War Eagle Extra

Tigers' offense has worst showing of Malzahn era in 34-7 loss to Bulldogs

ATHENS, Ga. — Murphy's Law reared its head against Auburn on Saturday night. As the well-known law goes, if something can go wrong, it will go wrong.

And a lot of things went wrong in a 34-7 loss to Georgia. The Tigers' defense couldn't stop Georgia. The special teams has its own share of miscues, with the low point being a costly fumble on a punt return by senior Quan Bray to set up a touchdown for the Bulldogs.

But those issues paled in comparison to Auburn's offensive stumble. The high-octane, high-scoring unit the Tigers pride themselves on and coach Gus Malzahn directs in tandem with protege (and offensive coordinator) Rhett Lashlee didn't show up.

The seven points were the lowest of Malzahn's two-year tenure. The 292 yards of total offense were also the worst showing of the Malzahn era, marking the first time the Tigers have been held under 300.

Malzahn made no excuses for the performance.

"We didn't get it done," he said in his postgame press conference. "Georgia's got a good defense, but we have high expectations."

And it wasn't as if one aspect of the offense could a majority of the blame.

The passing game struggled, gaining only 142 yards. It made for a forgettable return to Sanford Stadium for Nick Marshall. The former Bulldog didn't even complete 50 percent of his passes, connecting on just 11 of his 22 attempts for 112 yards. And with Auburn trailing 27-7 and looking for some semblance of a spark in the fourth quarter, Marshall tossed an interception to Georgia linebacker Amarlo Herrera, ending the Tigers' last scoring threat.

The vaunted rushing attack struggled as well, tallying only 150 yards on 35 carries. Cameron Artis-Payne, who entered Saturday as the Southeastern Conference's leading rusher, had 86 yards on 20 carries.

He had one of the few highlights offensively, as his 26-yard run in the first quarter gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead. Of course, that meant little to him afterward.

"We just didn't do what we were supposed to do in any area," the senior running back said.

Even upfront, an offensive line that had been so solid during the year had trouble fending off Georgia's defensive line. This was embodied by left tackle Shon Coleman, who was called for multiple holding penalties while matched up against Jordan Jenkins.

Those miscues were particularly disappointing for Malzahn.

"It just seemed like every time we would try to get something going, we'd get a holding penalty that would bring us back," the coach said.

It's not as if Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt concocted any exotic formations, either. Malzahn said there were "no surprises" from the Bulldogs.

The hosts simply outplayed them.

"We knew what we were going to get," Malzahn said. "They executed it well."

That lack of execution meant the Tigers have suffered consecutive losses for the first time since Malzahn became coach. What separated this loss from the other four he's had the past two years, though, is that when the Tigers got down, they never were able to fight their way back into it. Malzahn admitted that surprised him.

"This is the first time that didn't happen," he said.

After the most frustrating loss of his career on the Plains, Malzahn said his team just has to regroup.

"We got whipped tonight," Malzahn said. "We've got to take responsibility, learn from it and bounce back. I expect these guys will do that."