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Georgia answers call in Tuscaloosa

10/6/2002

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- In the end, the smallest man on the
field showed just how tough Georgia really is.

Billy Bennett kicked a 32-yard field goal with 38 seconds left
as the Bulldogs (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today, No. 7 AP) blew a 12-point fourth quarter lead
and recovered to beat No. 22 Alabama 27-25 Saturday.

"I was just thinking that we do this in practice everyday,''
the 5-foot-8, 168-pound Bennett said. "I saw time running down and
I thought, 'Oh goodness, this is coming down to me.' ''

Thomas Davis picked off Brodie Croyle's pass on the next play
from scrimmage to seal the win for Georgia (5-0, 2-0 SEC), the last
remaining unbeaten team in the conference.

The Bulldogs are off to their first 5-0 start since 1982 and
snapped a seven-game losing streak in Tuscaloosa.

"It's just a great victory,'' coach Mark Richt said. "I'm
proud to be with a group of men that made some history here.''

The Crimson Tide (4-2, 1-1 SEC) scored two touchdowns in a
63-second span midway through the fourth to take their first lead,
25-24, with 8:24 left. Croyle was stopped short on the subsequent
2-point conversion, but wasn't sure he didn't make it.

"That's the ref's opinion,'' the redshirt freshman said. "I
had to have been pretty close.''

The Bulldogs couldn't get anything going on their next
possession. But the Tide couldn't get a first down either, thanks
in part to a sack by David Pollack, who earlier had blocked a field
goal attempt.

Damien Gary's 15-yard punt return gave Georgia the ball back at
the Alabama 34 with 3:45 to play.

The Bulldogs' Musa Smith rushed six straight times for 19 yards
against the SEC's top run defense, setting up Bennett's kick.

Earlier in the week, former Auburn coach and Georgia
All-American Pat Dye had said the Bulldogs weren't "man enough to
beat Alabama.''

Instead, the Bulldogs outrushed the league's top running team
161-109, behind Smith's 21 carries for 126 yards and a touchdown.
Alabama had averaged 318 yards on the ground its past three games.

"What he said helped motivate us some,'' Richt said of Dye's
remarks. "It does help a little bit when you're tired and want to
quit and your manhood's questioned.''

Georgia's David Greene was picked off twice but still hit
Terrance Edwards for a 37-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth
to make it 24-12. He finished 15-of-27 for 224 yards.

He was victimized by an unusual interception to cap Alabama's
rapid-fire comeback. First, Croyle faked the handoff to Shaud
Williams, then leaped over Bruce Thornton across the goal line to
cut it to 24-19 with 9:27 left. Two plays later, Fred Gibson
bobbled a pass, Charlie Peprah swiped it out of the air and raced
35 yards for a touchdown.

"I stole it and just went to the house,'' Peprah said. "I just
thought, 'We need to put them away.' ''

Greene had taken charge late in the third after Smith did much
of the early damage.

The sophomore completed 4 of 5 passes for 87 yards and wasn't
fazed by an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty. Gary caught a 17-yard
pass on third-and-10 but then celebrated a bit too much while
facing the Georgia fans. Greene hit Edwards down the left sideline
for the touchdown on the next play.

Croyle was 16-of-29 for 197 yards with a touchdown in his second
start for the injured Tyler Watts.

Tailbacks Shaud Williams and Santonio Beard ran for just 44 and
30 yards, respectively.

"We never got in rhythm offensively. And they kept us
off-balance with their great running game,'' Alabama coach Dennis
Franchione said.

The Bulldogs appeared determined early to answer the pregame
questions about their toughness, running the 226-pound Smith right
at the strength of Alabama's defense and taking a 14-3 lead. Smith
gained 86 first-half yards against the Tide, who came in ranked
seventh nationally in both rushing offense and defense.

Smith capped Georgia's opening drive with a 15-yard touchdown.

He got his second wind on the last drive, keeping the ball in
the middle of the field for Bennett.

"I wish we had two Musas,'' Richt said. "He got a little
fatigued. We had to give him some fluids, but he was man enough to
come back.''