Auburn Stuns No. 14 Georgia

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Ben Leard had quite a homecoming.

The Auburn quarterback, playing less that an hour's drive from his hometown, set a school record by passing for 416 yards and tied another mark with four touchdown passes as the Tigers stunned No. 14 Georgia 38-21 Saturday night.

Auburn led 31-0 at halftime and 38-0 early in the third quarter.

"This is a dream come true for me," said Leard, a native of Hartwell, Ga., who was cheered on by some 40 family members and friends. "I can't say how good this feels."

Leard was 24-of-32 in breaking Dameyune Craig's 3-year-old school record of 394 yards passing. Freshman Ronney Daniels caught nine passes for 249 yards, the second most in Auburn history, and scored on two long plays.

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Game summary

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  • "This showed how good we can be when we're hitting on all cylinders," said Leard, who threw all four of his touchdown passes in the first half and scored Auburn's other TD on a sneak.

    Auburn (5-5, 2-5 Southeastern Conference) needs a victory over Alabama in its final game to qualify for an improbable bowl invitation in coach Tommy Tuberville's first season. The Tigers were 3-8 last season and had a five-game losing streak this year.

    "I'm proud of this team," Tuberville said. "We've made a lot of progress. There's still a ways to go. We have some unfinished business next week."

    Georgia (6-3, 4-3) was hoping to win out and possibly head to a New Year's Day bowl. Now, the Bulldogs may be content with any bowl, having lost two in a row and facing their last two games on the road against No. 18 Mississippi and No. 13 Georgia Tech.

    Thousands of red-clad Georgia fans filed out of Sanford Stadium early in the third quarter after Leard scored on a 1-yard dive.

    "It feel apart tonight," Bulldogs coach Jim Donnan said. "Everybody might have been looking to the future a little bit too much."

    The home team hasn't won in the South's oldest rivalry since 1991, so it shouldn't have been a major surprise tat Georgia lost between the hedges. But it was downright staggering the way Auburn ran all over the Bulldogs, who were a 10-point favorite.

    Auburn, which ranked 11th in the SEC in both scoring (19.8 points per game) and yards (274), had easily surpassed both of those figures by halftime. Leard threw TD passes of 59 and 78 yards to Daniels, 11 yards to Markeith Cooper and 4 yards to Clifton Robinson.

    Damon Duval kicked a 17-yard field goal on the final play of the half, leaving most of the 86,117 fans in shock while the small Auburn contingent gave its team a raucous standing ovation. It was Georgia's largest halftime deficit since 1996, when Florida led 34-0 en route to a 47-7 victory.

    The injury-plagued Leard has missed four games, sitting out the Tigers' previous contest against Central Florida because of a concussion. He was cleared to play early in the week and clearly suffered no lingering problems.

    "This is what college football is all about: coming back home and getting the victory," Leard said.

    The Tigers went 80 yards in 14 plays on their first possession, Leard finishing off the drive with the short pass to Robinson.

    The Tigers were stopped on downs at the Georgia 22 on their next possession, but that was only a brief reprieve for the Bulldogs. Leard converted a third-and-6 with a 45-yard pass to Cooper, then hooked up with him again on the next play for the 11-yard scoring play.

    Daniels had only one catch in the first quarter but he dominated the second, finishing the half with six receptions for 180 yards.

    On the 59-yard touchdown, Daniels made a nice catch near the Georgia 30 and went the rest of the way while straight-arming cornerback Jeff Harris. Two possessions later, Daniels caught a pass on the Auburn side of the field, escaped the grasp of Cory Robinson and ran the rest of the way for the 78-yard touchdown, celebrating the 28-0 lead with a dunk over the crossbar.

    Georgia put on a miserable display of tackling, the most startling play coming on another long gain by Daniels in the third quarter. He leaped over Jamie Henderson to make the catch on a fade route, broke two tackles and dragged four defenders all the way to the 4 for a 57-yard play.

    Daniels fell just short of Alexander Wright's school record of 263 yards receiving, set in 1989.

    "They kept grabbing me up high and I just kept my legs moving," Daniels said.

    The Georgia offense managed only 98 yards in the first half and lost two fumbles.

    Quincy Carter threw two touchdown passes to Terrence Edwards and dived in from the 1 on a quarterback sneak in the second half, but that only made the score seem closer than it really was.

    Carter was 26-of-37 for 319 yards, while Edwards caught eight passes for 151 yards.

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