Georgia is leaving the prayer at Jordan-Hare in the past

When it comes to ‘The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry,’ many different storylines come into play. Whether it is Auburn leading the overall series 55-54-8, Todd Gurley’s return, or the end to last season’s game at Auburn.

For those who want to forget about the end of that game… Now is your chance to skip down to two paragraphs from now. For those who are gluttons for punishment, here we go in the time machine to the 2013 season and the setting is Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama.

Let’s go back to around 30 seconds left on the clock in the fourth quarter and Georgia is ahead 38-37 after quarterback Aaron Murray just crossed the goal line on a fourth and goal to take the lead. So, it’s now fourth down and 18 yards to go for the first down with Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall dropping back to pass. He uncorks a deep ball in the middle of the field. Bulldogs safety’s Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews converge on the football. They collide! The ball goes up into the air and… Gravity brings it into the hands of Tigers wide receiver Ricardo Louis. He goes the rest of the 73 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. After the extra point, Auburn takes and holds onto a 43-38 lead for the win.

For those who braved that fateful play for Georgia, the good news is that it’s now 2014. That means that Georgia could repay Auburn for that painful loss last season.

Yet, the question this week could be whether or not that play is used for motivation. Georgia’s head coach Mark Richt isn’t sure whether or not he’s going to bring it up with the team before they take the field on Saturday night.

“I don’t know for sure what I’m going to tell them Friday night before the game,” Richt said. “I grab the whole team Friday night before the game, and I also talk to them right before we go to the Dawg Walk as well, and you know, I’ll jot notes all week long on things I want to hit. And some things I’ll use because you want to motivate during practice, so certain things you’ll say during practice to try to get them going, and then there’s some things you might just try to save, you know, for the moment. And so whether or not that’ll be brought up, I don’t know.”

One of the four players that spoke this week, before this year’s seemingly all or nothing matchup with Auburn is senior defensive back Damian Swann. He was on the field for that play at Jordan-Hare, but says that most of that play is now but a distant memory.

“I think we’ve kind of moved forward,” Swann said. “It’s not a revenge factor. We have a new team from last year. We’ve got new guys. We have a whole new coaching staff on defense. Things have changed to the point where we can forget about that and worry about this week.”

Senior center David Andrews was one of the players standing on the sideline with hopes that the ball would innocently hit the ground and Georgia would take over on downs to run out the time for the win. Instead, he was on the sideline that had that now famous shot of players and coaches lying on the ground like they’d taken a strong knockout punch.

All of this being the case, Andrews isn’t using last year’s game as motivation.

“It was heartbreaking, but to be honest with you, it’s 2014 and I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast,” Andrews said. “I’m ready to move on. It’s motivation because it’s Auburn, not because of anything that happened in the past. We can’t control that. It’s Auburn, and everything is on the line.”

Georgia’s starting quarterback Hutson Mason was on the sideline for that play as well and was at the time serving as a backup to then starting quarterback Aaron Murray. So, this will be his first time to start against Auburn. His motivation to beat the Tigers is for completely different reasons than last year’s miracle play.

“What we’re focusing on is that this is our last SEC game,” Mason said. “Atlanta (SEC Championship Game) is kind of right in front of us. That’s what we talk about and that’s what we focusing on. This is our last SEC game where we can kind of control our own destiny.”

Mason did acknowledge that he knows the storylines for this week’s game is the return of running back Todd Gurley from suspension and people still bring up last year’s game. Also, he does know that Georgia still needs help to get back to the Georgia Dome in early December.

Missouri is the team that needs to help them out by losing at least one of their three final games this SEC season. Those Tigers take on Texas A&M this weekend in College Station. Then it’s a road game against Tennessee and their home finale against Arkansas. If Georgia wins Saturday and Missouri picks up one more loss, then the Bulldogs are champs of the SEC East.

Just like Mark Richt and some players did on Tuesday, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn also addressed the media. However if you’re looking for him to use the “Prayer at Jordan-Hare” as motivation, you’ll be waiting for some time. More like forever.

“No,” Malzahn said in quotes distributed by Auburn’s Media Relations Department. “That’s last year, and we’re concentrating on this year.”

There’s two things we know we can probably count on this Saturday night, when it comes to the newest edition of this rivalry. We will see a lot of the running game by both offenses. Todd Gurley is back for Georgia and they’ll also have Nick Chubb as well as Sony Michel available to run the football for the Bulldogs. Auburn will have running back’s Cameron Artis-Payne, Corey Grant, and freshman Roc Thomas to carry the ball for their offense. You also can’t forget about their dual threat quarterback/former Bulldog defensive back Nick Marshall being used in that capacity. The Tigers lead the conference running the ball with an average of about 286 yards per game. Georgia is second with about 256 yards per game.

We can also expect a lot of points to be scored in this game. Georgia averages 43 points a game to Auburn’s nearly 39 points.

The truth of the matter is, that once the ball kicks off Saturday night inside Sanford Stadium, last year’s miracle pass will be just another memory in this long line of memorable plays during this storied rivalry.

My advice? Get in your seat early and don’t leave until you see Mark Richt and Gus Malzahn shaking hands at midfield. You probably won’t need much motivation to stay in your seat. Georgia wins 41-38. It will be the first time this season that 38 points have been scored on them and they don’t come out on the losing end.


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