Despite losing some big ones to Auburn over the years, much glory has been earned over the Tigers
Once again the deep south’s oldest rivalry renews with major stakes, as Georgia and Auburn “knock slobber” in the loveliest village on the plains. Through the years, there have been so many big ones between the Bulldogs and Tigers and Georgia has had some of its most glorious victories at Auburn.
For years, decades, Georgia and Auburn played in Columbus. From 1916-1958, with the exception of the 1929 Georgia win in Athens, the Bulldogs and Tigers squared off in the neutral site in the state of the former but much closer to the latter. The game famously went home and home and hit the campuses with Georgia’s unforgettable 14-13 victory over the Tigers between the hedges in 1959, Fran Tarkenton’s last-minute touchdown toss to Bill Herron and Durwood Pennington’s subsequent Point After the difference en route to the Bulldogs first Southeastern Conference championship in 11 years. One of the great wins in Georgia history, that legendary triumph over the Tigers would prove to be an outlier.
Over the next few decades, this series was dominated by the underdog and the road team. On a painful note, from 1977-2001, Georgia was a woeful 2-11 against the Tigers at Sanford Stadium. A lot of potential championship glory was undone … in Athens … by Auburn. In fact, from 1983-1990, Auburn won seven of eight overall against Georgia. The greatest of decades for the Dogs, following the run of three straight SEC titles from 1980-82, had a true nemesis in Auburn.
Times have changed against the Tigers. Georgia has won nine of the last 11 meetings, including five straight in Athens. Over that stretch, the Bulldogs are 4-2 on the plains.
Georgia’s history of success began with a bright young chieftain who would go on to become the Bulldogs greatest head coach. A standout football player at Auburn in the 1950s, Vince Dooley would go on to become an SEC coaching legend.
The first of Dooley’s six conference titles at Georgia were clinched with a 21-13 victory over the Tigers in 1966. Not only was that win critical for that 10-1, fourth-ranked Georgia powerhouse, it broke a streak of 2-11 against the Tigers the previous 13 years and started a three-game winning streak against Auburn. Two years later, Georgia beat Auburn 17-3 to clinch another SEC championship, the second in three years, both coronations completed on the plains.
Behind one of the best offensive lines in school history and a brilliant rushing performance from Kevin McLee, “The Bicentennial Bulldogs” of 1976 shutout Auburn 28-0 at Jordan-Hare Stadium without completing a pass, wrapping up another conference title.
A 22-22 tie with the Tigers in 1978 cost the Dogs a piece of the crown.
But on its next two visits to the plains, Georgia would have much more on the line.
For the school that had/has taken more from Georgia than any through the years, this represented the ultimate Auburn upset opportunity. Georgia was No. 1, coming off the incredible 26-21 win over Florida. The Bulldogs would score late in the first half, open a 31-7 lead after intermission and hang on to win 31-21, clinch the SEC title and improve to 10-0. That would be followed up with a triumph over Tech and Sugar Bowl win over Notre Dame that delivered the national championship.
When it comes to the subject of hero worship, Larry Munson couldn’t have been better, self-surpassing his legend and legacy with a virtuoso performance to match the Dogs thrilling 19-14 win over the Tigers on the plains in 1982.
“Look at the Sugar falling out of the sky.”
That clinched a third straight SEC championship, kept Georgia at No. 1 and was the penultimate step to a win over Tech for a perfect 11-0 regular season.
The following year, two great teams squared off in Athens, the Dogs lost a 13-7 heartbreaker, and Auburn began its streak of dominance.
Georgia interrupted the Tigers run with backup quarterback Wayne Johnson leading a 1986 victory on the plains. After the game, the Auburn athletic department fired water hoses at Georgia fans on the field and in the stands, sparking the win “between the hoses.”
There was the goal line stand in 1992, the tie in 1994 that ended Auburn’s 20-game winning streak and the 56-49 quadruple overtime triumph of 1996 – the first overtime game in SEC annals.
When it comes to Georgia lore, and famed victories and great players, the incredible 24-21 comeback in 2002 checks all the boxes. With the defense and Sean Jones keeping the Dogs in the game, Jon Stinchcomb recovered a fumble for a touchdown and David Greene hit Michael Johnson for what proved to be the winning score – right there with the Tarkenton to Herron hookup of ’59 as the tied for second most significant plays in Bulldogs history. What followed was a 51-7 pounding of Tech and 30-3 SEC Championship Game win over Arkansas, and subsequent Sugar Bowl beating of Florida State.
It was Georgia’s first SEC title since Sugar fell from the sky 20 years earlier.
This Bulldog team is talented and hungry like those and trying to join the list of great Georgia squads to savor sweet success on the plains.