Sophomore running back Sony Michel ran untouched for a 25-yard touchdown on Georgia’s first play of overtime to give UGA (8-3,5-1) a 23-17 victory over Georgia Southern (7-3, 5-1) in Sanford Stadium on Saturday night.
The game served as senior night and the final regular season home game for the Bulldogs. Additionally, Que was named Uga X in a passing of the collar ceremony during pre-game festivities.
Symbolic to the night, it was several seniors who stepped up big when it mattered. Senior linebackers Jake Ganus and Jordan Jenkins both made crucial stops in the first-half of the overtime period to stop the Eagles from putting any points on the board in extra time.
Michel rumbled his way to 132 total yards on the ground on 23 carries along with one touchdown. Quarterback Greyson Lambert finished 16 of 25 through the air with 183 yards and one touchdown. Senior wide receiver Malcolm Mitchel hauled in five catches for 73 yards to lead the UGA receiving unit. The Bulldogs held the Eagles to just 277 total yards on the game.
“A lot of really good things happened, but the turnovers really hurt us,” head coach Mark Richt said after the game. “We got the touchdown on our first drive and then turned it over when it looked like we might go up 10-0 or 14-0. Then early in the second half, we had it in really good shape and we fumbled and they scooped and scored to go ahead. All of a sudden, we had to really get after it. We kept our poise and our composure and kept doing our jobs until the very end. I was proud of the way we finished. The defense stoned them in overtime. We got the stop on fourth down and that allowed us to get it in the end zone and finish it.”
Georgia came out of the gates ready to play, scoring on its first drive. Wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie took an end around 23 yards to the house to put the Bulldogs up 7-0 just under four minutes into the game.
Neither team was able to find its groove offensively for over a quarter until Georgia Southern found its way onto the scoreboard via a one-yard plunge from running back L. A. Ramsby. The Eagles struck again on a 62-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown, but the Bulldogs answered with a touchdown of their own on a 12-yard pass from Lambert to Terry Godwin in the corner of the endzone.
Both squads traded field goals and were content with heading to an overtime period. Several stout defensive plays by Leonard Floyd left Georgia Southern with a fourth and one near its own 10-yard line. Ganus and Jenkins stepped up when it mattered most and stuffed the Eagles behind the line of scrimmage. Michel took the Bulldogs’ first play of overtime 25 yards for the score to secure the win for UGA.
The Bulldogs return to action next Saturday for their final regular season game of the year in their annual battle against Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia. The game time and broadcasting network will be announced later this week.
*Overtime Victory: With today’s 23-17 victory in OT over the Eagles, the Bulldogs are now 7-5 in overtime games including 1-1 at Sanford Stadium. Georgia won the OT toss and elected to play defense first. GSU ran four plays for six yards and turned it over on downs on a 4th 1. Then, UGA’s Sony Michel gave the Bulldogs a 23-17 win with a 25-yard touchdown scamper. He finished with 132 yards on 23 carries. The only other OT game here came in 2014 versus Ga. Tech (30-24). Michel’s 25-yard TD run in OT tied the Bulldog mark for longest one in OT, matching Todd Gurley’s game-winner in 2013 at Tech as Georgia would post a 41-34 victory in double OT that day. In the series history with GSU, the Bulldogs are now 6-0.
*Defense Defends The Option: GSU finished the game with 233 yards on 53 carries, and the Eagles came into the game averaging a national-leading 378.9 rushing yards/game. The Eagles wound up with 277 yards of total offense. GSU managed just 11 yards on eight carries (1.8 avg.) in the opening quarter and had 136 in the first half. Quarterback Favian Upshaw had 48 yards of that on his opening carry of the second quarter.
*A Trio With Double Digit Tackles: Senior linebacker Jordan Jenkins and junior linebacker Leonard Floyd each posted a career-high in tackles as Jenkins tallied 13, Floyd had 12 and senior linebacker Jake Ganus added 10. Jenkins and Floyd made the tackle on the 4th-and-1 in overtime that resulted in a three-yard loss of L.A. Ramsby.
*McKenzie Puts Dogs On The Board: Sophomore Isaiah McKenzie ran in from 23 yards on a handoff to put Georgia up 7-0 at the 11:08 mark in the opening period. This was McKenzie’s second career rushing touchdown after also scoring on the ground last week at Auburn. The Bulldogs won the toss for the fifth time this season and took the ball for only the second time (Louisiana-Monroe). While Georgia scored field goals on its opening possessions versus South Carolina and Southern earlier this season, this was the first touchdown drive for the Bulldogs on their opening possession. Tonight, junior Reggie Davis took the opening kickoff a season-long 39 yards to start Georgia’s seven-play scoring drive that lasted 3:52.
Senior Malcolm Mitchell led the team with five catches for 73 yards. Mitchell has tied A.J. Green (2008-10) for 3rd in school history with 166 career catches. Senior Greyson Lambert connected with freshman Terry Godwin for a 12-yard touchdown to even the score at 14-all. Godwin finished with two catches for 22 yards. Lambert completed the contest 16-for-25 for 183 yards and a touchdown. On the ground, sophomore Sony Michel finished with his fourth career 100-yard rushing game after going for 132 yards on 23 carries.
