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November 10, 2012

Auburn notes: Murray magnificent, Jones shrugs off talk, Ford back in starting lineup

Murray magnificent: Junior quarterback Aaron Murray probably wishes he could play Auburn every game.

Completing 18-of-24 passes for 208 yards on his 22nd birthday, Murray’s three first-half touchdown passes gave him 10 in three career games against the Tigers.

Murray’s final crack at Auburn, presumably, will be Nov. 16, 2013, back here at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Due to an SEC scheduling quirk after expansion to 14 teams, it will be the first time in the series’ 116-year history the teams play twice on the same campus consecutively.

Double dose of trouble: For the second straight year, Georgia had multiple tailbacks rush for more than 100 yards on the Auburn defense. Isaiah Crowell (132 yards) and Carlton Thomas (127) were the ones gashing the Tigers in a 38-point destruction.

They both left the program on bad terms in the offseason, the same situation as Auburn losing Michael Dyer after 2011. Except the Bulldogs were much better at reloading, with true freshman tailbacks Todd Gurley (116 yards) and Keith Marshall (105) putting on a show for the thousands of red-clad Dawgs fans who invaded Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Talk is cheap: Auburn right guard Chad Slade, whether or not it was a slip of the tongue, uttered a certain All-American outside linebacker for Georgia “can be stopped. It’s not that hard.”

Jarvis Jones, the Carver product from nearby Columbus, Ga., responded in kind, sacking freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace twice in the first half.

Ford tough: Junior defensive end Dee Ford made his first start since Oct. 6, nursing an abdominal strain and giving way to Nosa Eguae the past four games in the starting lineup.

Ford recorded a 10-yard sack of Murray, the Bulldogs’ only play for negative yardage in the first half.

Junior defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker (back) played for the first time in three games off the bench, while junior cornerback Chris Davis (cornerback) dressed but did not factor into the rotation.

Slow starts sustained: Texas A&M rammed the ball down Auburn’s throats two weeks ago under the lights — the Aggies scored touchdowns on their opening six drives, going 407 yards on 45 plays.

Georgia did pretty much the same marching act, flying 300 yards on 29 plays on their first four possessions — all for touchdowns.

Footballs stay clean: Both quarterbacks were in tune from the get-go, with Murray completing his first 10 passes and Auburn freshman Jonathan Wallace (Central-Phenix City) opening 5-for-5.

Shot in the foot: Once again, a defensive penalty negated an opportunity to get off the field.

On Georgia’s third drive, Corey Lemonier knocked over Murray late on an incomplete third-down pass, drawing roughing the passer and giving the Bulldogs a fresh set of downs.

The visitors capitalized, when Murray delivered a perfectly thrown 17-yard strike into a small window to Tavarres King, who toe-tapped along the right edge of the end zone for a 21-0 lead.

That ensured Murray’s third consecutive 3-TD effort against the Tigers in his career.

Back again: With the victory, Georgia punched its return ticket back to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. The Bulldogs’ last consecutive berths in the title game came in 2002-03.

All knotted up: The series record in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry now stands at Georgia 54, Auburn 54, Ties 8.

No love for Bama: Guessing the loudest cheer of the night wasn’t difficult.

The capacity crowd at Jordan-Hare Stadium was subdued during the first media timeout, after Georgia marched down the field for its first touchdown. But then, the out-of-town scoreboard provided a lift.

Texas A&M 29, Alabama 24. Final.

The crowd erupted, pleased to see its in-state rival took a body blow to its BCS title chances. Auburn travels to No. 1 Alabama, which won’t be No. 1 for long, Nov. 24 for the season-ending Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa.

Golden entrance: Auburn’s 2012 Olympians were honored at midfield during a pregame ceremony.

Next up: Auburn’s Senior Day and final home game of the year is next Saturday against Division I-AA opponent Alabama A&M (7-3) at 2 p.m. ET on pay-per-view television.

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