ATHENS, Ga. — Demond Washington gave Auburn’s lagging return games a much-needed boost Saturday at Georgia.
Washington handled all of the Tigers’ returns Saturday, taking a kickoff back 99 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter and injecting some energy into a lifeless punt return team.
He finished with 202 kickoff return yards, a single-game record for Auburn. It beat the old mark of 182 set by Tristan Davis last year against Arkansas.
Washington replaced Philip Pierre-Louis at punt returner and had mostly positive results. The junior college transfer fair caught his first attempt, a major accomplishment for the Tigers’ struggling group of returners.
On his second chance, he returned the ball 19 yards up the middle into Georgia territory. It was Auburn’s longest punt return this season. Washington ended up with 27 yards on punt returns.
But Washington flirted with disaster on his third attempt. Georgia’s Drew Butler got off a high punt that bounced off the top of Washington’s shoulder pads. The junior scrambled to recover the ball near the sideline and knocked it out of bounds just before the Bulldogs’ gunners got there.
It was Auburn’s seventh fumble/muffed punt.
Washington made up for it in the fourth quarter. Georgia had just taken a 24-17 lead on an 11-yard run by Caleb King when Washington received the ensuing kickoff at his 1-yard line. He darted up the middle, practically untouched on his way to the end zone to tie the game at 24.
It was Auburn’s first kickoff return for a touchdown since Davis went 95 yards for a score last year against Tennessee-Martin.
Freshman running back Onterio McCalebb returned after not playing the previous two weeks because of a right ankle injury.
McCalebb started and got Auburn’s first carry. On the Tigers’ second drive, he took a wraparound handoff and ran 16 yards on a draw play to pick up a first down on third-and-12 deep in Auburn territory.
He finished the first half with five carries for 13 yards after losing nine on a failed end around.
McCalebb originally hurt the ankle on a fake punt against Ball State on Sept. 26. He re-injured it at Tennessee the following week and had been limited the last five games.
First for Burns
Kodi Burns caught his first career touchdown pass in the first quarter, hauling in a 5-yard lob from quarterback Chris Todd.
Burns, who moved from quarterback to wide receiver in August, has mostly been used as a Wildcat quarterback this season. Prior to Saturday, he had three career catches, only one of which came in the last seven weeks.
But on Auburn’s first drive, Todd rolled right near the goal line, didn’t see anything open and came back to his left. Burns was in the back of the end zone and darted for an open space in the corner. Todd lobbed a perfect pass to him to make it 7-0.
Burns had scored 12 rushing touchdowns prior to his first receiving score.
Running back Ben Tate wore No. 4 instead of his usual No. 44 on Saturday to honor injured teammate Zac Etheridge.
Etheridge, who wore No. 4, suffered a season-ending neck injury against Ole Miss two weeks ago and is unsure if he’ll play again. Tate and Etheridge are roommates.
Defensive end Antonio Coleman sacked Georgia quarterback Joe Cox in the second quarter, giving him 7 1/2 this year and 22 for his career.
That moved the senior into sole possession of third place on the Tigers’ all-time sack list.
Coleman is four shy of the team record of 26 held by Quentin Groves (2004-07) and Gerald Robinson (1982-85).
Todd, who stopped a pooch punt inside the 5-yard line against Ole Miss two weeks ago, did it again Saturday. On a fourth-and-six from the Georgia 36 in the second quarter, Todd got his punt to stop at the Bulldogs’ 3, where it was downed. ... Not to be outdone, punter Clinton Durst booted a 54-yarder just before halftime that checked up and bounced out at the Georgia 3. ... Defensive lineman Zac Clayton (ankle) played for the first time since the LSU game. The sophomore worked as a reserve defensive tackle, getting in the game in the second quarter. Clayton had played in only four games this season because of injuries. ... Auburn’s band members wore black ribbons in honor of Sarah Anderson, a piccoloist who died in a car accident late Tuesday night. … Linebacker Eltoro Freeman left the game in the third quarter after suffering a concussion. He was taken to the locker room and did not return.
True freshman Jonathan Evans replaced him in the lineup.