Auburn marched right down the field on its first possession, looking very much like one of the nation's most dynamic offensive teams.
After that, nothing.
The ninth-ranked Tigers were held to their lowest-scoring game in Gus Malzahn's two years as coach, their hopes of repeating as Southeastern Conference champion finished off by a 34-7 loss to No. 16 Georgia on Saturday night.
"We may be out of the playoff race," defensive lineman Gabe Wright said, "but there's still so much to play for."
With the Tigers (7-3, 4-3, No. 9 CFP) coming off a home loss to 23-point underdog Texas A&M, they had to beat Georgia (8-2, 6-2, No. 15 CFP) to have any hope of staying alive in the SEC West.
It started well, with Auburn converting three times on third down before Cameron Artis-Payne broke off a 26-yard touchdown run.
But the Tigers finished with just 292 yards and eclipsed their lowest-scoring game of the Malzahn era, a 20-14 win at Kansas State early in the season. They had three turnovers and kept sabotaging drives with penalties and dropped passes.
Nick Marshall was 11 of 23 for 112 yards and tossed an interception on fourth down that finished off Auburn's last gasp. With leading receiver D'haquille Williams sidelined by an injury, the passing game looked totally out of sync.
"They've just got to catch the ball," Marshall said of the players who filled in for Williams. "I gave them a chance to catch the ball."
Auburn had no answer for Georgia's dynamic 1-2 combination in the backfield.
Returning from a four-game suspension for taking money for autographs, Todd Gurley carried a season-high 29 times for 138 yards and a touchdown, though his most spectacular play — a 105-yard kickoff return on Georgia's opening possession — was wiped out by a holding penalty.
Freshman Nick Chubb, who filled in so well while Gurley was out, kept up his strong play with 144 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
"They're tough guys to bring down," Auburn linebacker Kris Frost said. "But it's all about fitting the run and making sure everything is squared away. We didn't do a good job of that."
Gurley was injured with just over 5 minutes remaining, staying on the turf for several minutes while the trainers checked him out. He was able to limp to the sideline, where his left knee was iced down. He headed to the locker room while Georgia was running out the clock and left the stadium on a cart without speaking to reporters.
Coach Mark Richt said he wasn't sure about the extent of the injury.
Georgia was hoping to celebrate a division title, but Missouri prevented the Bulldogs from clinching the SEC East with a 34-27 victory over Texas A&M.
The Bulldogs have completed their conference schedule and now must hope Missouri loses one of its final two games, on the road at Tennessee or the regular-season finale at home against Arkansas. Missouri has lost only one conference game, a 34-0 loss to Georgia that gives the Bulldogs the tiebreaker edge.
Chubb broke off a 9-yard touchdown run that gave the Bulldogs the lead for good midway through the second quarter. Gurley strolled in for a 3-yard touchdown that stretched the margin to 24-7 in the third quarter.
On the very next play after Gurley was injured, Chubb capped the stunningly easy victory with an 11-yard touchdown run to cap a 98-yard drive.
Chubb went over 1,000 yards for the season, his best run coming when he sent Auburn cornerback Jonathon Mincy flying at the 10 with a huge hit, changed directions and scooted to the end zone for an apparent touchdown. It was overturned after the replay showed Chubb's foot barely went out of bounds.
"That was an unbelievable run," Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason said. "Unfortunately, it didn't count. Still, that was some good eye candy for everybody to look at."
Not to be overlooked was Georgia's defense, which turned in a brilliant performance two weeks after giving up more than 400 yards rushing in an upset loss to Florida.
"We didn't get it done offensively," Malzahn said. "They have a good defense, but at the same time we have high expectations that we can get it done."
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