Saturday, October 8, 2011
Momentum swings on TD review
By David Ching DawgNation
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- In the matter of five plays -- with a replay review sandwiched in between -- Georgia went from essentially being tied with Tennessee to leading the Volunteers by two touchdowns Saturday night.
The momentum-shifting sequence of events was the difference in the Bulldogs' 20-12 victory at Neyland Stadium.
Tennessee's Marlin Lane caught a third-and-16 pass from Tyler Bray, rolled over an attempted tackle by Michael Gilliard and got back to his feet to run down the sideline for an apparent 66-yard touchdown play that would have set up a game-tying PAT to make it 13-13.
On Georgia's ensuing drive after Tennessee had a touchdown overturned on review, Isaiah Crowell's 17-yard run put the Dawgs ahead 20-6.
There was only one problem. Lane's knee touched the ground as he rolled over Gilliard -- and instant replay confirmed he was down 3 yards short of the first-down marker, forcing the Vols to punt.
That's when Georgia went for the throat, when quarterback Aaron Murray connected with freshman receiver Malcolm Mitchell on a 71-yard post route. Two plays later, Isaiah Crowell broke a 17-yard touchdown run to cap a 93-yard drive that put the Bulldogs up 20-6.
"From that play right there, we were deciding what we wanted to do, and we wanted to take a shot," Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "I knew the post was there. The post was there all night, and we hadn't hit one yet. Then Murray did a great job this time of laying it up where the kid could run under it. Malcolm went and got it."
Georgia coach Mark Richt said the coaching staff debated whether to pound the run when opening the drive at its own 7-yard line, but Bobo wanted to go for the deep ball, and Richt gave the final OK.
The result was picture perfect, except that Mitchell injured his hamstring after making the grab. He left the game immediately -- having posted a career-high 126 receiving yards on three catches -- but not before he made the play that permanently swung momentum in Georgia's favor.
"When he called the play, the quarterback said, 'Just run,' because obviously we needed to get out of there," Mitchell said. "Coach trusted me with the play, and I just felt like it was time to make a play."
Richt said the extent of Mitchell's injury is unclear, but the staff hopes Mitchell will be able to return by the Florida game on Oct. 29.
Thanks to a bizarre offensive series on which Georgia was flagged four times for holding and once for a personal foul after driving to Tennessee's 44-yard line, the Bulldogs faced third-and-57 at their own 30.
So is there a call in Georgia's playbook for third-and-57?
"No, there's not. There's not a play," Bobo said with a chuckle. "There's hardly any plays when it's over third-and-15. It's kind of just, you get lucky and pop a run or have enough time to hit one in a deeper zone. But I've never seen anything like that, third-and-57."
"It's got to be in the top 10 in college football history, I would think," Richt said.
Georgia had driven from its own 3 and penetrated Tennessee territory before the series of penalties. The lost opportunity to put away the game was what bothered Bobo most.
"We were in a position where it's hey, if we get points here, whether it's seven or three, basically we thought the ballgame was ours," Bobo said. "Stupid penalties will get you beat. Fortunately we were able to overcome them."
For the record, Bobo called a handoff to Richard Samuel on third-and-57. He gained 1 yard, setting up a Drew Butler punt.
Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin suffered one of the most humiliating losses of his career when the Bulldogs last visited Neyland Stadium, when Tennessee beat Georgia 45-19.
He said Saturday's win was the most fulfilling.
"I feel like it's the sweetest win of my career," Boykin said. "Coming into this stadium and winning is a really tough task. It's a great feeling right now."
The win was Richt's 100th as the Bulldogs' coach, and it helped Georgia remain in a tie with South Carolina atop the SEC East standings at 3-1 in league play.
The stakes, and the team's recent history in front of Tennessee's 102,000 orange-clad fans, made senior center Ben Jones agree with Boykin's assessment.
"Without a doubt," Jones said. "We came out and got the 100th win for Coach Richt, and that really means a lot to me as a player. Coach Richt's a great man. Just being here and being in this moment and celebrating this moment with him means the world to me."
Crowell rushed 19 times for 58 yards, marking the first time in four SEC games that he did not rush for more than 100 yards. ... Junior college transfer John Jenkins made his first start for Georgia, at nose guard. ... Georgia went 3-for-3 on fourth-down conversions. The Bulldogs entered the game 3-for-9 in that situation this season. ... Georgia cornerback Branden Smith got his first offensive touches of the season, rushing twice for 19 yards. ... Georgia safety Shawn Williams matched his career high with seven tackles and blocked a Tennessee PAT in the fourth quarter. It was Georgia's first blocked PAT since DeAngelo Tyson's against South Carolina in 2009. ... Gilliard led Georgia with a career-high 12 tackles, along with a forced fumble, a 14-yard sack, 2.5 tackles for loss and a pass breakup.
David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.