9:00 PM ET, September 30, 2006
Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, OXFORD, MS
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) -- All the focus this week has been on who will start at quarterback for No. 10 Georgia.
As it turns out, the equally difficult choice of a starting tailback made the difference as the Bulldogs came from behind for the second straight week Saturday to beat Mississippi 14-9. Kregg Lumpkin ran for 101 yards and Matthew Stafford directed two second-half touchdown drives as Georgia improved to 21-2 on the road in five years under coach Mark Richt.
"I was definitely proud of him," Richt said of Lumpkin after his first 100-yard game.
Neither Stafford nor starter Joe Cox, both freshmen, had much of an impact on the Rebels. But good field position and a strong second-half performance by Lumpkin helped the Bulldogs (5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) remain undefeated as they prepare to face No. 15 Tennessee next week in Athens.
Junior quarterback Joe Tereshinski returns to the mix this week after recovering from a sprained, giving Richt another hard decision to make.
"Everybody's expecting at least 25 or 30 a game," Stafford said after completing 7 of 18 passes for 92 yards. "It's not happening, but I know and the team knows that we're giving it all we've got."
A week after Cox replaced Stafford and capped two second-half touchdown drives with scoring passes in a 14-13 victory over Colorado, Lumpkin sparked the Georgia rally. He rushed for 81 yards in the second half and fullback Brannan Southerland had two 1-yard touchdowns to secure the win. Stafford had key plays on each drive after taking the team over for good in the second half.
It was the fourth straight loss for the Rebels (1-4, 0-2), who are off to their worst start since 1987 when they began 1-5. Ole Miss has lost eight of its last nine.
Cox and Stafford combined to complete 5 of 15 passes for 30 yards in the first half. The offense's best field position was the Ole Miss 47 and the Bulldogs managed just 66 yards of total offense.
Richt trotted out what is becoming a familiar refrain at halftime and the Bulldogs responded. Thomas Brown opened the second half with a 46-yard kickoff return that gave Georgia the ball at its 46 and Lumpkin went to work.
The junior tailback rushed for 46 yards on five carries on the opening drive, including a 23-yarder on fourth-and-inches. And Stafford kept the drive alive with an 8-yard scramble on third down to set up Southerland's first 1-yard TD run with 10:58 left in the third quarter.
Two series later, the Bulldogs took over at the 50 after a short punt and Lumpkin got the team rolling with a 16-yard run on first down. Two plays later, Stafford hit Demiko Goodman with a 33-yard pass to Ole Miss' 2 and Southerland punched it in on two straight 1-yard dive plays.
Stafford played the entire second half. He didn't turn the ball over, but he struggled as much as Cox did. Neither freshman played well enough to remove the questions that surround the Bulldogs' quarterbacks.
"I don't think it's one person," Southerland said. "I don't think it's the offense. I don't think it's the defense. It's as a team. We've just got to put a little more pressure on the team."
Ole Miss went up 3-0 in the first half after Cassius Vaughn blocked a punt deep in Georgia territory. But the Rebels had little offense in the game beyond BenJarvus Green-Ellis' 135 rushing yards, including 80 on 14 carries in the first half.
McCluster nearly fumbled the ball out of the end zone before crossing the goal line, but the score was upheld on review and the Rebels failed on a two-point conversion.
Georgia's Paul Oliver ended a late drive by Ole Miss with an interception to seal the win.
Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron said he felt like the once passive Rebels were a few play away from an upset.
"I think my team outplayed Georgia and I think my coaching staff did a great job," Orgeron said. "There is no second place, I understand that. But from where our team is, I'm really proud of the way we practiced and I'm really proud of the way we played tonight. I think it's something we need to build on."
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... In the third quarter. Georgia barely made a peep in the first half, but scored early in the third quarter to grab the lead, 7-3.
Gameball goes to... Georgia's running backs. Kregg Lumpkin did the dirty work (13 carries, 100 yards) and Brannan Southerland put points on the board (2 TDs, 14 yds).
Stat of the game... 39: How badly do the Dawgs need a QB? Joe Cox and Matthew Stafford combined for just 117 yards, no TDs and completed just 39% of their passes.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||4-15||2-11|
|4th Down Conversions||1-1||0-1|
|FG||4:12||JOSHUA SHENE 23 YD FG|
Drive info: 4 plays, 4 yards.
|TD||10:58||BRANNAN SOUTHERLAND 1 YD RUN (BRANDON COUTU KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 54 yards.
|TD||14:01||BRANNAN SOUTHERLAND 1 YD RUN (BRANDON COUTU KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 50 yards.
|TD||6:17||DEXTER MCCLUSTER 49 YD PASS FROM BRENT SCHAEFFER (FAILED 2PT PASS)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 80 yards.