September 19, 2009

Dawgs get offensive against Hogs

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - So this is what football is like in the WAC?

No doubt Georgia coach Mark Richt had to be wondering the same after the Bulldogs used a record-tying night by quarterback Joe Cox to outlast Arkansas Saturday night 52-41.

"We've been finding a way to keep them really exciting lately," Richt said. "I'm just very thankful for the victory and I'm very thankful for the heart and soul of this football team, but we must start making some improvements here pretty quick or else it's going to catch up with us."

Richt could certainly find nothing ill to say about Cox, who last week conceded to having a chronic shoulder issue, certainly showed no ill effects against the Razorbacks (1-1, 0-1) as he completed 18 of 36 passes for 375 yards and five touchdowns to tie the school mark shared by Matt Stafford (Georgia Tech, 2008), D.J. Shockley (Boise State, 2005) and David Greene (LSU, 2004).

Two of Cox's touchdown passes went to sophomore wideout A.J. Green, who caught seven for 137 and scored on tosses of 25 and 28 yards.

"We were having a tough time stopping them and we knew as an offense we had to put points on the board and counter everything they did," Cox said. "I think we did a very good job of that."

Cox wasn't kidding.

Georgia (2-1, 2-0) piled up 530 yards of offense, an effort that also included a big night from running back Richard Samuel who led all rusher for 16 carries for 104 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown run.

"The line blocked perfect on that play," Samuel said. "I just had to make something happen."

Defensively, Georgia once again had its issues.

Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett enjoyed a record-breaking effort of his own, completing 21-of-39 passes for 408 yards and five touchdowns, breaking the old Razorback mark of 387 yards set against Clint Stoerner against LSU in 1997.

Points came at a dizzying pace.

Trailing 27-21 at the half, Arkansas regained lead early in the third quarter on Mallett's fourth down pass, a 39-yard touchdown strike to Greg Childs, who also had a 30-yard grab for six in the first quarter.

But if anyone for one second believed this would be all the scoring for the night, they were sadly mistaken.

The teams swapped three more scores, first when Cox hooked up with Tavarres King on a 50-yard bomb and later on a 44-yard strike to Orson Charles which were sandwiched around Mallett's fifth touchdown pass, a 2-yarder to fullback D.J. Williams.

But even after Georgia held a 42-35 lead after Green caught the two-point conversion following Charles' grab, this one was far from over.

The Cox to Green combo hooked up again in the fourth, this time from 24 yards out, kept Georgia ahead while the Razorbacks were forced to settle for a pair of 23-yard field goals by Alex Tejada.

To the defense's credit, Georgia managed to toughen up when it needed to the most.

After surrendering touchdowns in five of Arkansas' first 11 possessions, the Bulldog forced two field goals and one punt the final three times the Razorbacks held the ball and allowed Blair Walsh to kick a 31-yard field goal with 2:16 left to account for the final score.

"The only game I can remember which was similar to that was years ago when I was at Florida State and we played Maryland," Richt said. "We went shotgun, no-huddle and I think we had 700 yards and they had 500. It was nuts."

So was Saturday night's contest.

The first quarter could not have been much worse from a Georgia perspective as the Razorbacks turned a couple of turnovers into two quick touchdowns en route to taking a 20-10 lead.

First it was Prince Miller, whose fumbled punt after the defense stopped Arkansas on its opening possession set up an 18-yard touchdown pass from Mallett to Joe Adams for a quick 7-0 lead.

The Bulldogs answered right back, scoring on a 23-yard scoring strike from Cox to Aron White before Cobi Hamilton returned the ensuing kick 50 yards to the Bulldog 47.

Mallett went right to work from there, hitting receiver Jarius Wright who blew right through the Georgia secondary straight down the middle of the field to put the Razorbacks right back in front.

Georgia did manage to stop Arkansas on its next possession when defensive Demarcus Dobbs forced a fumble that Rennie Curran recovered on the Razorback 41.

That put Walsh in position to convert a 35-yard field goal to bring the Bulldogs within 14-10.

Georgia's problems continued.

After forcing a punt, Samuel promptly dropped the football and on the very next play Childs made an outstanding diving catch in the end zone to haul in Mallett's third touchdown pass as the first quarter neared its end.

The second quarter was more to Georgia's liking and Samuel was able to make quick amends.

With the sellout crowd of 74,210 roaring its approval, Arkansas appeared to have the Bulldogs in a really bad way following a holding call on first down putting Georgia back at its 20.

All that did was give Samuel extra room to run as the sophomore took a handoff from Cox and shot through the right side 80 yards for the score.

It was the longest touchdown run by a Bulldog since Robert Edwards went 80 yards against Kentucky in 1997.

Georgia wasn't done.

After forcing a third Arkansas punt, the Bulldogs methodically drove from its 25 to the Arkansas 31 until the drive bogged down bringing up a fourth-and-2.

However, the Bulldogs had no intention of settling for a field goal this time.

Cox made Richt look like a genius when he picked up the first down on a 6-yard pass to Mike Moore and on the next play found Green in the middle of the Razorback zone. Green caught the ball on about the 15 and bounced off safety Tramain Thomas to complete the 25-yard scoring play.

Georgia almost caught a major break later in the quarter when Reshad Jones lay a vicious hit on Childs, who initially appeared to fumble into the hands of Vance Cuff who returned the ball about 40 yards for an apparent score.

However, replays showed that the pass was incomplete but even with 50 seconds left in the half that was still plenty of time for Cox.

The senior completed passes of 20 yards to Moore and 28 to Green, setting up Walsh to drilled a 37-yard field goal to send Georgia into the lockerroom up 27-21.

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