ATHENS, Ga. — The Georgia football team’s seniors called for fans to wear black to Saturday’s game.
Besides the sections where Auburn fans sat and wore burnt orange — and some stubborn Georgia fans — the entire stadium was black for the Bulldogs’ 45-20 victory. Even Georgia’s mascot Uga, the solid white English Bulldog, wore a black jersey.
The Georgia band also took part in the fun. It wore red uniforms during its pregame performance, but after the team ran out of the tunnel, members shed the red tops to reveal black T-shirts underneath.
Rumors this week that the Georgia football team would wear black uniforms came true, as the Bulldogs emerged from the tunnel in black jerseys instead of their traditional red tops.
The three captains for Georgia, who walk to midfield for the coin toss before the team runs out of the tunnel, wore red jerseys, fooling the crowd. After the rest of the team spilled onto the field, the three UGA captains took off their red tops, and underneath were black jerseys.
Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville was asked about the blackout following the 45-20 loss Saturday night.
“That didn’t bother us,” he said. “We’re going to tackle the team in the other color jersey, or try to. We didn’t do a very good job of it.”
Auburn cornerback Eric Brock and safety Zac Etheridge blew a coverage late in the first quarter when UGA quarterback Matthew Stafford found a wide-open Mohamed Massaquoi.
Massaquoi actually had time to slow down and wait for Stafford’s slightly under-thrown pass.
Brock and Etheridge were more than 10 yards behind the receiver as he raced into the end zone for a 58-yard touchdown.
“We busted a coverage,” Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said.
It was a common theme all game. Georgia receivers beat Auburn defensive backs down the field on multiple occasions, and the Tigers didn’t help by missing assignments throughout the afternoon.
“We just gave up too many big plays,” Etheridge said.
Auburn had its worst rushing performance since picking up 62 yards in the season opener against Kansas State. The Tigers rushed for 83 yards on 35 carries against a Georgia defense that ranked sixth in the SEC entering the game.
The Bulldogs had given up more than 130 yards a game on the ground, but Auburn failed to control the line of scrimmage as the game went on.
Running back Ben Tate led the Tigers with 58 yards, while Brad Lester added 45.
Auburn quarterback Brandon Cox, who was sacked three times, lost 21 yards on four rushing attempts.
White streak ends
Auburn had won 15 straight games in its white uniforms, but Georgia’s pummeling of the Tigers ended that Saturday.
It was the first time Auburn lost in white jerseys since the 2003 loss at Georgia.
Byrum kicks off
As expected, true freshman Wes Byrum kicked off for the first time since Auburn faced LSU three weeks ago. Byrum has suffered from a thigh bruise.
Austin High grad Morgan Hull and Zach Kutch have been kicking off for the Tigers the last two games. But they both lack Byrum’s leg strength.
Kutch and Hull’s kicks have routinely landed around the 20-yard line.
Byrum’s four kicks landed at the Georgia 11 (a squib kick), 5, 6, and 13.
No lead at half
Saturday’s game marked the first game this season that the Tigers did not hold the lead at halftime. Auburn was the only Football Bowl Subdivision team to have led at the half in every game this season.
Georgia led the Tigers 17-10 at halftime on Saturday.
Auburn tight end Cole Bennett, who had four catches entering Saturday’s game, caught back-to-back passes midway through the third quarter, both picking up first downs.
Auburn fans may recall Bennett from the third game of the season when Bennett dropped a perfectly thrown pass from Cox against Mississippi State.
The ball hit Bennett’s fingertips and ricocheted into the arms of Mississippi State defensive back Derek Pegues, who returned it for a touchdown in the Bulldogs’ 19-14 win.
Auburn left tackle Ryan Pugh started in place of senior King Dunlap on Saturday. Pugh, a true freshman, suffered an ankle sprain against Arkansas on Oct. 13.
Pugh has played sparingly during the last month and was not expected to start against Georgia.
Pugh replaced Dunlap in the starting lineup after the senior injured his elbow during the loss to Mississippi State.
Auburn received a first down early in the third quarter when Georgia was flagged for roughing the passer as Cox was sacked on a third down. The penalty moved the ball to the UGA 12-yard line.
Two plays later, Cox hit Mario Fannin for a 12-yard touchdown as boos from the partisan crowd rained down on officials. The CBS replay showed a Georgia player leaping over the line of scrimmage and leaving his feet before the ball left Cox’s hand.
The player harmlessly crashed into Cox shortly after the pass was thrown. The head referee dropped the flag, as UGA coach Mark Richt rushed onto the field to plead his case.
Georgia kept Auburn drives alive all night. The Bulldogs racked up 10 penalties for 97 yards.
Grading the Tigers
Decatur Daily Sports Writer Ross Dellenger grades Auburn’s performance in Saturday’s 45-20 loss to Georgia, giving the Tigers a letter grade from A+ to F in four categories.
Auburn’s offense is not built to score more than three touchdowns a game, so it wasn’t surprising that it couldn’t keep up with explosive Georgia. The Tigers didn’t play badly but could have played better. Quarterback Brandon Cox’s four interceptions didn’t help an already suffering Auburn defense.
Easily the worst outing of the season. The secondary was left ravaged as Georgia hit big play after big play. Auburn gave up 180 yards on the ground and 237 through the air in a disastrous performance that left players shaking their heads.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
Having Wes Byrum back to kick off sure helped the struggling kickoff coverage team. Georgia averaged 20 yards a return. Byrum made both of his field goal attempts.
THE BIG PICTURE: C-
Auburn’s defensive performance was shocking. After playing so well the entire season, Will Muschamp’s squad was hit with a barrage of big plays. Not surprisingly, the Tigers’ offense couldn’t keep pace.
Best and worst
Best costume: In the middle of the sea of black shirts, a Georgia student sported a yellow chicken costume. From head to toe, he was decked in mustard-colored feathers. He wore a shirt on the costume that read, “The Real War Eagle.”
Best luck: Georgia’s bloop kick early in the second quarter bounced off tight end Cole Bennett’s chest at about the 35-yard line. The ball was fumbled around before bouncing out of bounds, luckily giving the Tigers’ possession.
Best move: UGA running back Knowshon Moreno sidestepped safety Zac Etheridge on his way to a 24-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. It was a sickening move by Moreno, as Etheridge was left in the dirt.
Worst start: Georgia’s Kelin Johnson intercepted Brandon Cox on the first play of the game. Cox’s throw was into triple coverage. Georgia converted the turnover into three points with a Brandon Coutu 32-yard field goal.
Worst timeout use: Auburn called two timeouts in the first quarter that were separated by two plays.
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