Amazing! Deflected pass produces winning touchdown for AU
by Associated Press
Nov 16, 2013 | 2751 views |  0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Auburn's Ricardo Louis catches a deflected pass for the game-winning touchdown. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
Auburn's Ricardo Louis catches a deflected pass for the game-winning touchdown. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
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AUBURN — Sometimes the ball bounces your way.

Sometimes it doesn't.

That oh-so-close difference meant everything in seventh-ranked Auburn's 43-38 victory over No. 25 Georgia on Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Just before a fourth-and-18 at its own 27-yard line with 36 seconds to play, Auburn called timeout. Trailing 38-37, Auburn drew up the play it felt could extend the game and set up a game-winning score. After much deliberation, head coach Gus Malzahn decided a "dig" route by sophomore receiver Sammie Coates to be the Tigers' best course of action. When they returned to the huddle, however, another sophomore receiver, Ricardo Louis, demanded the ball. Nick Marshall complied, lofting the ball down the right sideline toward the sophomore receiver.

The entire game hung in the balance.

Throwing into double-coverage, it appeared it would end in the Bulldogs' favor. Georgia's Josh Harvey-Clemons got his hands on the ball, knocking it up in the air and behind both he and fellow defensive back Tray Matthews. Louis tipped it to himself, gained control of it at the 14-yard line and dashed into the end zone to put the Tigers back on top with 25 seconds to play.

It was unlike anything anyone on either team had ever seen.

"That was the craziest game I've ever been a part of," Louis said.

"We're making history here. I'm excited for the next couple of weeks ahead. That's just one play."

Georgia had one last chance following Louis' miracle touchdown catch, driving to Auburn's 20-yard line before Aaron Murray's fourth-down pass fell incomplete. The Bulldogs had a spirited rally — which saw them come back from 27-7 down in the second quarter to take a 38-37lead with 1:46 to play — go to waste.

Following the game, Georgia head coach Mark Richt said he had no idea what to tell his team.

"I told them I thought they were a pretty amazing group of guys to get it to 38-37 like they did," he said. "I think most teams would have folded or found a reason to quit, but they didn't do that. I just talked a little bit about what we could learn from it. We had a lot of things happen in the game that if we were more disciplined, we would have been in better shape."

An area Richt may have been referring to was the team's rush defense. But as the Tigers (10-1, 6-1) have done on nearly every opponent in recent outings, they piled up the rushing yards, finishing with 323. The 1-2 combo of running back Tre Mason and Marshall, who combined for 204 yards and three touchdowns.

Counting his 73-yard strike to Louis, Marshall accounted for three of the Tigers' five touchdowns on the night. What's more, it came against his former team, a storyline that had been rehashed countless during, before and after the game.

All Malzahn wanted to focus upon was the play of his quarterback overall. Beyond just touting his performance against the Bulldogs (6-4, 4-3), he lauded how Marshall has handled himself during the Tigers' turnaround season.

In fact, he went far enough to tout the junior as arguably one of the best players in the country, saying when talk surfaces, Marshall's name "should be in the conversation."

"He has the 'it' factor," Malzahn said. "He's a special player. If something great happens like that, he has the same expression on his face. If something doesn't happen, the expression doesn't change."

The same couldn't be said for the Bulldogs, who were understandably upset in the postgame locker room. None took it harder than Murray, the senior who finished 33-of-49 passing for 416 yards, tossing two touchdowns and an interception.

Watching Auburn's touchdown catch-for-the-ages unfold before his eyes was something Murray could only describe as a "nightmare."

"You try to wake up and we are celebrating a victory," he said. "It's tough. This is going to be a tough one to get over."

At the other end of the spectrum, of course, were the jubilant Tigers.

Mason said he "still didn't know what happened" afterward, too stunned by the events that had unfolded to give Auburn its seventh straight victory in this remarkable turnaround season.

Finally composing himself, the junior could only thank a higher power for the Tigers somehow somehow coming out on top once more.

"God just blessed us," Mason said. "Ricardo Louis told coach to throw me the ball. We did, and he did something with it. Thank God for him right now."

Ryan Black covers Auburn for The Anniston Star and the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email: rblack@ledger-enquirer.com. Twitter: @wareagleextra
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