Jones and Davies’ shenanigans. One highlight: the game had just started when I got a text from one of the Official Brothers of WBE reading, and I quote, “It took jones 30 seconds to f up.” Of course it did.
Of course it did.)
— To Davie’s credit (a phrase you will not hear again this recap), he does accurately explain why Auburn’s facing such a tall task even as Georgia thrashes about in the midst of Tennessee beatdowns and an avalanche of turnovers: while Auburn has “already had a good season,” Georgia’s players told him that “their season is riding on this game.” Not inaccurate, and how often, kids, does the more desperate team win these kinds of tossup-type games? (Answer: often.)
— McCalebb’s back! He takes the handoff on the first play from scrimmage and gains three yards up the middle, as Smith misses a block on Rennie Curran. Eh. It’s a start.
— OK, the Chris Todd we saw last week against Furman? He’s hung around: strike through traffic to Adams for 14, to Adams for 18, to Adams again for 17! First-and-goal on the 10, and as omens go, “Chris Todd starts the game looking like Tom Brady’s brother-from-a-different-mother” is about as encouraging as they get.
— Todd, rolls left on second down … Burns, open, TOUCHDOWN AUBURN! 7-0! Great play from Todd–who finishes the drive 4-for-4–and there’s Burns’s first touchdown as a receiver. Like every Burns touchdown, it dips my soul in joy-batter and rolls it in a thick coating of happy crumbs. Or something.
— Would you like to know exactly how rough a season-to-date it’s been for Georgia? The two “Impact Players” chosen by ESPN and highlighted alongside A.J. Green during the Dawgs’ first “drive” are the punter and placekicker. Sure, they’re the best set of specialists in the country, but … ye gods.
— And yes, about that “drive”: it goes first down screen to Green for -5 (McFadden), false start, second down batted pass (Coleman), busted screen (but Auburn offsides), thid down bobbled snap and de facto sack. Oh man, this game has been football crack so far.
— Bleah: loss of 3 on a screen to McCalebb after a failed Zachery block and a delay-of-game penalty (wha?) set up 3rd-and-12. Draw to McCalebb, ton of room, first down! Holy crap! Jones responds by sounding like he’s calling a paint-drying exhibition. 3rd-and-8 … Todd to Adams, first down. Whoa. 3rd-and-10 after McCalebb runs backwards for a loss of 9 on first down … swing to Fannin, great block from Trott, another first down! At the Georgia 31! This is already the most incredible, high-wire act of a drive Auburn’s had all season. Now if they’ll just get some points out of it.
— Todd, play-action, firing deep … Zachery! TOUCHDOWN! TOUCHDOWN, AUBURN! 14-0 in Athens, in the first quarter! Unbelievable. Unbelievably awesome. Zachery was wide open on a busted assignment and Todd is flat unconscious: 9-for-9, two TDs, 117 yards already. Going ahead and lumping in this start with last week, Chris Todd is now 26-for-his-last-27 with the 27th pass a drop. Which is fantastic and all, but I really am going to have to finish my underground apocalypse bunker when this game is finished.
— A Georgia player wrestles Eric Smith to the ground after the kickoff, drawing a 15-yard flag. Good work, sir. Sitting in a bit of a field position hole, the Dawgs go run for -1, run for 4, ugly incomplete pass, punt. Sweet. And now on the punt Washington makes a clean catch, makes a move, finds some room, and pushes forward all the way to the Bulldog 44. They’re even getting positive yardage out of the punt return, which is maybe the worst sign for Georgia yet. This is utter, total, complete, 100 percent, absolute, pure, unfiltered domination. I’m so delighted I think I may have wet myself.
— All right Auburn: this field position (and the opportunity to maybe knock the Dawgs out here in the first quarter) is too good to waste. Or maybe you feel differently, Auburn, what with the incompletion/run for -1/sack sequence. Damn. Looks like the dream of a 102-0 victory is over.
— Aw, Caleb King picks up a first down. Dreams are dying all over the first place all of a sudden.
— OK, seriously, I’ll stop with those jokes now that the Dawgs have picked up three first downs and have a legitimate drive going … and now I feel like a total tool as some dude named Israel Troupe torches Thorpe for a 50-yard touchdown. The Dawgs started that drive with -2 total yards and finished it 87 yards away in the end zone. 14-7. That flatulent sound you heard was the “Hey, maybe this’ll be easy!” balloon sputtering around the room as every last molecule of air spurts out of it.
— Green is off to the locker room after hurting his shoulder and won’t return. Maybe that’ll help, but even right now, seeing a player as great as Green getting hurt is something you don’t want to see.
— Auburn takes over on their 39 after a nice return by Washington. On 3rd-and-8 Todd slips a screen to Tate and it’s another 3rd-and-long conversion, down to the Georgia 40. It’s great seeing this kind of execution on third down, but no way Auburn keeps driving the way they did those first couple of possessions without better gains on 1st and 2nd … and sure enough, after Tate lets himself get tackled by Baccari Rambo in the open field for a gain of 2 on first down, and Todd is forced to check down to Tate for another short gain on second, this time 3rd-and-6 turns into a flushed Todd, no gain, and a decision for Chizik from the Dawg 36. Tate has got to get going, or we’re going to see more of this.
— Honestly, as good as Byrum’s been this year? You let him try from 52, right? Or maybe you go for it, as good as your offense has been executing so far? Or, if you’re Chizik, you pull out the Todd pooch punt again. Sigh. No complaints on Todd’s performance here–it rolls dead inside the 5. But this is two straight possessions on which Auburn has had a first down in Georgia territory and come away with nothing, and, I don’t know, it feel like there’s this Missed Opportunities ghost now getting its haunt on just over my right shoulder, spookily whispering “They’re letting them haaaaang arooound, letting them haaaaaaannnnggg aroooooound … “.
It’s deeply unsettling.
— Well, it won’t hurt Auburn right this second. After one first down, Fairley sacks Cox at the Dawg 1, and on 3rd-and-15 Thorpe breaks up the pass. Punt, and another chance for Auburn starting on their own 42.
— Todd finds Fannin over the middle for 24, and it’s a third straight possession with a first down in Georgia territory. C’mon, Auburn.
Not happening: rush for 2 as Berry misses a block, throw to the end zone Adams can’t quite haul in, justified holding call on Trott to negate 4th-and-inches, McCain badly beaten to force lame duck and interception. DAMMIT Auburn. No freaking way this game ought to be a seven-point game. Auburn got away with this crap against Tennessee, not sure at all it happens a second time.
— Still no punishment on this drive, though, as Coleman collects a coverage sack on first down. Incompletion, give-up-and-punt draw on third-and-long, punt. Dawg boos reach audible levels for about the third time. I swear, Auburn could have ended this game this quarter.
— After Washington causes a few tachycardias by muffing the punt, Auburn starts at their 39. Come on, Tigers.
Sigh. Sigh. SIIIIGHHHHHH! Loss of 2 when Trott misses a block on a McCalebb run, Todd and Adams get them into 3rd-and-manageable, Ziemba utterly whiffs on Curran to let him stop Tate just short of the sticks when even a chip gets Tate into the secondary. My brain is going to melt.
— Even though they’ve got three timeouts and 1:25 to work with, and even though Auburn has already shown a willingness to get torched deep, Richt decides to run the clock out. Thanks, coach, because I’d have started punching out waiters if this game had gone into halftime tied.
Part of me exhales and says: OK, a 7-point halftime lead in Athens is nothing to sneeze at. But most of me is much, much angrier than the rest of me would ever expect me to be with Auburn holding a 7-point halftime lead in Athens.