War Eagle Extra

Fresh faces in Auburn, Georgia rivalry game have chance to create lasting memories

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson celebrates after beating Texas A&M in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in College Station, Texas. Auburn won 26-10.
Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson celebrates after beating Texas A&M in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in College Station, Texas. Auburn won 26-10. AP Photo

The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry has provided players, and fans with plenty of enduring moments.

On Saturday, a fresh set of faces for Auburn has the chance to put their own stamp on the rivalry that goes all the way back to 1892.

Ricardo Louis was at the center of the Prayer at Jordan-Hare, but very few players starting for the Tigers Saturday have had much of an impact the past two matchups against Georgia.

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn pointed out as much when asked if he would use last year’s ugly 34-7 as motivation.

“If you look at how many guys we lost from last year’s team -- if we had all the guys back, it would be different, but what have we got? Twelve or 14 guys are playing in the NFL right now from last year’s team,” Malzahn said. “This is kind of a new team.”

Beyond Louis, current players with the most significant experience against Georgia might be linebacker Cassanova McKinzy, he led Auburn in tackles two of the past three games against the Bulldogs, and wide receiver slash quarterback Jonathan Wallace.

Wallace went 15 of 22 for 181 yards with an interception; and ran the ball 11 times for nine yards in a 38-0 loss to Georgia back in 2012.

Auburn safety Tray Matthews was also part of the Prayer at Jordan-Hare, but in a Georgia uniform. He was one of the two defensive backs defending Louis on the play, a moment he’d surely like to erase by having an impact in Saturday’s game.

Matthews, much like his teammates, has endured an up-and-down season. This ‘new’ team is still searching for a signature win having spent much of the year in the basement of the SEC.

A 26-10 victory last week over a ranked Texas A&M on the road provided the team with some much-needed confidence, but it lacked the punch of what a victory over the Bulldogs would provide.

“The urgency is big, especially for our fans, for the people that love to see Auburn and Georgia play each other and want to see us come out with a win,” Auburn linebacker Kris Frost said.

For the 43 players on Auburn’s roster that were born and raised in Georgia, this is the game they circle on the calendar every year.

“I’m actually originally raised in Georgia and I know guys coming from Georgia we want to win,” Auburn wide receiver Melvin Ray said. “We don’t want to lose against these guys I can tell you that much.”

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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