If there have been two drives that have meant more to Georgia's season thus far in 2008, one would be hard-pressed to find any more important than these two particular series during Saturday's 26-14 win over Tennessee.
Leading by a scant 13-7 score with 2:17 left in the first half, a misplay off a kickoff by freshman Richard Samuel had the Bulldogs backed up at their 3-yard line when quarterback Matthew Stafford found Knowshon Moreno open for a 12-yard gain on third down to get the ball back out to the 20.
Breathing room, yes, but the Bulldogs weren't satisfied with the status quo and after Tennessee safety Demetrice Morely leveled a helmet-to-helmet personal foul wallop on Mohamed Massaquoi during a 12-yard reception, the Bulldogs suddenly found themselves down at the Georgia 48-yard line with half a minute to go.
A second personal foul following a 17-yard catch by Demiko Goodman then moved the ball to the 16 before Stafford found a wide-open Massaquoi for a 20-7 halftime lead.
"In that situation (at the 3-yard line) I'm still looking to try and score," Stafford said. "That's how I look at every drive. That one was no different and it came during a big point in the game."
But with it was a fourth-quarter monster drive in the fourth quarter that essentially enabled Georgia to ice the game when the Bulldogs took 10:55 to drive 76 yards on 17 plays before settling for a 28-yard field goal by Blair Walsh with 2:49 left to play.
"That was big for us. They knew we were going to run it; we knew we were going to run it," Richt said. "We were just trying to get first downs and keep our defense off the field to limit their chances of coming back. I challenged the guys up front, and they did a good job of making it happen."
Georgia, which picked up five of its 29 first downs during the drive, ran eight of their 17 plays off left guard and right tackle.
Dawgs suffer another huge injury
The news does not appear good for junior left tackle Vince Vance, who Richt said appeared to suffer a season-ending injury to his right knee in the first half.
In Vance's absence, sophomore Clint Boling slid over to left tackle for the first time in his career with true freshmanCordy Glenn going to right guard.
After the game, Richt suggested that redshirt sophomore Kiante Tripp may have to move back to the offensive line, but said he wanted to see what the league rules were for allowing a player to play two different offensive positions in the same game. Tripp was moved to tight end two weeks ago following the shoulder injury by Tripp Chandler.
Figgins still unsure as to plans
Tight end Bruce Figgins didn't sound all too sure about whether he will go through with his season-ending shoulder surgery after all.
Originally, plans were for Figgins to have an operation on his torn labrum soon after Saturday's game. If Figgins elects not to have surgery, it would negate any opportunity he would have of getting a medical redshirt for 2008.
"I don't know," Figgins said. "We're going to weigh out the pros and cons of the situation. That will all happen (Sunday)."
Vance's injury could affect Figgins' decision, especially if the Bulldogs need Tripp to move back to tackle, which would leave Aron White as the only other tight end.
"With a torn labrum it gives me limited motion and it's not as strong," Figgins said. "I'm wearing two harnesses and I'm getting my strength back, but the main thing is getting my mind playing like I'm not hurt."
Penalties bite Dawgs again
So much for Georgia's two-week focus on finding ways to eliminate excessive penalties.
The Bulldogs were flagged 11 times for 76 yards, right about at their average through their first six games in 2008.
"There were a couple of times we helped them along, a couple of drives with penalties again, unfortunately," Richt said. "The boys are going to get a little worn out on Monday. Maybe it will slow down sooner or later."
Defensive end Demarcus Dobbs is already dreading what lies in store. Last week, Richt said that if the team hurt itself with penalties against Tennessee, the entire team would suffer the consequences.
"I don't know what he's going to do, but I know he's going to bring it out Monday," Dobbs said. "It's going to be a surprise. I know I'm not going to like it."
Referees blow second-quarter call
Richt didn't say it, but further investigation showed that the officials blew a second-quarter call which would have given Georgia a first-and-goal inside the Tennessee 5-yard lie.
It was early in the second quarter at the Vol 6-yard line when Stafford lobbed a third-down pass to Massaquoi, only to have the Tennessee defensive back get flagged for defensive holding.
But instead of an automatic first down, the ball was marked half the distance to the goal line at the 3. A subsequent lob to A.J. Green fell incomplete forcing the Bulldogs to settle for a 20-yard field goal by Walsh.
Former longtime SEC official Bobby Towns confirmed the missed call to UGASports after the game.
Richt said he did not argue the call because in the heat of the moment he was not aware what the rule actually was.
"Holding is not an automatic first down, but if you hold an eligible receiver, it is," Richt said. "All I can say is this, if I was on the ball, I could have ran out on the field and asked the right question at the right time. I wasn't certain of the rule so I just kind of sat there and watched it happen. It makes me want to go read my playbook a little bit better."
Walsh comes through despite illness
It turns out Walsh's four field-goal effort was a lot more impressive than originally thought.
According to Richt, the freshman kicker had to be taken to the student health center Saturday morning for IVs and also for medication to treat migraines.
"He had a migraine going on, he was very nauseous," Richt said. "But he came through. "
The four-field goal effort was the first of Walsh's career.
"It's cool to look up at the scoreboard, see you won 26-14 and those were your field goals," Walsh said. "But I've got to give credit to my line. We just did a beautiful job."
This and that
Georgia should learn sometimes this morning whether Saturday's game against Vanderbilt will be start at 12:30 (Raycom) or at 8 p.m. (ESPN).
Moreno's 101-yard effort marked the ninth time he has rushed for at least 100 yards.
Along with Chandler, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (knee) and wide receiver Kris Durham (shoulder) did not play.
Defensive end Roderick Battle returned to action after a neck injury caused him to miss Georgia's last three games.
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