November 28, 2010

Dawgs breathe a sigh of relief

In the end, no words were necessary. Just one huge sigh of relief.

Those were the thoughts of quarterback Aaron Murray, appearing both physically and mentally drained after Georgia outlasted arch-rival Georgia Tech at Sanford Stadium 42-34 to become bowl eligible for the 14th straight year.

"I'm just glad we won," said Murray, who completed 15-of-19 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns in Saturday's win. "But wow, it wasn't easy."

Murray wasn't kidding about that.

Georgia Tech gave the Bulldogs (6-6) all they could handle and then some as it took some last-minute defensive heroics to enable Georgia to beat the Yellow Jackets for the second straight season.

Leading 35-34 after Tech kicker Scott Blair missed an extra point that would have tied the game, Georgia drove to Yellow Jacket 23 before stalling on fourth down. Following a timeout with 2:57 left, Georgia went for the first down but came up short after a bad exchange which forced Murray to fall on the ball.

Needing just a field goal for a potential win, Georgia Tech lost six yards on three plays before a fourth down pass fell incomplete giving Georgia back the ball with 1:38 to play.

However, Georgia wasn't able to start its celebration quite yet.

Following a team rush of minus two yards, the Yellow Jackets allowed Washaun Ealey to score from 20 yards out, making the score 42-34, a play that pushed the lead to eight but left Georgia Tech in position to try and tie the game with 1:22 left.

Once again, the crowd of 92,746 was forced to sweat it out until Justin Houston[ intercepted Tevin Washington at the Bulldog 37 to end the game. Although nothing has been confirmed, late word Saturday had the Bulldogs headed to Memphis, Tenn. to play in the Liberty Bowl scheduled for New Year's Eve.

Head coach Mark Richt said the Bulldogs are not expected to officially learn their destination until after the BCS Bowls are announced.

"It would have been sickening to be 5-7 right now and not have a chance, and it just be over. That would have been tough so I'm glad we're not dealing with that right now," Richt said. "But I think it is important that we evened our record, I think it's important that we're going to a bowl game and get the 15 practices but by far our main motivation wasto beat Georgia Tech. That was No. 1. No. 2, was our seniors and trying to allow them to finish their last time in Sanford Stadium with a victory and allow them to be excited with a victory in the locker room, which we did."

Georgia Tech, which is thought to be headed toward the Independence Bowl, ends the regular season at 6-6.

"That one was a heartbreaker. Our guys played their guts out and I'm proud of them," Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "We just put it on the ground too many times. It's tough because we could have won if we don't turn the ball over like that. I don't know if they can stop us if that doesn't happen."

Johnson may have been right.

Georgia Tech gobbled up 411 yards of rushing offense on 77 attempts, led by fullback Anthony Allen who rushed 29 times for 166 yards.

Trailing 21-14 at the half, it didn't take Georgia Tech long to tie the game.

After a 44-yard pass from Washington to Stephen Hill, the Jackets - who rushed for 224 yards in the first half - went back to the ground, eventually scoring on a 19-yard run by Embry Peeples to tie the game.

What followed left fans from both sides pulling out their hair.

In a span of three minutes, both Georgia and Georgia Tech traded fumbles, the latter of which was recovered by linebacker Akeem Dent to set up the go-ahead score, which Ealey punched on fourth down from 1-yard out.

Moments later, Dent and Houston gave Georgia the break it had been hoping for.

With Georgia Tech facing a second-10 from the 21, Washington pitched to Roddy Jones who was hit by Dent just as the ball arrived. Houston, meanwhile, was Johnny on the spot as he picked up the bouncing ball and rumbled 19 yards to the endzone extending the Bulldogs' lead to 35-21.

But nothing has come easy for the Bulldogs all year.

Following a 1-yard touchdown run by Washington early in the fourth, Tech's defense came up with an ensuing stop giving its offense another shot which Allen converted with an 8-yard run.

The game got off to an inauspicios start from a Georgia perspective when Scott Blair pooched the opening kick in the direction of up-back Shaun Chapas who had the ball bounce off his shoulder pad into the hands of Julian Burnett[/db at the Bulldog 27.

But Georgia's defense would respond.

Three straight runs netted eight yards before a fourth-down attempt was stuffed by [db]Darryl Gamble, who stuffed Orwin Smith for no gain.

Georgia's defense would make another key play later in the quarter.

With Tech driving, safety Bacarri Rambo put a hit on Smith who fumbled with Brandon Boykin recovering at the 5-yard line.

This time Georgia's offense would have an answer of its own.

Following passes of 22 and 7 yards to A.J. Green, Murray threw a short screen to Kris Durham who cut left, found a seam and out-ran the coverage to complete a 66-yard score, the longest of his career.

Later in the quarter, the lead grew to 14-0 on a 32-yard pass to Charles and Georgia appeared to be well on its way to an easy victory over its arch rival.

But Tech apparently wasn't ready to call it a night.

The Yellow Jackets' option attack found its gear and gashed the Bulldogs on two straight drives, scoring first on a 2-yard run by Washington and again on a 12- yard run by Jones with 2:05 left in the half.

Fortunately for Georgia, that was more than enough time for the Bulldogs to answer, first getting a 34-yard from Ealey to set up Murray's third touchdown pass of the first half, a 3-yard throw to tight end Bruce Figgins.

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