1:00 PM ET, October 25, 2003
Sanford Stadium, ATHENS, GA
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) -- Georgia got away with another one.
For the second week in a row, the Bulldogs (No. 5 ESPN/USA Today, No. 4 AP) struggled against a big underdog, needing Billy Bennett's third field goal with 12:57 remaining to beat UAB 16-13 on Saturday.
Now, it's time to get serious. Georgia (7-1) heads to Jacksonville next weekend for its annual showdown against No. 25 Florida, with 17th-ranked Auburn and greatly improved Georgia Tech also looming on the schedule.
"If we go out and play Florida like we did the last two games, we're going to be in for a long night -- a real long night," Georgia receiver Bryan McClendon said. "But it should be easier for us to get up for Florida."
A week earlier, the Bulldogs trailed Vanderbilt 2-0 at halftime before rallying for a 27-8 victory.
This time, Georgia was behind 13-10 late in the third quarter. Bennett tied it up with a 29-yard field goal, then connected from 31 yards to finally put the Bulldogs ahead for good.
For good measure, Bennett also became the leading scorer in school history with 355 points, surpassing Kevin Butler's mark of 353.
But there wasn't much more for Georgia to get excited about on this day.
"I don't think the team was real hyped up like we usually are," defensive tackle Ken Veal said. "But you can't use that as an excuse. You've got to come out and play."
Coach Mark Richt was hoarse when he arrived in the interview room.
"Maybe I'm doing more yelling than normal," he said, managing a smile.
Despite the lackluster showing, Georgia could move up a spot in the both The Associated Press rankings and BCS standings. Third-ranked Virginia Tech was upset by West Virginia on Wednesday night.
UAB (3-5), a 29-point underdog, played well for the second week in a row against a ranked team. The Blazers led No. 15 TCU 24-16 in the third quarter, but wound up losing 27-24 after quarterback Darrell Hackney sustained a season-ending thumb injury.
That forced UAB to give redshirt freshman Chris Williams his first college start against the nation's top-ranked defense. The youngster fared well, making no major mistakes and keeping the Blazers in the game.
"I am real proud of my players," UAB coach WatsonBrown said. "Our plan was to get into the fourth quarter and make the game as short as possible."
The Bulldogs had to make a late defensive stand to preserve their victory. Williams completed a 24-yard pass to Bradly Chavez to the Georgia 32, within range for Nick Hayes to attempt a tying field goal.
But a delay of game penalty backed up UAB, then Derrick White sacked Williams for an 11-yard loss. Under heavy pressure, Williams failed to complete his next two passes, giving the ball back to the Bulldogs with 1:54 remaining. They managed to run out the clock.
"We knew we had to stop 'em right there," said defensive end Quentin Moses, who had to step in when All-American David Pollack went down early in the game with a leg injury.
Following the script, Georgia jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead, only to have UAB tie it by halftime. The Blazers went ahead for the first time on Hayes' 47-yard field goal with 9:52 left in the third quarter.
Georgia made all sorts of mistakes. McClendon dropped an easy catch in the end zone, costing the Bulldogs a touchdown. Bennett missed a 30-yard field goal. David Greene threw two interceptions. The Bulldogs were called for two personal foul penalties.
The homecoming crowd was lackluster, too. The Georgia players had to resort to waving their arms late in the third quarter, bringing the fans to their feet.
"We love it when the crowd is real enthusiastic," Veal said. "That helps us. I don't know if they know that. We were like, 'Please get up for us."
But the Bulldogs managed to survive, a point that Greene stressed over and over.
"A win is a win. Never forget that," said Greene, who completed 20 of 33 passes for 221 yards. "When the team isn't playing well, the best thing you can do is fight it out and try to find a way to win. We haven't played well the last two weeks, but we still managed to fight and win."
At the start, it looked like a blowout. The Bulldogs marched right down the field on their first possession as Greene completed four straight passes, the last a 16-yard touchdown to Damien Gary. Bennett kicked a 48-yard field goal early in the second quarter to make it 10-0.
But UAB responded with an 18-play, 75-yard drive that consumed nearly 10 minutes of the second period. Theron Dudley scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to pull the Blazers within 10-7.
On the final play of the half, Hayes kicked a 27-yard field goal to tie it up.
In his first start, Williams was 12-of-21 for 97 yards, with one interception.
"Under the circumstances, I think we did a good job," linebacker Zac Woodfin said. "We fought our guts out today."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||5-15||9-16|
|4th Down Conversions||0-1||0-0|
|TD||10:10||DAMIEN GARY 16 YD PASS FROM DAVID GREENE (BILLY BENNETT KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 62 yards.
|FG||14:54||BILLY BENNETT 48 YD FG|
Drive info: 4 plays, 4 yards.
|TD||5:09||THERON DUDLEY 1 YD RUN (NICK HAYES KICK)|
Drive info: 18 plays, 75 yards.
|FG||0:00||NICK HAYES 27 YD FG|
Drive info: 10 plays, 44 yards.
|FG||9:52||NICK HAYES 47 YD FG|
Drive info: 4 plays, 7 yards.
|FG||3:31||BILLY BENNETT 29 YD FG|
Drive info: 13 plays, 69 yards.
|FG||12:57||BILLY BENNETT 31 YD FG|
Drive info: 7 plays, 38 yards.