ATHENS, Ga. (AP) -- David Greene saw the game slipping away. His left thumb was hurting, but he wanted to go back in.
Good thing for Georgia that he did.
After leading the Bulldogs (No. 7 ESPN/USA Today, No. 8 AP) to an early lead over Georgia Tech, Greene returned at the end with a fractured thumb to make sure Georgia held on for a 19-13 victory Saturday.
"I felt the momentum slipping," said Greene, who guided the Bulldogs to a crucial field goal late in the game. "I took my coat off. I took the brace off my thumb. If anything, I just wanted to give us a little spark."
Greene was hurt on Georgia's first series, fracturing the tip of the thumb on his throwing hand just before he tossed a 28-yard touchdown pass to Fred Gibson. The senior quarterback played one more series before heading to the sideline, apparently to sit out
the rest of the game.
Not so fast.
With just over seven minutes remaining and the Bulldogs (9-2) struggling to preserve their fourth straight win over the Yellow Jackets, Greene trotted back on the field. He couldn't make any deep throws, and he worked only out of the shotgun to lessen the
pain when taking the snap.
But the mere presence of Greene -- the winningest quarterback in major-college history -- seemed to have a calming influence on the offense, which struggled through most of the second half with backup D.J. Shockley at the helm.
Greene completed a couple passes on a 40-yard drive that set up Brandon Coutu's first career field goal, a 44-yarder with 2:22 left.
"Greene wasn't at his best physically, but he was at his best in the leadership role and leading us to that last field goal," coach Mark Richt said. "Without it, we're probably still playing right now."
Indeed, Georgia Tech (6-5) gave the Bulldogs quite a scare when Reggie Ball threw a 38-yard pass to Levon Thomas, who split four defenders to haul in the ball at the Georgia 21.
After completing a pass for no gain, Ball was sacked for an 11-yard loss by Quentin Moses. At that point, the Yellow Jackets lost track of the downs.
Ball raced up to the line to spike the ball, stopping the clock but leaving Georgia Tech with fourth-and-21. On the next play, he rolled right under heavy pressure and just lofted the ball out of bounds to avoid the sack.
"The scoreboard said one thing, the refs said another," Ball said. "When you've got a game that close, you've got to expect a little home cooking. You've got to fight through it."
The Yellow Jackets looked stunned when the official signaled a first down going the other way. The offense slowly walked off the field, and Georgia took a knee to end the game, which was played in miserable conditions.
"It told (the referee) it was third down, why are we getting off the field?" Ball said. "It's irrelevant. The game is over."
With temperatures in the 40s, a heavy rain fell through most of the first half, sending many of the fans home at halftime.
But Greene had no complaints about his last game at Sanford Stadium. He played enough to become the Southeastern Conference leader in career yards passing, surpassing Peyton Manning.
Greene now has 11,264 yards with a bowl game still to go after completing 6-of-12 for 80 against the Yellow Jackets.
"I was sitting there thinking, 'This is the last game he's going to play in this stadium. Who am I to keep him out?'" Richt said. "So I let him go back in."
Georgia is expected to play in either the Cotton or Outback Bowl on New Year's Day, while Georgia Tech may get into the Champs Sports Bowl even with the loss. Virginia can't play in Orlando's second bowl because it conflicts with exams.
Georgia Tech had superb field position throughout the third quarter. Georgia was held to minus-15 yards and the Yellow Jackets didn't run any plays from their side of the field.
Rotating Ball and Damarius Bilbo at quarterback on each possession, the Yellow Jackets cut the deficit on P.J. Daniels' 1-yard touchdown run and a pair of field goals by Travis Bell. But they couldn't run with much success (24 yards on 35 carries) and failed to convert four times on fourth down -- twice in the final 7:11.
Georgia didn't do much better offensively. Shockley was 5-of-16 for 112 yards, and the Bulldogs managed only 34 yards on the ground.
At least Georgia Tech made it close at the end this time. The Bulldogs won the last three years by an average margin of 25 points.
They appeared to be cruising to another blowout when Andy Bailey kicked a 36-yard field goal and Shockley threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Brown in the second quarter.
In the end, Georgia was happy just to hang on.
"I know it wasn't pretty," Richt said. "There's all kinds of things that we're not pleased with. But in a day or two, we'll probably realize this was a great victory."