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September 20, 2008
Dawgs heat up the desert
Georgia coach Mark Richt said something after Saturday night's game against Arizona State that he hadn't been able to say yet this year.TEMPE, Ariz. –
For once, he felt his Bulldogs played a relatively complete game.
As a result, third-ranked Georgia had little trouble with the Sun Devils, easing to a 27-10 before a sellout crowd of 72,955.
"I'd have to go back and look at the film, but yeah, I'd have to say that's the most complete game that we've played," Richt said. "We've got a great opportunity against (No. 9) Alabama next week, it's the last game in a five-game stretch before we have an open date so we need to suck it up and get ready for that game because they are very, very hot as everyone can see."
At least Richt and his Bulldogs (4-0) can enjoy Saturday's victory for the five-hour plane ride home. There was certainly plenty to feel good about.
Offensively, Georgia hit the Sun Devils with arguably their most balanced attack of the year, getting a 23-carry, 153-yard effort by running back Knowshon Moreno, who scored two first-half touchdowns on runs of 9 and 3 yards, while quarterback Matthew Stafford enjoyed another solid outing, completing 16-of-28 passes for a career-high 285 yards and one touchdown, a 14-yarder to freshman wideoutA.J. Green.
Speaking of Green, the freshman wunderkind who was predicted to give the Bulldogs an immediate boost at the receiver position did just that as he caught eight passes for 159 yards, the first Bulldog receiver to go over the 100-yard mark since Kenneth Harris against Mississippi State in 2006.
"A.J. had a very nice game and he benefited from some of the coverages that they were playing, where they tend to play a soft form of coverage to the wide side of the field," Richt said. "It's kind of the way they've been doing it for years and A.J. was able to take advantage of it."
Trailing 21-3 at the half, Arizona State received the third-quarter kickoff and promptly drove 65 yards, scoring when ASU quarterback Rudy Carpenter hit a wide-open Andrew Pettes who caught the ball with no defender within 20 yards and walked in for the Sun Devils cutting the Bulldogs' advantage to 11.
But the Sun Devils would get no closer.
Blair Walsh pushed the margin to 14 at 24-10 on a 29-yard field goal with 2:54 in the third and later added a 22-yarder in the fourth to account for the final score, although Georgia did end the game at the ASU 1-yard line before time ran out.
This wasn't the same Bulldog team that scuffled offensively last week against South Carolina.
After a slow start failing to score on its first two possessions, the Bulldogs drove 91 yards on their third attempt with the ball, scoring a fabulous 8-yard run by Moreno, who hurdled the final four yards into the end zone on the first play of the second quarter.
The momentum was just beginning to build for the Bulldogs. Although Georgia could not take advantage of a blocked punt by walk-on Zach Renner when Walsh had a 54-yard field goal attempt glance off the left upright, a forced fumble by
Marcus Dowtin set Georgia up again, this time at ASU's 46-yard line.
This time, the Bulldogs didn't let the opportunity slip by. Following a 29-yard completion from Stafford to Green to the 8, it just took Moreno two times to score, getting a nice block from
Chris Davis to punch it in the end zone from 4-yards out.
"We had some opportunities in that football game early, but when you get a punt blocked and you have two fumbles there early, you just can't beat a team like that," ASU coach Dennis Erickson said. "That's something we've got to do a better job with."
Arizona State finally got on the board, thanks largely to a pair of personal foul penalties on Georgia, which allowed Thomas Weber to kick a 25-yard field goal.
The Sun Devils' Gold Out turned Green during Georgia's ensuing possession.
Following a 30-yard kickoff return by Brown, the Bulldogs only had 2:30 before halftime but that was plenty of time for Stafford who connected on passes of 23 and 31 yards to Green, the latter a spectacular leaping grab between two defenders down to the ASU 16.
Three plays later, Stafford tossed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Green, who finished the first half with seven grabs for 150 yards.
Carpenter finished with 208 yards passing on 23-of-36 attempts and the one touchdown, but the Sun Devils managed just 4 yards rushing on 19 attempts. Georgia also sacked Carpenter four times for losses of 25 yards.
"I was very proud of our defense. I don't know how many times we sacked him, but we pressured him pretty good and disturbed him quite a few times," Richt said. "We did get him to the ground more times than we've been getting guys to the ground this year. We did miss a couple of open-field tackles which is concerning, but we held an outstanding football team to 10 points. I think that's a pretty good day."