When the final chapter of Georgia's 2009 season is written, there's every likelihood that pundits will point to Saturday night's 31-24 win over Auburn as one of the Bulldogs' more unlikely victories of the year.
No doubt few fans gave Georgia (6-4, 4-3) much chance after Auburn jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead, with even more likely discounting Mark Richt's squad after losing receiver A.J. Green in the second quarter with an AC sprain in his left shoulder.
Considering the Bulldogs' many misfortunes this fall, it would have been a bet worth taking. This time, however, Georgia found a way, outscoring the Tigers 24-10 in the second half to make itself bowl eligible for the 13th straight year and beat Auburn for the fourth-straight time.
"It looked like there was going to be no stopping those guys," Richt said. "They did such great job those first two drives but we just started to settle down, stay at home and played the positions we were supposed to play and not get shook up. Everybody kept their poise and did well. It was just a super job."
Especially when you consider the adversity, Georgia faced throughout the game.
Despite losing Green, who caught three passes for 19 yards, Georgia also had to overcome a traumatic situation late in the game when safety Bacarri Rambo was knocked unconscious while making a goal line hit on running back Mario Fannin with Auburn driving for the tying score.
Rambo lay on the field for approximately 15 minutes while team trainers and doctors immobilized the redshirt freshman before carting him off the field before play resumed. When it did, Cornelius Washington and Justin Houston sacked Chris Todd for a 7-yard loss back to the Bulldog 30 before Bryan Evans tipped away a fourth-down pass to preserve the Bulldog win.
There was even more reason to celebrate after the game.
During his post-game press conference, Richt reported that Rambo was moving all his limbs, and except for a concussion is expected to recover just fine.
"When he came to he moved every single part of his body," Richt said. "He didn't have any neck pain. The great news is we don't feel like its anything long term."
Otherwise, it was a big night for running backs Washaun Ealey and Caleb King. Ealey led all rushers with a career-high 98 yards and one touchdown while King had 10 carries for 68 yards and two scores.
Seldom-used receiver Israel Troupe also enjoyed his most memorable night as a Bulldog, catching two passes for 62 yards and a touchdown, which he caught from 50 yards out after Green was forced to leave.
Quarterback Joe Cox completed nine of 17 passes for 173 yards and the touchdown to Troupe, while the defense, after its slow start, held Auburn to 353 total yards. The Tigers entered the game ranked 12th nationally in total offense, averaging just over 450 yards per game.
Georgia even kept its penalties down, committing just four for 29 yards, none in the second half. The Bulldogs also won the turnover battle, intercepting Todd twice - one each by Reshad Jones and Brandon Boykin.
"We knew we could beat them," Ealey said. "There were a couple of things that didn't go our way in the first half, but (Troupe) made a big play in the first half to get us within seven. We knew in the second half we could have success running the ball and that's what we did."
It was certainly a game of extremes.
Trailing 14-7 at the half and Green on the sideline with his left shoulder and arm in a sling, Georgia took the third-quarter kickoff desperately in hopes of finding some sense of offensive rhythm.
The Bulldogs actually had some success, grinding out yards on the legs of Ealey and Green before Cox of all people picked up 17 yards on a quarterback keeper down to the Auburn 33.
That's where the drive stalled after a long pass by Cox went through the arms of wide receiver Tavarres King but Blair Walsh made sure there would be some points when he drilled a 51-yard field goal to bring Georgia within 14-10.
Georgia's defense would step on Auburn's ensuing possession.
Facing a third-and-4, Houston sacked Todd forcing a punt that kicked Georgia back at its 18. However, the Bulldogs did not stay there for long and during their next possession caught a break when tight end Orson Charles caught a tipped pass and picked up 33 yards to the Tigers' 46.
"The bal that was deflected and ended up in the arms of Orson was big," Richt said. "It changed momentum for us."
Following an 8-yard run by Rantavious Wooten, Ealey did the rest. The freshman carried four straight times, picking up 8, 6 and 19 yards before bulling his way in from the 1 to put Georgia up 17-14 midway through the third.
Auburn tied the game at 17-17 on its next possession when kicker Wes Byrum received a fortuitous bounce as the ball deflected off the right upright before falling back over the crossbar with 2:02 to go in the third.
The fun was just getting started.
Georgia answered the Byrum field goal with an 82-yard drive, 47 coming on a pass from Cox to King to set up an 11-yard run by King, who walked into the end zone untouched for a 24-17 lead.
However, before the crowd of 92,746 could settle back into its collective seat, Demond Washington returned the kickoff 99 yards for the game-tying score.
The game stayed that way until just over eight minutes remained when safety Jones picked off a pass from Todd that appeared headed to nobody in particular except the Bulldog junior, who returned it 21 yards before a face-mask penalty on Auburn (7-4, 3-4) set Georgia up at the Tiger 39.
Georgia would score four plays later, this time on a 24-yard run by King who broke inside of left tackle untouched and outran the coverage for the go-ahead touchdown.
"We shot ourselves in the foot when we needed to make plays," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "Our guys were in position to make plays and didn't. We have to make those plays. The last two or three drives Georgia made big plays after big plays. I don't know what we'll take out of this game."
The game could not have gotten off to a worse start from Georgia's perspective.
Auburn came in with the nation's 12-ranked offense averaging just over 450 yards per game and wasted little time proving to the Bulldogs that it deserved its reputation.
After taking the opening kick, Auburn promptly drove 74 yards, using three passes for 48 yards from Todd to Darvin Adams before a 5-yard toss to Kodi Burns accounted for the Tigers' first points of the game.
Auburn's second possession was just as effective.
Following a Bulldog punt that pinned the Tigers back at the 18, Todd and the offense drove 82 yards, the final 31 coming on a touchdown pass from Todd to Terrell Zachery
Georgia tried to answer back.
Back-to-back passes of 12 yards to Green moved the ball to the 50, but it also cost the Bulldogs their start wide receiver who was hit on his left shoulder knocking him out of the game.
As trainers tended to the sophomore, Cox found Troupe for the 50-yard touchdown pass drawing the Bulldogs within 14-7.
Georgia returns to action Saturday night against Kentucky.
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