Sunday, September 21, 2008

No. 3 Georgia Rolls Over Arizona State

Tempe, Ariz. — Farther from Athens than it had been for a regular-season game in almost a half-century, Georgia’s football team looked quite at home Saturday night. Despite the 99-degree temperature at kickoff, the Dawgs built a 21-3 halftime lead behind freshman receiver A. J. Green and went on to a 27-10 victory over Arizona State in Sun Devil Stadium.

The win — Georgia’s most impressive of the season, given the geography and the opponent — boosted the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs' record to 4-0 heading into next Saturday’s showdown in Athens against also-unbeaten Alabama. The victory made Georgia 27-4 on opponent’s fields in eight years under coach Mark Richt, this victory coming on the Bulldogs’ most distant trip since a 1960 excursion to Los Angeles to play USC.

“We came a long way from home tonight,” Richt said, “and we played a very good game against a very good team.” Georgia players said afterward that the much-talked-about dry desert heat did not bother them, although the temperature dropped no lower than 96 during the game.

“It was not a factor at all,” offensive lineman Chris Davis said.

“It was hot but a different kind of heat [than in Athens],” tailback Knowshon Moreno said. “I felt like I could really breathe better in this.”

“Actually, it felt a whole lot cooler to me [than last week at South Carolina],” quarterback Matthew Stafford said.

The Bulldogs took command of the game in the first half behind a dazzling performance by Green, who Georgia coaches had said during the week needed to be utilized more often. He caught seven passes for 150 yards in the first half, fueling all three Georgia touchdown drives.

Green “changed this game for us,” Richt said.

For the game, Green had eight catches for 159 yards and one touchdown; Moreno carried 23 times for 149 yards and two touchdowns; and Stafford completed 16 of 28 passes for 285 yards and one touchdown. Georgia out-gained Arizona State by a more than 2-to-1 margin, 461 yards to 212. The one-dimensional Sun Devils were limited to four yards rushing. The win was Georgia’s 11th in a row, dating to last season, the second longest active winning streak in the country behind BYU’s 14 in a row. The victory came behind a reconfigured offensive line, with all five positions affected by a shakeup of the starting lineup. And it came despite a fourth consecutive game of heavy penalties (12 for 104 yards) against the Bulldogs.

After scoring just one touchdown against South Carolina the week before, Georgia scored three in the second quarter. Georgia’s first score, on the opening play of the quarter, came on the latest entry for the Moreno highlight reel: a 9-yard touchdown run on which he went airborne for the final four yards. That completed a 10-play, 91-yard drive that included passes of 30 and 13 yards to Green.

Later in the second quarter, after an Arizona State fumble was forced by Marcus Dowtin and recovered by Jeremy Lomax, a 29-yard Stafford-to-Green pass put Georgia at the Sun Devils’ 8. From there, Moreno carried twice - five yards on the first carry and three yards on the second.

After an Arizona State field goal trimmed the Bulldogs' lead to 14-3, Stafford-to-Green dominated Georgia’s next scoring drive. Back-to-back connections of 23 and 31 yards put the ball at the Arizona State 16. Two plays later, they connected yet again on a 14-yard touchdown pass with 1:49 left in the half. Georgia, 21-3.

“I got open, and I wanted them to get the ball to me,” Green said. “And they did.”

The Sun Devils briefly suggested they might make a game of it, driving down the field for a touchdown to open the second half. But that was the end of their scoring.

“Considering the team we played,” Richt said, “I’d have to say that was the most complete game for our team this year.”


Sources and Photo Credit: AP, Brant Sanderlin

No comments: