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November 17, 2008
Talented: Yes; Good: Somewhat; Lucky: Oh Yeah
Georgia lets a youthful opposing quarterback move his team into scoring position with a chance to win the game, then pulls it out anyway.AUBURN, Ala. -- See if this sounds familiar:
How about this: Kicking troubles and drives that come up just short help cost Auburn a game.
With one more shaky but successful defensive stand, the 13th-ranked Bulldogs (9-2, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) continued their stop-and-go march toward another 10-win season with Saturday's 17-13 win over Auburn, which is still stumbling to a possible losing record.
"A bunch of guys didn't flinch in the end," Georgia coach Mark Richt said.
They had plenty of chances the past two weeks. This time sophomore Kodi Burns drove Auburn (5-6, 2-5) 66 yards to the Georgia 14 over the final 1:43.
Burns' final two passes into the end zone fell incomplete to end the threat.
"We were saying in the huddle, 'We're good, we're good," linebacker Dannell Ellerbe said. "We weren't going to give up. We were going to fight and find a way to get a win."
However unimpressive the final scores, Georgia is still on the cusp of its sixth season with double-digit wins in Richt's eight-year tenure. The close calls came after a 49-10 loss to Florida ended the Bulldogs' SEC title hopes.
Only Georgia Tech and a bowl opponent to be named stand in the way. It will be the Bulldogs' first home game in 42 days, the longest such stretch between home dates in the country this season. Richt is 7-0 against Georgia's in-state rival.
That was a common theme with both teams helping each other out. Georgia was flagged nine times for 95 yards and Asher Allen was called for pass interference on third-and-10 from the Bulldogs' 38 on the final drive to give the Tigers a first down.
"Neither team played good enough to win," Richt said. "We both had enough mistakes to lose. It wasn't the prettiest game played by any means. It just comes down to sticking together and persevering."
The Tigers' Wes Byrum had missed an extra point and a 42-yard field goal. Byrum also missed a PAT in Auburn's 14-13 loss to Vanderbilt and four of the team's SEC losses have come by a total of nine points.
The Tigers rank last among 119 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in red zone offense, scoring only 57 percent of the time on trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line. That trend continued on two late drives.
"I'm not going to blame our kicker. Sooner or later, you've got to score some points on offense," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. "That's the reason I tried to change offenses this year. You can't live off a kicker and your defense very long. Sooner or later, you've got to score some points.
"Obviously that didn't work. It's just frustrating. You go back and look at probably three games would have been very, very close had we been just a little bit better in either the red zone or kicking or penalties."
Tuberville fired offensive coordinator Tony Franklin before the Arkansas game and abandoned the spread offense.
Tuberville, who said Byrum has a hurt knee on his kicking leg, sent out backup Morgan Hull to attempt a 38-yard field goal on Auburn's next-to-last drive. He changed his mind after a timeout and went for it, but Burns' pass to Montez Billings fell incomplete.
"If you come out with just two field goals we'd have won the game," Tuberville said. "That's what we haven't done this year, we haven't cashed in opportunities for points."
Now, the Tigers must beat No. 1 Alabama in two weeks to become eligible for a bowl game.