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auburn quentin groves "they were on tonight, making big plays, and teams better watch out for them."..


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uga uses black magic to turn tigers blue

inspired dogs turn close one into rout, stay in mix for sec title

by carter strickland

the atlanta journal-constitution

published on: 11/10/07 athens sanford stadium turned to black saturday.

its occupants have turned even more foreboding and nasty.

georgia, the team opponents could always rely on to play nice, put on a color befitting its new image, lived up to that alter ego and found itself a 45-20 winner against no. 18 auburn in front of 92,746 mostly black-clad fans.

not since jim donnan's 1996 bulldogs won 56-49 in quadruple overtime had any team tagged auburn for that many points.

"we do have a nastiness to us," safety kelin johnson said. "a dull team is going to have dull fans."

neither was present against auburn (7-4, 4-3 sec). the fans were juiced. the team was jacked. and in the bizarro world that is college football this season, the no. 10 bulldogs (8-2, 5-2) now remain alive for a spot in the sec title game.

to get there, georgia needs a win next week against kentucky. it also needs tennessee to lose to either uk or vanderbilt.

the bulldogs might also need some new psychological ploy. so far, coach mark richt has schemed an excessive celebration penalty against florida and pulled out black jerseys against auburn.

"[richt] has relaxed," quarterback matthew stafford said. "that has made us all more relaxed and let us show who we are."

said richt: "half the battle is energy and the other half is execution, and it at least got the guys' blood flowing."

both emotional gimmicks worked. the placid team that was georgia now plays like it wants to punish someone for all the years of lack of expression.

running back knowshon moreno refuses to hit the dirt before he hits someone on the defense.

linebacker rennie curran played like hasn't met a sternum he hasn't tried to break.

and the offense, which once killed defenses softly or not all, now bludgeons and dances over the corpse. case in point: this is the first time since 1942 georgia has scored 40 or more points in three consecutive games.

back then, georgia did it against furman, ole miss and tulane. this time, florida, troy and auburn.

"tonight was a tragic loss," auburn linebacker quentin groves said. "they were on tonight, making really big plays, and teams better watch out for them."

the big plays started early, with stafford connecting on a 58-yard touchdown with mohamed massaquoi for a 10-3 first-quarter lead. it was the third 50-plus-yard scoring strike in the past three weeks for stafford, who finished 11 of 19 for 237 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

moreno, working against the sec's toughest rush defense, danced for 24 yards and a score to give georgia a 24-20 lead in the third quarter. the redshirt freshman (22 carries, 101 yards, two touchdowns) topped the century mark for the fourth straight game. he's the first uga player to do so since verron haynes in 2001.

and the defense, put in difficult situations by the offense and by its own doings, picked off brandon cox four times. two were key, one coming on auburn's opening drive, the other a tide-turning play in the third quarter. johnson had both picks, the latter setting up a 3-yard moreno touchdown to put georgia ahead 31-20 at the end of the third quarter.

not that the game was all without peril. some of that was caused by auburn, but a lot of it was caused by georgia again.

the bulldogs have had 10 unsportsmanlike or personal foul penalties since the start of the florida game. four of georgia's 10 penalties against auburn were personal fouls.

one, a late hit by johnson, turned an incompletion into a first down and an auburn drive into a touchdown. that score made it 17-10 in the second quarter.

it became tied when stafford threw an interception on the opening series of the second half. auburn didn't waste any time taking the lead on its next series with a field goal.

"when the play is over, it has to be over," uga linebacker dannell ellerbe said. "we would have them in third-and-longs and then we would do something stupid. you can be jacked but you can't make those mistakes."

as those mistakes mounted, auburn took control. georgia had four straight series that had netted minus-5 yards and an interception.

it all looked familiar.

anyone remember tennessee?

"coach richt called us out," offensive guard chris davis said. "he told us were playing like little girls. he put it on us to respond, and we knew we had to start making plays."

"when they scored 17 in a row and we are finally behind, i think it really flipped a switch for the guys to really do something," richt said. "we have got to make a play."

it came with about three minutes left in the third. second-and-13 from georgia's 29. auburn ahead 20-17.

sean bailey, a senior who had to spend extra time before the game receiving treatment for his bad knee, hauled in a 45-yard pass from stafford. it was his fourth catch of the night for a career-high 96 yards.

"he kind of broke the oppression," richt said.

richt helped by making that play call.

from there, the team in black turned the other one black and blue. georgia, which had surrendered 17 unanswered points during a 10-minute period, scored 28 unanswered on four straight series to take a 45-20 lead with 6:45 left.

thomas brown's 1-yard plunge sealed the fate of auburn. from there, the only thing left to wonder was whether georgia would ever wear the black jerseys again.

"it's not a fashion show," groves said. "but they sure did look good in them."

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