September 18, 2010

Last-second loss leaves Dawgs feeling ill

One second jubilation, the next moment utter despair - welcome to Mark Richt's world.

Just minutes after Georgia mounted the unlikeliest of comebacks, as quick as you can say touchdown, that's that what Arkansas did when Ryan Mallett completed a 40-yard pass to Greg Childs who avoided a would-be tackle and waltzed into the end zone with 15 seconds left to lift the 12th-ranked Razorbacks to a 31-24 win.

"They got the job done and we didn't," Richt said after the game. "We made a lot of progress, but we've got to finish."

Talk about a total deflator.

After trailing by 14 points with 7:52 to play, Georgia roared back, getting a 10-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Murray to Tavarres King followed by a 3-yard run by Washaun Ealey with 3:55 remaining in the game to tie the game at 24.

Sanford Stadium rocked when a third-down pass from Mallett carried Jarius Wright out of bounds, forcing with 2:18 remaining.

Following a 10-yard runs by Ealey and Carlton Thomas, Georgia found itself at midfield before facing a third down play only to have Murray sacked forcing a Drew Butler punt with 47 ticks left.

That turned out to be plenty of time for Mallett to work some Razorback magic.

Following dump-offs of 18 and 15 yards to D.J. Williams, Mallett hit Childs, who after a missed tackle by Shawn Williams strolled in for the 40-yard touchdown as the crowd of 92, 746 fell silent.

So what now?

At 1-2 overall, Georgia drops to 0-2 in the SEC for the first time since 1993 when it began league play 0-4.

With a coveted SEC East title now likely out of reach until next year, Richt was left to ponder the future during his post-game press conference.

"As of right now, our goal just needs to be on trying to win a conference game and trying to beat Mississippi State (next Saturday)," Richt said. "We'll look at the film and I'm sure we will say we should have done this and should have done that, but it's tough to win a game against a quality opponent and fight the way we did after getting behind. But I was proud of them and I told the guys we'll watch the film, and if there's a mistake here and there I can live with those things a lot better than I can with a team that doesn't have the heart to fight back. They showed that, so I was proud of them in that regard so we're going to stick together, we're going to get better and we're going to win."

Trailing 17-7 at the half, any thoughts the Bulldogs had of a quick score were quickly extinguished when Murray was intercepted by Tramain Thomas on the very first play.

Arkansas failed to move which enabled the Bulldogs to bounce back with a 43-yard field by Blair Walsh. But again, the Razorbacks would answer, flying back down the field 74 yards on just four plays. The drive culminated with Mallett's second touchdown pass, a 22-yarder to wide-open Ronnie Wingo who slipped out of the backfield to catch with ball with nary a Bulldog defender in sight.
Only eight seconds remained in the third, and for most of the fans in Sanford Stadium the outcome no longer appeared a question.

Not so fast.

Georgia's offense - stagnant for much the entire afternoon - suddenly sprang to life.

After failing to move their ensuing possession following the Wingo score, the Bulldog finally found a rhythm and promptly drove 62 yards, 35 coming on a 46-yard pass from Murray to Kris Durham who led all Georgia receivers with five catches for 101 yards.

Four plays later, Murray - who completed 15-of-27 passes for 253 yards - hit King for the 10-yard score.
The touchdown apparently woke up Georgia's defense, which after surrendering a first down, forced a punt giving the offense another crack with 5:28 to go.

Once gain it was the Murray-to-Durham combination which jumpstarted the drive, this time on a 35-ayrder setting up Murray who scored from 3-yards out to tie the game at 24-24.

"We showed our character, but we're going to have to step it up and continue to work hard," Durham said. "At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Coach Richt told us that we needed to play with all our heart and leave it all on the field, and I think we did. We just came up a little short."

Arkansas won the opening coin flip and Mallett quickly led the Razorbacks down the field for the game's first score.

After driving the Razorbacks 23 yards in seven plays, Mallett went deep on a third-and-1 call and found Chris Gragg wide open down the right sideline. Mallett didn't miss, hitting the receiver in stride for a 57-yard touchdown pass.

Georgia answered back.

A 47-yard pass from Murray to King gave the Bulldogs a first-and-goal at the 10, which set up a 1-yard run by Murray on fourth down to tie the score.

The Bulldogs appeared be building momentum when a Mallett pass hit the turf on third down to bring out the punt team.

On the next play, Razorback punter Dylan Breeding took the snap and bobbled the ball, but had enough time to recover and pick up the first down. The play didn't result in any points as the Bulldog defense was able to stop Arkansas a second time, but it was the missed opportunity to set up the offense which left Richt scratching his head.

"That was a shame. We had a return on and it wasn't even a fake. There's a certain body language where you can tell if it's a fake or a punt immediately, and it was a punt, but because he bobbled it and started scrambling around with it, we were getting ready for the return and they kind of fell into one, really," Richt said. "We could have probably contained it a little better but again, it wasn't like they had a fake on and we weren't ready. It was a punt and our guys just reacted to everybody there. He bobbled it, scrambled around and got it by a foot."

After failing to move on their next possession, the Bulldogs finally caught a break when a block in the back negated what would have been a long punt return for a score.

But Mallett - who completed 21-of-33 passes for 380 yards and three touchdowns - kept his poise.

Back-to-back completions of 27 and 24 yards promptly drove Arkansas to the Georgia 19, setting up the team's second touchdown on a 1-yard rush by Knile Davis.

Georgia's next drive chewed up 6:19 of the clock but resulted in zero points before punting back to Arkansas with just 46 seconds left in the half. But that was still plenty of time for Mallett t lead the Hogs down the field for another score.

A 39-yard pass-and-run to Adams picked up a quick 39 yards on the first play, followed later by a 15-yard completion setting up a 48-yard field goal by Zach Hooker to send both teams into the halftime lockerrom.

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