Auburn Football: Did Tigers Beat Georgia with a Great Catch, or a 'Fluke?'

Josh DowdyCorrespondent IINovember 18, 2013

Nov 16, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers wide receiver Ricardo Louis (5) catches a tipped ball by Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Josh Harvey-Clemons (25) and scores the game winning touchdown at Jordan Hare Stadium. The Tigers defeated the Bulldogs 43-38. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports
Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall connected with receiver Ricardo Louis for a 73-yard touchdown Saturday that lifted the Tigers to a 43–38 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs.

On a 4th-and-18 play with 36 seconds left in the game, Marshall threw deep for Louis, who was double covered. Georgia safety Tray Matthews was in position to make an interception, but his fellow defender Josh Harvey-Clemons collided with Matthews and tipped the ball beyond Matthews’ reach. Louis gathered the ball off the deflection en route to the end zone.

Auburn play-by-play announced Rod Bramblett called it “a miracle in Jordan-Hare,” but Pat Forde of Yahoo sports called the play something else.

It’s one thing to say Auburn scored on a "lucky play," but to deny that Ricardo Louis made a great catch is inappropriate. Louis’ game-winning reception required incredible reaction time, total concentration and impeccable skill.

Tipped balls are a part of the game. That’s why teams run the tip drill. Marshall threw the ball downfield in a desperate situation. He gave his receiver a chance to make a play, and Louis was ready.

Louis was a surprise target for the Tigers’ last-chance throw.

Sammie Coates, Auburn’s leading receiver with 687 yards and five touchdowns, has been the deep-threat all season. Louis entered the Georgia game with only 160 yards receiving in 2013. Louis made a 44-yard catch, and also a 32-yard run in the third quarter, but if not for his final catch of the evening, his impact on the game would have been remembered quite differently.

On a 3rd-and-3 play earlier in the fourth quarter, Louis went in motion before the snap and then knocked down teammate Tre Mason, who had just received a handoff from Marshall. The loss on the play completed a three-and-out for the Auburn offense. The Tigers punted, and on the ensuing drive the Bulldogs cut Auburn’s lead to six.

Regardless, Louis believed the do-or-die down against the Bulldogs was his moment. “Before the play, I looked at Nick—I said, ‘Gimme the ball; throw me the ball.’”

The tip was lucky—for Auburn—but luck had nothing to do with Louis finding and securing the ball. Far from a “fluke,” Louis’ reception was a great catch in what continues to be a great season for the 2013 Auburn Tigers.

Josh Dowdy is a correspondent for Bleacher Report and the author of  Orange Is Our Color: The Tuberville Years through Navy-tinted Glasses.