October 1, 2011

Dawgs tame MSU

If anything, Georgia's defense is giving the Bulldogs an opportunity to be successful even if the offense still occasionally stubs its toe.

For example, take Saturday's 24-10 win over Mississippi State before a Sanford Stadium crowd of 92,746.

Talk about a weird game.

Georgia opened strong, building a 21-3 halftime lead only to struggle the final two quarters, the only points coming on a 28-yard field goal by Blair Walsh.

However, that was about it as quarterback Aaron Murray struggled, completing just 13 of 25 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns, but with three interceptions, including one that Brunswick native Darius Slay returned 72 yards for MSU's only six-point score.

But thanks to a defense that continues to gain confidence with every passing week, Georgia (3-2, 2-1) was able to prevail with its third-straight win.

"I really can't say much other than outstanding - outstanding," Richt said. "The first half I loved how we came out. We came out with a lot of passion, a lot of spirit and we were determined to set the tone early, really, in all phases of the game."

But unlike the offense which bogged down to a crawl in the second half, Georgia's defense stayed strong the entire game.

The Bulldogs held Mississippi State (2-3, 0-3) to just 213 total yards, including just 56 on the ground and sacked quarterback Chris Relf five times with a pair of interceptions - one each by Sanders Commings and Shawn Williams.

It could easily have been more, but Brandon Boykin and Commings each dropped passes that from appeared to be headed for six points each had they hung onto the football.

"I'll have to stop bragging on our defensive back's great hands," Richt said. "They do most of the time but they dropped a couple that could possibly have stuck a fork in them."

Still, Georgia had more than ample opportunity to put more points on the board had the offense executed the way Richt thought it should.

Twice, the Bulldogs had the football at the MSU 15, but only came away with the 28-yard field goal by Walsh. Georgia's other trip to the 15 fell short when a bad snap on another short field goal attempt forced holder Drew Butler to fall on the ball.

"We definitely have to work on finishing games," Murray said. "We can't just play great in the first half and think the game is over. We have to get that lead and just keep piling it on until time runs out."

It sure seemed like Georgia was on its way to doing just that.

Emotion was high to start the game after both teams had to be separated after the MSU squad began jumping up and down at midfield on the Georgia "G" before both squads were ushered to their respective lockerrooms.

The incident certainly fired up the Bulldogs.

Following a third-down sack by Cornelius Washington to stop MSU's opening drive, it took the Bulldogs just three plays for account for the game's first points after Boykin set the offense up with a 30-yard return.

A 21-yard pass from Murray to Orson Charles accounted for the score, the fourth for the tight end this year.

MSU answered with a 42-yard field goal, although it could have been worse.

Relf drove the Maroon inside the Georgia 15, but lost yardage on an intentional grounding call bringing on the field goal team.

On Georgia's next possession, Isaiah Crowell brought the crowd to his feet when he took a toss sweep, went left before cutting back to his right to complete what appeared to be a 49-yard touchdown run.

Not quite.

The line judge ruled that the freshman stepped out on the 35.

Despite the call, Crowell still finished with his third career 100-yard game, picking up 104 on 22 carries.

Georgia's drive eventually stalled, forcing a punt which Butler used to pin MSU down at its 5.

Once again, the Bulldog defense held and when MSU punter Baker Swedenberg could only get off a 11-yard punt, Georgia's offense was back in excellent business at the 22.

Four plays later, Murray tossed his second touchdown pass, a 6-yarder to Malcolm Mitchell for a 14-3 lead with 1:58 to go in the first.

In the second, a pair of interceptions by Murray stymied a pair of would-be drives by the Bulldogs, the second of which gave MSU the football at the Georgia 28.
But thanks to Commings, MSU didn't score after he picked off Relf two plays later after the football bounced of tight end Marcus Green.

Eight plays later, the Bulldogs found the end zone again, getting runs of 9, 13 and 16 yards from Crowell before Murray hit Charles with a 18-yard pass to the MSU 7-yard line.

On the next play, Carlton Thomas took a pitch and danced into the end zone for a 21-3 lead that Georgia would carry into the half.

The third quarter wasn't the Bulldogs' best effort.

First, Georgia failed to convert a third-and-inches when Richard Samuel was dumped behind the line of scrimmage, before a muffed punt by MSU appeared to have set the Bulldogs up nicely at the Maroon 15.

But Georgia didn't score.

First, Richt made the decision not to go for the first down on a fourth-and-short, bringing a shower of boos from much of the Sanford Stadium crowd.

They soon grew louder as on the short field goal attempt, a bad snap forced Butler the holder to pick up the football before being dropped back at the 18 giving MSU back the football.

But MSU seemed intent on making sure Georgia would eventually cash in when Relf completed a short pass to Arceto Clark, who fumbled the football into the arms of Commings.

Commings returned the miscue seven yards to the 15. However the only points Georgia could muster was a 28-yard field goal by Walsh.

"It was a real interesting game," MSU coach Dan Mullen said. "We had some opportunities to do things and we didn't execute. We made life easy for Georgia, giving them a short field a few times and turning the ball over. We have to execute at a high level every week, especially in the conference like the SEC."

Georgia returns to action next week when the Bulldogs travel to Tennessee.

"This helps us know that all our work during the week is paying off - like a benchmark," linebacker Christian Robinson said. "This game was a building block. We want to keep getting better every week."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]