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UGA tailback Sony Michel 2nd half GA Southern game 21-Nov-2015 (Photo by Bulldawg Illustrated's Greg Poole)
UGA tailback Sony Michel
2nd half GA Southern game 21-Nov-2015
(Photo by Bulldawg Illustrated’s Greg Poole)
[su_spacer size=”40″] On a night when the Georgia Southern Eagles came to Sanford Stadium, weren’t intimidated in the least by the big state-brother Georgia Bulldogs and consequently went out and played the favored Dawgs toe-to-toe through four quarters of regulation Georgia, somehow, someway, still found a way to win the football game.
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Being taken into overtime by the Eagles − just in their second season of playing in the FBS ranks − with the score tied at 17-17, the Bulldogs (8-3) got key defensive stops from Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins on Georgia Southern’s first offensive series in the extra period, and then chalked up a stirring 23-17 victory on sophomore tailback Sony Michel’s 25-yard scoring run on Georgia’s first play of OT.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Fact of the matter, this game shouldn’t have been that close. However, the Bulldogs’ failure to cash in on several additional scoring opportunities in the first quarter, after Georgia had marched 61 yards for a touchdown on its opening possession, would enable the Eagles (7-3) to manage a 7-7 tie at halftime and then actually lead the Bulldogs on two occasions in the second half before Georgia got the game to overtime and then won it via the clutch defense and Michel’s game-winner.
[su_spacer size=”40″] As the Bulldogs now head for the flats on Saturday for the state championship battle with the 3-8 Yellow Jackets, let’s delve into the weekly Stats That Matter, figures that will readily illustrate why Georgia almost got more than it bargained for from the valiant underdog Eagles from Statesboro:
[su_spacer size=”40″] Plays of 20 plus yards (offense/defense)
[su_spacer size=”40″] In the opening half, Isaiah McKenzie had his 23-yard touchdown run on Georgia’s first possession and Greyson Lambert had passes of 24 yards to Jordan Davis and 27 yards to Malcolm Mitchell. In the second half and overtime, it was then the Sony Michel show as he broke runs of 23, 20 and 25 yards (game-winner) en route to his 132 yards total on 23 carries. Meantime, burning the UGA defense on the outside option, the Eagles reeled off runs of 48, 20 and 24 yards and also got a 28-yard pass from QB Kevin Ellison to receiver BJ Johnson. But, overall, the Georgia defense did its job by limiting Georgia Southern to 233 yards rushing, 145 yards below its FBS nation-leading 378 yards per game.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Untimely mistakes (turnovers, penalties, clock management miscues, etc)
[su_spacer size=”40″] The Bulldogs had an early false start and then near the end of the half, a block in the back on a short McKenzie punt return. A Mitchell fumble at the GSU 8-yard line following a first-down catch and run likely prevented the Bulldogs from a second touchdown in the first half, and McKenzie’s fumble on the jet sweep early in the third quarter was indeed costly as Eagles’ defensive back Caleb Williams scooped the ball up and raced 62 yards for the touchdown that put Georgia Southern up by 14-7. And, near the end of regulation with the Bulldogs attempting to maybe get in position for a Marshall Morgan field goal to win it, it was inexplicable why Georgia didn’t call a timeout to set up a deep shot downfield, rather than ending the game with Lambert attempting several short-yardage passes.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Special teams wins vs. miscues
[su_spacer size=”40″] Brice Ramsey boomed a 58-yard punt in the first quarter to back up the GSU offense at its own 1-yard line and Morgan had the 43-yard field goal in the final quarter to tie the game at 17, although he earlier missed one from 49 yards. The Bulldogs generally covered kicks well and, in fact, got the big turnover late in the third quarter when the Eagles muffed a Ramsey punt and wide receiver Kenneth Towns recovered the ball at the GSU 29-yard line. That set up a 12-yard touchdown pass from Lambert to Terry Godwin, which enabled the Bulldogs to tie the game at 14-14. For the game Ramsey averaged nearly 41 yards on five punts.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Missed Tackles
[su_spacer size=”40″] When you’re facing a potent triple-option offense that repeatedly tries to run the ball down your throat, there’s bound to be some whiffs on tackles and too many times, the Georgia defenders allowed the Eagle running backs and QBs to break away from the initial hits and convert first downs. But when the chips were down near the end of regulation and in the overtime, the Bulldogs proceeded to drop the Eagles in their tracks.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Yards after contact
[su_spacer size=”40″] Michel, with his 132-yard rushing night, was the only Georgia back who was able to pull away from the Georgia Southern defenders, who played exceptionally well in limiting the Bulldogs as a team to just 130 net rushing.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Turnovers (gained/lost)
[su_spacer size=”40″] Georgia lost the fumbles by Mitchell and McKenzie but Lambert didn’t throw any picks while completing 16-of-25 passes for 183 yards and the touchdown to Godwin. The Eagles had the costly fumbled punt and also had no interceptions but threw the ball only seven times, completing four for 44 yards.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Red Zone (offense/defense)
[su_spacer size=”40″] The Bulldogs scored on the Lambert-to-Godwin touchdown pass on their only trip inside the Eagles’ 20 while Georgia Southern hit paydirt only once on its three excursions inside the red zone.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Third down conversions
[su_spacer size=”40″] Another dismal evening for the Bulldogs in this category as they could convert on only two of 10 third-down opportunities. And the Eagles were only slightly better against the Georgia defense, making first downs on 6-of-16 third down tries.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Run/pass attempts (total plays)
[su_spacer size=”40″] Georgia ran the football 30 times for its 130 net rushing yards and, as mentioned, Lambert passed it 25 times and had the 16 completions for the 183 aerial yards. As expected, with their ball-hogging attack, the Eagles won the time of possession, keeping the ball for 32:45 minutes compared to the Bulldogs’ 27:15.
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Murray Poole is a 1965 graduate of the University of Georgia Journalism School. He served as sports editor of The Brunswick News for 40 years and has written for Bulldawg Illustrated the past 16 years. He has covered the Georgia Bulldogs for 53 years.