On November 16, 2002, the Georgia Bulldogs still had plenty riding on a win over their oldest rival—the Auburn Tigers. Georgia came into the game ranked No. 7 in the nation, with the SEC’s best redzone defense, and a hungry second-year coach in Mark Richt.
The team was facing a red hot Auburn team who, with names like Jason Campbell, Ronnie Brown, Karlos Dansby, and Travaris Robinson, were not lacking in the talent department.
Their potent offense was ranked first in the conference and the Tigers led the league with 28 rushing touchdowns.
Add to that, Auburn was carrying the bragging rights in the series—riding high on a three-game winning streak entering the game.
The Tigers were also ranked 24th in the nation and had, eight times prior, played spoiler to Georgia’s bid for an SEC title. They felt confident that they could do so again—despite the fact Georgia was favored by two points.
The Bulldogs had endured a crushing loss to the Florida Gators in the two weeks prior, ending their shot at an undefeated season, but that made their resolve to win this game that much stronger because a loss would place their fate in South Carolina’s hands. They didn’t want to see their first chance at an SEC title slip away based on a tie-breaker that failed to go their way.
The game turned out to be one for the ages.
Despite the shoddy performance of Auburn quarterback, Jason Campbell, who had two first half interceptions, the Tigers led 14-3 at the half—due in large part to the hard running of Ronnie Brown and a Georgia offense that couldn’t seem to get out of their own way.
However after an ankle injury to Auburn’s Ronnie Brown, the defense seemed to find it’s groove against the Tigers running game. Even more, the offense started finding some success against Auburn’s secondary. The combination of the two translated into 14 points for the Bulldogs in the third quarter.
By the start of the fourth, the score was 21-17 and, for a time, that looked like it would be the last points either side would score.
The Tigers defense got tighter in the fourth, forcing a fumble by Michael Johnson and an interception by David Greene. Luckily for coach Richt, his defense was equal to the task as they kept the Tigers from mounting any moves either.
So, after multiple stalled drives on both sides, it came down to one more Bulldog possession to either win it or go home.
A 40-yard completion to Fred Gibson placed the Bulldogs within field goal range, but at 21-17, they needed six, not three—it was the endzone or game over.
Three straight incompletions by Greene, coupled with a five yard penalty, meant Georgia was now facing 4th and 15 on the Auburn 20. For many, the game was all but over, and Georgia’s shot at their first SEC Championship in 20 years was done—finished.
Then came an unforeseen miracle…it’s name 70-x Takeoff AKA David Greene to Michael Johnson:
Georgia would win the game, secure a spot in the SEC Championship game, and finish their dream season by giving Georgia fans their first SEC Championship since Vince Dooley and Herschel Walker roamed the sidelines together.
This weekend, the Georgia Bulldogs of 2010 have an opportunity to play spoiler and, even though the stakes won’t be quite as high as they were in 2002, it would be nice to see a little magic from these Dawgs on Saturday, wouldn’t it?