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Rambo's play proves Dogs still have heart
Auburn running back Ben Tate (4) breaks away from Georgia defender Marcus Dowtin, lower left, in the second quarter Saturday in Athens. - photo by John Bazemore

ATHENS — Bacarri Rambo knocked the ball away — and knocked himself out.

The fearless lick right at the goal line showed Georgia hasn't given up on this disappointing season.

Caleb King ran for a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, but the Bulldogs needed Rambo's game-saving hit to hold on Saturday night for a 31-24 win over Auburn, their fourth straight triumph in the Deep South's oldest rivalry.

"That was the play of the game," said Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin, who had a good look at the redshirt freshman's hit on Mario Fannin. "He sacrificed his body for our team. That's a big reason we came out victorious."

The Bulldogs (6-4, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) looked like they were headed for a blowout loss when Auburn (7-4, 3-4) scored on its first two possessions for a 14-0 lead. But Georgia rallied, taking the lead for good on King's second TD run from 24 yards out with 6:52 remaining.

Auburn was driving to force overtime when Chris Todd lofted a pass over the middle for Fannin, who had it in his hands when Rambo flung his body into the receiver, knocking the ball away with 1:16 to go.

The safety was briefly knocked out and had to be carried off the field on a cart. But he was able to talk to his teammates and move his arms and legs, having apparently suffered nothing more serious than a concussion.

"He was talking," said another safety, Reshad Jones. "He told us, 'Y'all keep fighting."'

That they did. After a 10-minute delay while Rambo was carefully strapped to a board and lifted onto the cart, Todd was sacked by Cornelius Washington, and a false-start penalty left Auburn with fourth-and-18 from the 30. Todd went for Fannin in the end zone, but the pass was knocked away.

Georgia, which came into the game with an abysmal minus-16 turnover ratio, picked off Todd twice, including an interception by Jones that set up the winning score. The Bulldogs didn't turn it over, the first time that's happened this season. It's also the first time they've had fewer turnovers in a game than their opponent.

"You win the turnover ratio," coach Mark Richt said, "and you win the game."

Auburn marched down the field on its first two possessions. The home crowd showed its displeasure with an early smattering of boos, convinced that it was going to be another long night for Georgia's beleaguered defense.

But the defense came around, getting more pressure on Todd and sacking him three times.

King put Georgia ahead early in the fourth on an 11-yard TD run, only to have Auburn tie it at 24 on Demond Washington's 99-yard return of the ensuing kickoff.

Todd was 20 of 28 for 238 yards, including a pair of touchdowns. It wasn't enough to prevent Georgia's fourth straight win in the series for the first time since the 1940s. This was the 113th meeting between the schools, with Auburn still leading overall, 53-52-8.

For the first time since 1991, neither team was ranked by The Associated Press.

"We shot ourselves in the foot when we needed to make plays," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "Our guys were in position to make plays and didn't. We have to make those plays. The last two or three drives, Georgia made big play after big play. I don't know what we'll take out of this game."

Auburn's fast start was highlighted by Todd's 5-yard touchdown to his predecessor at quarterback, Kodi Burns, and a 31-yard scoring toss to Terrell Zachery. The Bulldogs stumbled through their first two offensive series, going three-and-out both times.

At that point, Auburn had 156 total yards, Georgia minus-2.

Game over? Hardly.

"It's a tough one to swallow," Tigers linebacker Josh Bynes said, "especially when you come out hot and expect to win. It's just devastating."

Early in the second quarter, Cox held up the Auburn secondary with a pump fake, and Israel Troupe blew by cornerback Neiko Thorpe to haul in a 50-yard touchdown pass. It was Troupe's first catch of the season, and the third-year sophomore's first career TD.

The Bulldogs certainly needed some players to step up after being dealt a huge loss in the first half.,

A.J. Green, the SEC's leading receiver, sprained his left shoulder when tackled hard along the sideline on a 12-yard reception. He didn't return, watching the second half from the bench with his arm in a sling, and he could be out for the rest of the regular season.

Filling the gap, Troupe caught two passes for 62 yards, Tavarres King hauled in a 47-yard pass that set up Caleb King's first touchdown, and Orson Charles made a key 34-yard catch on a throw that went right through an Auburn defender's hands.
Washaun Ealey rushed for 98 yards on 18 carries, while Caleb King carried 10 times for 66 yards. His touchdown runs came on similar-looking plays up the middle.

"On both of them, (center) Ben Jones said, 'Follow me,"' King said. "I just followed him through the hole. The line blocked well."

Then Rambo delivered the final blow.

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