ATHENS, Ga. — Hard hits have characterized most of the 115-year rivalry between Georgia and Auburn more than hard feelings.
Many of Georgia’s veteran players don’t want the nastiness that sprouted in the final stages of last year’s game to carry into Saturday’s matchup.
“It was definitely a game that nearly got out of hand,” Georgia tight end Aron White said. “Anytime you have a rivalry game, there’s going to be some questionable things with guys, emotions get the better of them to a degree.
“... It definitely got ugly at times. There were definitely some plays you’d like to take back. But at the end of the day, they’re a good team. We’re a good team. Even though there are a lot of the same players going to be out there, it’s a completely different feel.”
The quality of sportsmanship took a step backward in the fourth quarter of last year’s 49-31 win by Auburn. There were several shoving matches, major penalties and a couple of late ejections of Auburn players. The image that stuck with Georgia fans after the game was Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley’s borderline late hit on quarterback Aaron Murray.
“Last year has nothing to do with this year at all,” Murray said. “We’re two completely different teams and we’re not going to worry about any of the chippiness from last year at all. It was extremely physical.
“But you’re going against an SEC defense,” Murray said. “Every team you’re going to play against is going to have guys who can knock the snot out of you. And you’ve got to be ready for it and be ready to take the abuse and the pounding. We didn’t do that very well last year. We did it for about a half. But if we want to win big games and big-time rivalry games, we’ve got to play all four quarters.”
Auburn does not think much of the bad blood from last year will spill over, either. A year has passed and both teams are in different places in the standings.
“That’s always part of the deal,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said.
“Unfortunately, some things happened last year that I wish didn’t,” Chizik said.
Georgia rides a seven-game winning streak and enters November alone in first place of the SEC East.
Auburn is 6-3 but is in the bottom half of the SEC West. Georgia has more at stake than just ego, so staying on an even keel and winning make more sense than settling year-old scores.
“We play a whole lot more disciplined now and we’re a more mentally tough team,” Georgia linebacker and former Burke County star Cornelius Washington said. “I don’t think anything they do is going to make us all discombobulated or anything – or get us out of our game plan or get us out of what we’re trying to do. I’m really not all that worried about there being any kind of trouble or anything like that.”