Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dawgs Win!


Aron White tied a bowl record with two touchdown receptions to lead the Dawgs past Texas A&M, 44-20, in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl on Monday at Independence Stadium in front of a crowd of 49,653.

After the Aggies tied the game at 14-14 early in the third quarter, the Dawgs scored 30 unanswered points en route to posting its national-leading 13th-straight eight-win season at 8-5. The 44 points were a bowl record for the Dawgs eclipsing the previous high of 41 in the win over Hawaii in the 2008 Sugar Bowl, and the Dawg's six touchdowns matched the 1942 Orange Bowl champions who defeated Texas Christian, 40-26. The Dawgs improve to 2-0 in the Independence Bowl and move their all-time bowl record to 26-16-3 with their fourth-straight post-season victory. Texas A&M finishes its 2009 season at 6-7.

"I'm very, very proud of our team," said head coach Mark Richt, who improved to 7-2 in bowl games. "I'm very proud of our seniors. I'm very thankful for the job that they did. I'm so glad that we were able to send our seniors off with some true style. Also, I think we probably need to start out by saying what a fantastic job our defensive coaches did. Coach (Rodney) Garner leading the way with our young graduate assistant coaches Mitch Doolittle and Todd Hartley. Really, everybody on that side of the ball kind of moved up to the next level of coaching responsibility."

White was tabbed the Offensive Player of the Game as his two touchdown receptions, from 24 and two yards, matched a Dawg bowl record which had happened on three previous occasions, most recently by Fred Gibson in the 2004 Capital One Bowl. It also tied the Independence Bowl record for receiving touchdowns in game, which had also occurred three prior times.

Senior defensive tackle Geno Atkins was tabbed the Defensive Player of the Game. Atkins blocked a field goal with game scoreless in the second quarter, had three tackles including a six-yard sack and added a quarterback pressure.

Also a factor in the victory for the Dawgs was sophomore Brandon Boykin. While finishing the game third among the Dawgs with six tackles, Boykin's major impact came in the kick return game. In the second quarter after Texas A&M went up 7-0, Boykin provided an answer with an 81-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. It marked Boykin's third kickoff return for a score this season (two previous from 100 yards) which set a school-record and tied a Southeastern Conference record (Willie Gault, Tennessee, 1980).

For the second-straight game the Dawgs won the turnover battle with two interceptions versus Texas A&M's one interception. Senior quarterback Joe Cox, who completed 15-of-28 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns, had one pass picked off in the second quarter that did not lead to any points by the Aggies. The two picks of Aggie quarterback Jerrod Johnson came on back-to-back Texas A&M drives in the third quarter. The first was by redshirt freshman Sanders Commings on a fourth-and-one play from the UGA 23-yard line and it led to a Dawg punt. The second pick was by junior Reshad Jones with under a minute left in the quarter. Jones returned the interception 59 yards to set up a six-play, 28 yard drive that was capped by White's second touchdown and put UGA up 31-14.

Earlier in the third quarter, sophomore placekicker Blair Walsh snapped the 14-14 tie with a 49-yard field goal, the third-longest in Independence Bowl history. Then on Texas A&M's ensuing drive, a bad snap on a punt attempt gave the Dawgs the ball at the Texas A&M 24-yard line, and three plays and 27 seconds later, Cox connected with White for the first time.

The Dawgs carried a 14-7 lead into the half behind strong special teams play with the kickoff return for a touchdown, Atkins' blocked field goal and a blocked punt from redshirt freshman Bacarri Rambo. Atkins block of Randy Bullock's 50-yard field goal attempt was the second blocked field goal of the season for the Bulldogs with sophomore A.J. Green blocking one against Arizona State.

Texas A&M did score the first points of the game on a 15-yard pass from Johnson to Jamie McCoy later in the quarter before Boykin answered on the kickoff return. Rambo then provided the blocked punt of the Aggies' Ryan Epperson, which was the second blocked punt of the year for UGA (Zach Renner at Tennessee), and it was recovered by junior Vance Cuff at the two-yard line. The Dawgs would just need one play, a run from redshirt sophomore Caleb King to put up another seven points for the halftime edge.

"Our special teams really came up big," Richt said. "On kickoff return, Boykin broke a school record with his third kickoff return for a touchdown, and the blocked kicks were huge. Those plays in the first half really got us going and got us charged up. In the second half the offense kicked into gear and kind of finished it off for us. I'm very thankful to get this eighth victory and finish this season in good fashion."

King finished the game with 16 carries for 60 yards and two scores including a fourth-quarter touchdown that pushed the lead to 38-14. King's rushing effort was supported by freshman Washaun Ealey, who gained 78 yards on 13 carries, and junior fullback Shaun Chapas, who added 43 yards and five-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown on five carries.

Supporting White on the receiving front, sophomore flanker A.J. Green led the team with six receptions for 57 yards while senior split end Michael Moore and freshman tight end Orson Charles recorded two receptions each.

Aiding the Dawg's defensive effort, sophomore Marcus Dowtin recorded a team-best nine tackles and junior Rennie Curran posted eight stops. Jones and senior Prince Miller finished with five tackles each.

Texas A&M added the final points of the game in the final two minutes on a five-yard pass from Johnson to Howard Morrow

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