The 2003 Auburn Tigers came into the year ranked in the Top 10 and poised for a run at the National Championship. However, after opening the season with two road losses* to USC and Georgia Tech, respectively, it seemed that the Tigers may have been given a little bit too much respect by the pollsters.
While they quickly recovered from the stumble—winning their next five games in a row—by the time they met up with the Georgia Bulldogs in Sanford Stadium, they were losing steam fast as they’d lost two of their last three games—including a heartbreaking 20-24 loss to Ole Miss in Auburn—and were trying desperately to get back on the winning track.
Georgia, coming off their first SEC Championship in 20 years, was enjoying their resurgence in the SEC as a perennial contender—under the leadership of third-year head coach Mark Richt and defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder—and entered the contest ranked No. 7 in the nation, with a 7-2 overall record.
Considering the history of this rivalry, the average football fan would have thought Georgia’s chances were pretty good coming into the contest—after all, they were playing this game at home. However, the truth of it was, Georgia hadn’t beaten Auburn, in Athens, since 1991, and had only accomplished the feat three times in the previous 14 meetings at Sanford. It wasn’t exactly a sure thing for Georgia.
However, the offense didn’t need to be great on this day, as it was all about the defense. The Dawgs held the Tigers to 259 yards of total offense and put the kibosh on their stud tailback, Carnell Williams holding him to 45-yards on the day.
That said, the most memorable defensive play of the game came in the fourth quarter when linebacker Odell Thurman collected a tipped Jason Campbell pass in the Auburn endzone, and ran it back for 99-yards and the score—sealing the deal on a 26-7 Georgia Bulldogs’ victory.
*The Auburn/USC match-up was played in Atlanta—a neutral site.