The date: November 16, 2013
The matchup: No. 25 Georgia (6-3) at No. 7 Auburn (9-1)
The stakes: If Auburn wins, it sets up a winner-take-all battle with Alabama for the SEC West crown and keeps still-meager national title hopes alive. Georgia, meanwhile, would like nothing more than to salvage a slightly disappointing season with an upset.
The back story: Coming off of a 3-9 campaign, Auburn was a bit of a national afterthought heading into 2013 with new head coach Gus Malzahn. But after surviving some early tests over Washington State and Mississippi State and losing at LSU, the Tigers started to look the part of a national contender. They beat Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M in College Station, then they walloped Arkansas and Tennessee by a combined 50 on the road. Even if they were to beat UGA, they would still be a solid underdog to No. 1 Alabama, but the fact that they've made it this far is impressive.
Georgia, meanwhile, has had the opposite season. The Dawgs began the season fifth in the country and knocked off two top-10 teams (South Carolina and LSU) while losing to a third (Clemson). Injuries caught up to them in October, however, and losses to a surging Missouri team and Vanderbilt knocked them from seventh to unranked.
Wins over Florida and Appalachian State right the ship a bit, however, and any team with quarterback Aaron Murray has a shot to win.
The game: Auburn’s eventual Iron Bowl win over Alabama, complete with Kick Six, will forever go down as one of college football’s greatest moments, but if we’re talking about the more gripping overall game, then to me, the Iron Bowl couldn’t hold a candle to this one.
Granted, it took a while to get interesting.
Auburn bolted to a 27-7 lead late in the second quarter as early Georgia miscues (three three-and-outs and an interception) grounded the Dawgs. But a Marshall Morgan field goal at the end of the first half bought UGA some time, and Murray scored on a 16-yard run to make it 27-17 early in the second quarter.
Auburn appeared to then put the game away. A Cody Parkey field goal with 12:39 left gave Auburn a 37-17 lead, and with the way Auburn's offense had been moving the ball, that seemed more than enough. It wasn't.
Georgia moved the ball 75 yards in nine plays, and a five-yard pass from Murray to Rontavious Wooten made the score 37-24. Auburn went three-and-out, and Georgia scored again on a 24-yarder from Murray to Arthur Lynch. Suddenly up only six points and tense, Auburn went three-and-out again and Georgia took over with 4:47 left.
On third-and-5 from the Auburn 40, Murray connected with Rhett McGowan for 10 yards. Then Todd Gurley rushed for 11 and Murray found Michael Bennett for 17. Somehow, with time dwindling, Georgia had a first-and-goal for the lead.
That quickly became fourth-and-goal. A short Gurley run and two incompletions meant that Georgia was still five yards away when Murray made one of the guttiest runs you'll ever see. It's unclear whether he actually scored, mind you (I believe he did, but it was really close), but it was gutty as hell.
In a rational universe, this would have been enough, especially when Auburn mismanaged the clock on its ensuing drive and found itself facing fourth-and-18 from its 27 with 36 seconds left.
But in 2013, college football found itself in an even less rational universe than normal. It was an Auburn universe.
Take it away, Verne Lundquist.
Your turn, Rod Bramblett:
Because this game was amazing, it still wasn’t over. Georgia had two timeouts and 25 seconds, and damned if Murray didn’t get the Dawgs to the Auburn 20 with three seconds left. But on the final play, Murray was hurried and couldn’t find a target in the end zone. His pass to Michael Bennett fell incomplete.
You can watch the whole game here:
Murray finished 33-for-49 for 415 yards, 37 rushing yards, and four combined touchdowns (two passing, two rushing). But Auburn's Dee Ford (one sack, one forced fumble, SIX QB hurries) was huge, and Louis' four catches for 131 yards made a huge difference, to say the least.
We know what happened next, of course. This was only three years ago, after all. The Kick Six sent Auburn to the SEC title game, where the Tigers found themselves trailing Missouri late in the third quarter. But they didn’t wait as long to figure things out that time — they put away a 59-42 win, then bolted to an early lead against Florida State in the national title game. FSU took the lead with 13 seconds left, however, and a last-second lateral fest came up short. Still, Auburn defined the 2013 season and produced two of college football’s best plays, and best games, in a three-week span.