October 30, 2010

Dawgs stunned in overtime

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - With the horde of reporters having moved onto other targets, wide receiver A.J. Green sat alone on his stool inside the bowels of EverBank Stadium. A blank stare etched across his face, eyes focused solemnly on the opposite wall.

Yes, this one hurt.

After fighting valiantly to send Saturday's game with Florida into overtime, stunning development left Georgia on the wrong end of a 34-31 score, resulting into arguably the SEC's most-maligned kicker turning into an instant star.

"It's just hard to swallow this," said Green, shaking his head. "It's bad, man."

From a Bulldog standpoint, it certainly is.

Not only did the loss drop Georgia back below .500 (4-5, 3-4), but the defeat eliminated the Bulldogs from any hopes they had of winning the SEC Eastern Division crown.

With three games to go against Idaho State, BCS No. 1 Auburn and arch-rival Georgia Tech, finishing .500 and becoming eligible for a bowl - any bowl - now becomes the only option.

"I'm sure the conversation will come up," Richt said. "What do we have to do, win two of the next three? We'll be fighting hard for that, I'm sure."

But that won't happen for at least a couple more days. It's going to take longer than that to get over Saturday's defeat.

After the Bulldogs sent the game into overtime on a 15-yard pass from Aaron Murray to Green, Georgia got first crack with the ball at the 25.

But whatever hopes the Bulldogs might have harbored, soon came to a cashing end when Murray was intercepted on third down by Will Hill who returned the football 89 yards before being knocked out of bounds at the one by Tavarres King.

Unfortunately for Georgia, it was only a short reprieve.

After three plays netted six yards to the 19, punter Chas Henry, forced into duty due to an injury to starting kicker Caleb Sturgis, drilled a 37-yard field goal giving the Gators (5-3, 3-3) their eighth win over Georgia in Richt's 10 years as the Bulldogs head coach. Coming into play, Henry had made just two of five field goals attempted, that before missing a 42-yard attempt in the first quarter

"You can't question anybody's effort, you can't question anybody's heart or their nature," Richt said. "They did all those things. We just didn't get the job done in overtime, and they did, so credit to them."

Although nobody associated with the Bulldogs were taking solace in a three-point overtime defeat, at least Georgia made the Gators sweat.

Trailing 21-7 at the half, the Bulldogs used a 28-yard field goal by Blair Walsh in the third quarter before exploding for 21 points in the fourth to send the game into overtime.

"The team that we just beat played their hearts," Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "They are a much better team than their record indicates."

It was wild finish to be sure.
After Washaun Ealey scored from 4-yards out on the first play of the fourth to bring the Bulldogs within 21-16, Georgia elected to go for the two-point conversion but failed when Murray's pass was unable to find its mark.

Henry responded with a 34-yard field goal to tack on three more points for the Gators only to have Georgia answer on a 29-yard scoring pass from Murray to Orson Charles who finished with a career high six catches for 108 yards. This time, the Bulldogs were able to convert the two-point conversion on a run by Murray following a key block by Caleb King.

But back came the Gators - again.

This time it was quarterback Trey Burton, who spent the afternoon rotating with John Brantley, ripping off a 51-yard touchdown run to put the Gators up 31-24 with 6:56 to go. Fortunately for Georgia, the Bulldogs answered, getting a 15-yard pass from Murray to Green who caught the ball in between three defenders to tie the game.

"We fought our butts off all game," said Murray, who rebounded from a slow first half to complete 18-of-37 passes for a career-high 313 yards and three scores. "A lot of teams would go into halftime in a game like this and give up but not this team."

Considering the way Georgia played the first half, that's probably true.

After holding a 9-1 edge in turnovers the previous three games, the Bulldogs lost the football three times in the first half against Florida leading to 14 of the Gators' 21 points - all in the second quarter.

Florida didn't need any help to score its first touchdown, as the Gators used a 20-yard run by Chris Rainey to grab a 7-0 lead.

Granted, it didn't help that Murray got off to the coldest start of his young career, a game which started with an interception by Janoris Jenkins on the very first play at the Bulldog 23.

That was just the beginning.

The Tampa native remained out of sorts as his first five passes were incomplete before hooking up with a 63-yard touchdown pass to Tavarres King to tie the score.

But that's when the afternoon started to unravel for the Bulldogs.

After forcing a punt, Murray's struggles continued when he fumbled during a sack by Ahmad Black. Jenkins picked up the ball and fell forward to the Bulldog 29. Eight plays later, the Gators scored again to go up 14-7, all despite a holding penalty and three illegal procedure calls which at one point backed Florida up to the 23.

However, on a third-and-19 play, quarterback John Brantley completed a 21-yard pass to Deonte Thompson to the Bulldog 2 for a first down. Demps scored on the very play.

Georgia's third turnover - an interception by Hill after the ball bounced off the hands of tight end Aron White - led to Florida's third score.

It didn't take long.

On Florida's first play Brantley completed a 40-yard pass to Demps to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Burton, his first of two touchdowns on the day.

Burton finished as the game's leading rusher with 17 carries for 112 yards while Brantley completed 16-of-25 passes for 193 yards.

King finished as the leading rusher for the Bulldogs with 12 carries for 64 yards.

"There have been some tough losses this season, no doubt, and we've had some very big disappointments," Richt said. "We were going in the right direction and getting a lot of momentum and actually getting back in the SEC Eastern Division race. A victory here could have put us in position to be in Atlanta, so now we have to realize that more than likely that dream is over and we just have to go out and win some games."

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