December 28, 2009

Special teams, defense keys Dawg victory

Much was made regarding the impact Georgia's much-maligned defense would be able to make against Texas A&M in Monday's Independence Bowl.

Not only had the Bulldog D struggled creating big plays for virtually the entire season, but the fact Georgia would be without three fired defensive assistants, many thought Mark Richt's squad would be in for a long night against the high-powered Aggies, the top-ranked offensive team in the Big 12.

They were wrong.

Although Texas A&M was able to move the football with relative ease, some special team heroics and a couple of well-timed interceptions were enough to help carry the Bulldogs to a 44-20 win.

Trailing 14-7 at the half, Texas A&M (6-7) took the third-quarter kickoff and promptly drove 73 yards to tie the game, scoring on a 14-yard run by Christine Michael.

But the Bulldogs bounced right back.

Although Georgia (8-5) bogged down inside Aggie territory, Blair Walsh was able to put the Bulldogs up 17-14 on a 49-yard field goal, a drive which was sparked by a 33-yard screen pass from Joe Cox to Caleb King.

Georgia was just warming up.

Special teams were an issue for Texas A&M all season and were so again Monday night, first in the second quarter when a blocked punt let to a Georgia touchdown and again in the third when a high snap to punter Ryan Epperson resulted in the Bulldogs taking over at the Aggie 24-yard line.

Three plays later, Cox hit a wide-open Aron White on a 24-yard pass, extending the lead to 24-14.

That's when the Bulldog secondary helped take the Aggies out of the game.

First, it was Sanders Commings who stopped a drive when he picked off quarterback Jerrod Johnson at the Bulldog 11.

Early in the fourth it was safety Reshad Jones who returned an interception 55 yards to the A&M 32, a play that set up White's second touchdown, a 2-yard pass from Cox with 13:19 to play.

White wasn't the only player to find the end zone twice for Georgia.

Jones' pick set up King's second score - a 1-yard run - before fullback Shaun Chapas bulled in from 5-yards out late in the game to account for the final score.

Freshman Washaun Ealey led the Bulldog in rushing with 13 carries for 79 yards, followed by King with 16 rushes for 61 yards.

Cox's final game saw the senior complete 15 of 28 passes for 157 yards, two touchdowns and just one interception.

Touted Aggie quarterback Jerrod Johnson completed 29 of 58 passes for 360 yards and two touchdowns, including a meaningless 4-yard toss to Howard Morrow with 1:13 to play.

The first half was about as bizarre as any the Bulldogs have played all year.

Those expecting a shootout where about to be disappointed: In fact, the game was scoreless until late in the second quarter when Johnson hooked up with Terrence McCoy on a 15-yard scoring pass with 2:33 before half.

But the fun was just getting started.

Brandon Boykin returned the ensuing kickoff 81 yards for a score before the defense stopped Texas A&M on its next possession forcing a punt.

The kick never got off.

Redshirt freshman Bacarri Rambo found his way straight to Epperson, blocking the punt which was recovered by Vance Cuff at the 2-yard line.

On the next play, King bulled in for the score and a 14-7 halftime lead.

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