Shenker dropped pass

Auburn tight end John Samuel Shenker drops a would-be touchdown pass in the end zone against Georgia

The No. 18 Auburn offense had another tough showing in Saturday’s 34–10 loss to No. 2 Georgia in Jordan-Hare. 

Nix had his magic from last week run out against the Bulldogs, as the offense was plagued by dropped passes, bad blocking and an inept offensive output. The Tigers lost their fifth-straight game to the Bulldogs. 

“I’m disappointed in the game,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “Every time we step on the field, we expect to win.”

Contrary to previous weeks the offense started off well, settling for a field goal on a 17-play, 68-yard drive on the first drive of the game. The drive could have led to a touchdown, but tight end John Samuel Shenker dropped what would have been a score in the end zone. 

The Tigers went for it on fourth down twice on the opening drive, converting both of them on fourth-and-short. After the offense sputtered out inside the Georgia 10-yard line, kicker Anders Carlson trotted out and converted a 24-yard field goal.

“We came out hot, that was it,” Brahms said. “We feel like we got ourselves in good situations, and then at other times in the game we couldn't execute.”

With the defense forcing the Bulldogs to punt on the next drive, Auburn had a chance to build on its lead. Unfortunately for them that’s when disaster struck, as Nix threw his first interception of the season on a pass that bobbled in running back Shaun Shivers’ hands.

“I know that we’ve dropped the ball, and that’s something we’re going to continue to keep working on,” coach Bryan Harsin said.

While the turnover wasn’t on the junior quarterback, it still set up Georgia just outside of the Auburn red zone. The defense held Georgia to a field goal, but the Bulldogs would score touchdowns on their next two drives to give them a 17–3 lead.

On the final offensive drive before halftime Nix drove the offense 71 yards down the field in just under two minutes and were once again faced with fourth down inside the Georgia 10-yard line. Carlson originally trotted out to attempt another short field goal, but an offsides call against Georgia handed the Tigers a fourth-and-two. Harsin sent out the offense, but the pass to Ze’Vian Capers was broken up and fell incomplete, turning the ball over on downs at the Georgia 3-yard line.

“You always want to score touchdowns in the red zone,” Brahms said. “Momentum is huge in games like this.”

Nix, frustrated after the game, said he believes that there should have been a defensive pass interference flag on the fourth down play, but stands by the decision to go for it. 

“We were just a play away from getting a touchdown at half, and that changes the game,” Nix said. “... against a Georgia team, you have to score touchdowns and you can't settle for field goals.”

In the first half Auburn ran six plates from inside the Georgia 10-yard line, and only came away with three points. Dropped passes and negative runs were what killed the Tigers deep in Georgia territory.

“Maybe two or three more plays go in our favor then we’re capable of hanging in there with that Georgia team,” Nix said.

Following a missed field goal by Georgia, the Tigers had another fourth down attempt early in the third quarter. The pass was dropped by receiver Demetris Robertson, and Auburn turned the ball over on downs. Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett threw a 60-yard touchdown to receiver Ladd McConkey on the next play to extend the lead to 24–3.

“It wasn’t anything that they did,” safety Bydarrius Knighten said about the deep passes by Georgia. “It was all on us really.”

Nix bounced back, hitting back-to-back deep passes to receivers Caylin Newton and Robertson. The drive ended with a six-yard touchdown run by Tank Bigsby, cutting the lead to 24–10. It was the first touchdown that Georgia had allowed since Sept. 18.

“Every time you're stepping into the red zone you're thinking ‘we've got to score touchdowns’,” Harsin said.

The Bulldogs would go on to score another touchdown and field goal, reaching the eventual 34–10 final score. The Tigers had three drives after their touchdown scoring drive, but did not gain any net yardage until the final drive of the game, while they were down by 24 points. 

The Tigers finished with an average of 1.6 yards per carry against the stingy Bulldog run defense. Not being able to run the ball made the offense one dimensional, and put pressure on Nix, who finished completing 21 of 38 passes for 217 yards and an interception. 

The offense will have an opportunity to improve next week against an Arkansas team that just allowed 52 points and over 600 yards of offense to Ole Miss.

“We've got the leadership and the character on this team to bounce back,” center Nick Brahms said.

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