September 24, 2011

Dawgs take first SEC win

OXFORD, Miss. - When it comes to wins in the SEC, head coach Mark Richt isn't about to get picky.

So, although Saturday's game against Ole Miss certainly was not one of the more impressive you'll see, the Bulldogs' 27-13 victory before a Vaught-Hemingway Stadium crowd of 58,042 still gave him plenty of reason to smile.

"It was an outstanding victory for Georgia, I'm exciting about getting that," Richt said. "I thought we were able to do some things on both sides of the ball."

That was certainly true from a defensive perspective.

The Bulldogs held the Rebels to 183 total yards and just allowed seven points as Ole Miss' second touchdown occurred on an 81-yard punt return, the second special teams score allowed by Georgia this year.

But unlike what happened in their earlier loss to South Carolina, Saturday's miscue did not cost Georgia the game, and if not for an off day by kicker Blair Walsh, the margin of difference would have been mch greater that it was.

Walsh missed a trio of field goals Saturday before nailing a 43-yarder for Georgia's only three points of the second half, making him just 4 for-10 on the year.

But despite the negatives, there were enough offensive bright spots that pleased the Bulldogs.

Freshman running back Isaiah Crowell enjoyed the most productive day of his young career from a yardage standpoint, rushing 30 times for 147 yards.

"I thought we moved the football up and down the field pretty much," said quarterback Aaron Murray, who completed 17 of 26 passes for 268 yards and one touchdown. "We got inside their 30 pretty much every time before stalling out. If Blair makes those field goals we score close to 40 points or high 30s. We do that, and everybody thinks we had a high-scoring game."

Not that the Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1) needed to score many against Ole Miss (1-3, 0-2), which rushed for just 34 yards and picked up just eight first downs.

Include the fact that Georgia recorded four sacks and picked off two passes - both by Bacarri Rambo - and the Bulldogs gave what Richt said may have been the defense's best overall effort in the past two years.

"That was very, very solid. They were only responsible for seven points on a little bit of a gadget play. Everything we had prepared for we did good job of executing," Richt said. "Our front is maturing, our linebackers are growing, we have DBs who have some ball skills and make plays when the opportunities arrive. We have the potential to be an outstanding defense."

It's been that kind of year for Ole Miss.

After taking the opening kickoff, the Rebels appeared to have dealt the Bulldogs an early blow when quarterback Zack Stoudt dumped the ball off to running back Jeff Scott who weaved his way through the Bulldog defense for an apparent 65-yard touchdown play.

But hold on - literally.

On the play, Ja-Mes Logan was called for holding nullifying the play before the drive was stopped on a sack by Cornelius Washington and Jarvis Jones.

Georgia started quickly after receiving the ensuing punt.

After a 20-yard run by Crowell on the first play from scrimmage, the Bulldogs moved inside the Rebel 20 before setting for a 36-yard field goal by Walsh.

The results were better from a Bulldog standpoint on their ensuing possession, a 53-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard dive by Murray for a 10-0 lead late in the first.

There was more to come.

Later in the second, the Rebels backed the Bulldogs up at their own 1-yard line but that didn't keep Georgia from driving the distance for its second touchdown of the game.

A 29-yard run by Crowell on a third-down from the 2, followed later by a 69-yard pass from Murray to Malcolm Mitchell gobbled up most of the yardage. Georgia eventually scored on a 2-yard pass to Orson Charles upped the lead to 17-0, although it took a third-down pass interference call on the previous play to make the touchdown possible.

The game took a crazy turn after that.

First, it was Ole Miss that finally scored its first points quarterback Randall Mackey took a pitch-back and threw 38 yards to a wide-open Donte Moncrief for the Rebels' first score.

Head coach Houston Nutt wasn't satisfied there.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Rebels successful converted an onside kick but after a sack of Mackey, the Bulldog defense was able withstand the shift in momentum when Rambo picked off his third pass of the year, returning the football 29 yards to the Ole Miss 47.

Three plays later, Georgia was in the end zone again when Murray found tight end Aron White, who eluded a would-be tackler around the 22 to complete a 35-yard touchdown pass that enabled the Bulldogs to push the margin to 24-7.

But special team mistakes cost Georgia again, this time allowing Nickolas Brassell to take a reverse handoff on punt before weaving his way 81 yards for the Rebels' touchdown.

The extra point failed when holder Chris Conley was tackled after a bad snap.

Georgia returns to action next week when the Bulldogs host Mississippi State beginning at noon.

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