ATHENS, Ga. — Auburn’s offense looked unstoppable on its first two drives Saturday night at Georgia.
It looked anything but the rest of the game.
Gus Malzahn’s up-tempo attack was feast or famine in the Tigers’ 31-24 loss to the Bulldogs, showing the best and the worst the offensive coordinator’s system has to offer.
Auburn gained 156 yards and scored two touchdowns on its first two drives.
It took a U-turn after that. The Tigers scored 10 more points in the game. Seven came on a 99-yard kickoff return by Demond Washington.
“We got off to a good start, which we needed to,” Malzahn said. “Then we kind of stalled.”
Auburn started on fire. A week after completing his first 14 passes against Furman, quarterback Chris Todd completed nine straight to start Saturday’s game, with touchdown passes to Kodi Burns and Terrell Zachery on the first two drives. Malzahn said it was the best the Tigers’ offense has looked this year.
But their production slacked off quickly. Auburn couldn’t land the knockout blow, watching its next three drives stall in Georgia territory, two ending with punts and another on an interception.
“We just didn’t execute,” Malzahn said. “We had some missed opportunities, especially in the first half. We tried to expand the game and just didn’t get it done.”
Malzahn said Georgia started playing its safeties deeper to take away the pass, but the Tigers couldn’t capitalize. Auburn, which entered the game 10th in the nation in rushing, averaging 230 yards per game, managed only 115 yards on the ground.
“If they’re really trying to stop one aspect of your offense, you’ve got to be able to do some other things,” Todd said. “They changed it up on us and showed us some different looks, and they were able to do a good job on the other side of the ball.”
Auburn gained a meager 118 yards in the second and third quarters combined. Its only score during that span was a Wes Byrum field goal.
The Tigers, however, appeared to be in business in the fourth quarter. With the game tied at 24, Todd completed a third-down crossing route to Darvin Adams to move the chains.
But a communication breakdown a few plays later led to an interception. Adams ran a route to the sideline. Todd threw it across the middle, right to Georgia safety Reshad Jones. The Bulldogs capitalized when Caleb King scored on a 24-yard run to make it 31-24 Georgia with 6:52 left.
The Tigers had what appeared to be a big gain on their last-gasp drive, running a trick play on an end around to Burns, who threw it a wide-open Zachery for 25 yards. But Auburn was penalized for illegal motion, negating the play.
“When the game was in our hands to win, we didn’t help ourselves with penalties,” Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said.
Auburn still managed to move the ball into scoring position, converting on a crucial fourth-and-1. But Mario Fannin dropped a third-down pass at the goal line after taking a hard hit.
Todd was sacked for an 8-yard loss on the next play. After a false start penalty, Todd’s desperation fourth-down pass to Adams fell incomplete in the end zone to finish the game.
“There are so many different situations throughout the game,” Todd said. “Just to point to that on the last drive, you can’t really say that.”