AUBURN, Ala. - There's no other way to say it: It was stupid.
Auburn was moments from the final gun in a 49-31 victory over Georgia that clinched the Tigers' first SEC West title since 2004 when two key Auburn reserves were ejected following separate melees.
On Georgia's final possession, with the game way out of reach, scuffles broke out. First, Tigers senior defensive end Michael Goggans got booted for throwing a punch. Then, two plays later, Auburn senior defensive tackle Mike Blanc got kicked out for throwing a punch.
The outbursts will prove costly. Per NCAA rules, Goggans and Blanc will have to sit out the first half of the next game. Auburn plays at Alabama on Nov. 26, and the absences of Goggans and Blanc early on could prove costly against the Tide's rushing attack as Auburn tries to stay on track for a possible trip to the BCS title game.
"Just really disappointed in that," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "That's a lot of reflection on us as coaches, and I'm embarrassed by it. That's not who we are. That's not the way we carry ourselves, and we will address it."
Goggans and Blanc are key backups for an Auburn defense that can ill-afford to be down any players. The Tigers rank No. 9 in the SEC (355.7 ypg) in total defense, No. 8 in scoring defense (24.9 ppg) and No. 11 in pass defense (244.2 ypg). Blanc has 22 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Goggans has 19 tackles, three tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks.
Goggans' suspension means the backup defensive ends in the first half of the Alabama game likely will be true freshman Corey Lemonier and sophomore Dee Ford. The top backups at tackle likely will be sophomore Jamar Travis and freshman Jeff Whitaker.
At one point, it looked like a full-scale melee was going to break out, with several coaches running onto the field to help break up the action and restore order.
"It was just frustration," Georgia wide receiver Kris Durham said. "It's a physical game. It is a rivalry and it is going to happen. We didn't want to give any embarrassment to either program so I feel Coach called the best call at the end of the game."
After the second outburst, Georgia coach Mark Richt had had enough. He ordered his offense to take a knee.
"The reason why I did that was that tempers were flaring and were out of hand," Richt said. "I thought that if we ran another play, things could get out of hand. My goal was to take the knee and make sure nothing broke out.
"When things get that hot and that emotional, I thought it was the wise thing to do."