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Cox, Auburn try to erase bad memory

AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn quarterback Brandon Cox didn't torture himself with repeated viewings of his worst game.

When you complete four passes to your teammates and the same number to the opposing defense, once is enough. The painful memory of last year's 37-15 humbling remains acute for Cox and No. 18 Auburn going into Saturday's rematch at No. 10 Georgia.

'You just want to go back there and get some payback,' Cox said. 'I've watched that film once, and that was it. I threw it away.'

Nevertheless, 'This one for me is personal.'

Not just for him. The Tigers (7-3, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) entered that game as the nation's No. 5 team, nursing hopes of national and league title shots.

The Bulldogs (7-2, 4-2) made those ambitions look like pure fantasy.

With an aching knee and wobbly aim, Cox completed just 4 of 12 passes for 35 yards and was picked off four times. Tra Battle returned one of his three picks for a touchdown.

Cox wasn't alone in the blame. Auburn was outgained 446-171 and made Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford look more like Florida's Tim Tebow. Stafford, not exactly fleet of foot, ran for 83 yards and a touchdown.

'I remember a horrible game,' Auburn receiver Robert Dunn said. 'We came out and we were flat. The whole entire game, they beat us to the punch, offensively and defensively. They were just a better team last year.'

That's saying something since Georgia had lost four of five games coming in, including galling defeats to Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

'We let our guard down,' Auburn defensive end Quentin Groves said. 'We saw that they had lost to Kentucky and lost to Vandy, and we were like 'Oh my God.' We thought we'd just roll through it. It's not going to be like that this year.'

The Tigers are slight underdogs this time. They do have at least two intangible things going for them. They have won nine of their last 11 games against Top 10 teams, and they can draw on last year's game for motivation.

'If you can't get up from this game after what happened last year, something's wrong with you,' receiver Rod Smith said. 'We're definitely looking to go in and sort of give them a little payback. They're in the same situation that we were in last year.

'You can't sugarcoat it. We played horrible in that game. We're looking to play a lot better this year.'

It stung the Tigers especially hard because of the stakes, the way they played and the intensity of a rivalry that had been separated by just two points through 109 previous meetings. Plus, they have a roster loaded with players from Georgia and two coaches who played for the Bulldogs - defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and offensive line coach Hugh Nall.

'That's always a game that will bother you as a coach,' Nall said. 'When I am 90 years old, that one will make me mad.'

While Cox watched the painful performance only once, the day after the game, the coaches didn't have that luxury. They replayed it over and over, coach Tommy Tuberville said.

'We were 9-1, in the top five in the country, had an opportunity to do something special if we win that game and they beat us from the opening of the game,' Tuberville said. 'We weren't even in the game, we couldn't stop them running, throwing, quarterback scrambles.

'We looked at it 100 times during the summer: What could we have done different? They got going, and we couldn't stop them.'