AUBURN, Ala. - Georgia learned a lesson Saturday that Auburn's 10 previous opponents were already very much aware - when it comes to offense, the Tigers have very few peers.
As long as Cameron Newton is running the show, the rest of the country may discover the same after the unbeaten Tigers clinched the SEC West title with a 49-31 rout of the Bulldogs.
"We just couldn't stop them," shrugged head coach Mark Richt, whose team failed to hold onto a 21-7 first-quarter lead. "They were very efficient in what they were doing offensively and it's very difficult to stop a quarterback (Newton) who could run like that."
The Bulldogs (5-6, 3-5) certainly weren't able to get the job done.
Newton, whose appearance in the game remained in question until shortly before kickoff, showed why he is considered the leading candidate to win the Heisman Trophy.
The former Westlake star rushed 30 times for a game-high 166 yards and two touchdowns while completing 12-of-15 passes for 148 yards and two scores for Auburn (11-0, 7-0), which rolled up 463 yards of total offense.
"We just wasn't there when we needed to be," said linebacker Justin Houston. "They capitalized on every mistake we made."
Compounding Georgia's issues included the fact that quarterback Aaron Murray had to leave the field late in the game following a hit by Tiger defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
Richt did not have an update on the redshirt freshman, but indicated he did not believe there was any structural damage.
The play was also part of what turned out to be a nasty ending to the contest as a brief scuffle between the two teams nearly resulted in a bench-clearing brawl before order was restored.
"It's just football," said Bulldog offensive lineman Clint Boling, who refused to comment further. "Football is a violent game. There's a lot of emotion."
The Tigers simply had too much fire-power for the Bulldogs to overcome.
With the halftime score tied at 21-all, Georgia lined up to receive the third-quarter kickoff but the Bulldogs never got the ball.
That's because the Tigers successfully pulled off an onside kick with kicker Wes Byrum recovering the squibber at the Tiger 41.
Nine plays later, running back Quinterio McCalebb finished off the 59-yard drive with a 2-yard run.
But just as they did in the first when they spotted Auburn a quick 7-0 lead, the Bulldog had an answer.
After Murray found himself in a third-and-17 hole, the redshirt freshman completed passes of 28 yards to Kris Durham and 36 yards to Orson Charles, setting up Washaun Ealey's 7-yard run to tie score at 28.
The track meet was just getting started.
Auburn reclaimed a 35-28 lead on McCalebb's third touchdown - a 4-yard run - before the Bulldogs responded with a 29-yard field goal by Blair Walsh on the final play of the third to climb within four.
But that was as close as Georgia would get. Tigers went on to score touchdowns in all five of their second-half possessions, including H-back Philip Lutzenkirchen's second touchdown catch from Newton, who capped the evening for Auburn with a 1-yard run.
"We knew it was a night where we would have to score some points; we just didn't score enough," said Bulldog receiver A.J. Green, who caught a career-high nine passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns. "They did a great job."
Georgia could not have opened the game much better, at least from an offensive perspective.
After Auburn scored on the game's first possession courtesy of Newton's 31-yard run, the Bulldogs answered with three scores of their own.
On two of those occasions, the Murray hooked up with Green on a pair of beautiful touchdown throws.
The first, a 31-yarder on a fourth-and-2 play tied the game for Georgia before the Bulldogs took the lead.
Following a 25-yardinterception return by Bacarri Rambo, Murray - who completed 15-of-28 passes for 273 yards - faked an inside handoff before lobbing a throw to a wide-open Shaun Chapas and a 14-7 advantage.
Georgia's third touchdown of the quarter was an old fashioned pitch-and-chuck to Green, who caught the ball instride to complete a 50-yard score.
But the lead didn't last for long.
Following Green's second touchdown, Auburn marched down the field 62 yards in just eight plays before McCalebb's 4-yard run brought the Tigers within 21-14.
Late in the second, Newton hit Lutzenkirchen on a 18-yard pass with 51 seconds on the clock to tie the game.
"The big plays killed us," Rambo said. "When you go back and look at all the games we've played, it just probably one play that killed us and made us 5-6. Hopefully, we can regroup and try our best against Georgia Tech."
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