*Points Off Turnovers: Georgia gave up two fumbles and Georgia Southern scored a touchdown on one of the returns. Georgia collected one fumble in the third quarter and responded with a touchdown. The Bulldogs are even in turnover margin for the year. Mitchell caught a pass deep in Eagle territory but fumbled on the 8-yard line for Georgia’s first fumble. Georgia Southern missed a field goal on their next drive. In the second half, McKenzie fumbled a handoff and the Eagles recovered the ball and took it 65 yards for a score. This was the first fumble returned by an opponent for a touchdown since Missouri’s Michael Sam went 21 yards for a touchdown in 2013. The Bulldogs’ Kenneth Towns collected a fumble late in the third quarter on a punt in Eagle territory. Lambert connected with Godwin for Godwin’s first touchdown catch to tie the score at 14-all on the next possession. Georgia has scored 56 points off 18 turnovers while opponents have scored 47 points off 18 Bulldog miscues.
*Morgan Ties It Late: Senior PK Marshall Morgan nailed a 43-yarder with 6:06 left in the contest to tie the game at 17. GSU had taken their first-ever 4th quarter lead against Georgia in the series history. It was the 61st of Morgan’s career, moving him in to a tie for fourth in school history with Kanon Parkman (1991, 93-95). Morgan finished with five points to give him 396 for his career, which ranks third all-time.
*For Starters: Senior C Hunter Long started for the first time this season. Junior Brandon Kublanow moved over to RG after starting the first 10 games of the season at C.
*Uga X Takes Over: Uga X, know as “Que,” officially assumed the role as the Bulldogs’ mascot during a pregame ceremony. The transition was made when the collar was taken off of Uga IX, known as “Russ,” and switched to Uga X. Uga IX finished with a record of 44-19 (ending with the 2014 season).
*Up Next: The Bulldogs (8-3) travel to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech (3-8) next Saturday, game time TBA.
Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt
On the win …
“A lot of really good things happened, but the turnovers really hurt us. We got the touchdown on our first drive and then turned it over when it looked like we might go up 10-0 or 14-0. Then early in the second half, we had it in really good shape and we fumbled and they scooped and scored to go
ahead. All of a sudden, we had to really get after it. We kept our poise and our composure and kept doing our jobs until the very end. I was proud of the way we finished. … The defense stoned them in overtime. We got the stop on fourth down and that allowed us to get it in the end zone and finish it.”
On facing a Georgia Southern team that knows how to win …
“I’d rather play a team that’s 5-5 instead of 8-2 regardless of conference or division. A team that’s used to winning is difficult to beat and that was the case tonight.”
On the fans …
“I am thankful for our fans. They honored the seniors the way we hoped they would. In the end, we needed the crowd noise and the juice and the energy, and they were a big part of our victory.”
On Sony Michel’s game-winning touchdown …
“Good blocking was the key to Sony’s touchdown. He hit the crease and he hit it full speed. He split the safeties and had the speed to take it to the house.”
More on the win …
“The only stat that matters is the victory. I’m really pleased with the guys. We had to grind it out until the very end. We did what we had to do to get it to overtime and win it.”
On how the seniors reacted …
“It was really fun to watch our seniors. You never know how they’re going to react. They looked excited, relieved and thankful. They were thanking their teammates for making their last memory in Sanford Stadium a good one. They were all smiles and I’m proud of them.”
On winning three straight …
“I’m proud of our team. We’ve had a lot of things to overcome. We kept our poise, we stayed together as a team, and we handled the adversity in the right way.”
QB Greyson Lambert
On Saturday’s win against Georgia Southern …
“My hats off to Georgia Southern. It took us 60 minutes plus to handle them. At the end of the day, a win is a win is a win and that’s what we did tonight. That is the most important thing.”
On Sony Michel’s game-winning touchdown …
“All I did was raise my arms to the heavens and said ‘thank you God.’ We knew it was going to be a very hard fought game. We knew it was going to be like that and for us to end it emphatically was a great way to end it.”
TB Sony Michel
On his teammates celebrating after his game-winning touchdown…
“It was great. They should have really just jumped on all the seniors. I want to dedicate this game to all the seniors.”
On the offense’s performance on Saturday …
“We just stayed to what we do best. Georgia Southern has a great defense and hats off to those guys. They played a great game today.”
OT Kolton Houston
On helping the Georgia defense today…
“Defense has put this team on its back all season. When they come through with these big stops, it really does give us a big boost of energy. We are proud that we could come through for them today.”
On Senior Day…
“I’m thankful for God. I’m thankful for my family and this team. The way these young guys battled for the seniors today – I really can’t enough for them.
I told the team before we went out at half to get this one for the seniors and they did.”
FS Quincy Mauger
On getting the win today …
“We knew we were going to have to come prepared and come ready to play. Georgia Southern is a very good team and we are glad to pick up the win.”
On the positives going into the Georgia Tech game…
“There are a lot of things we can take to next week. Our main focus is to play a 60-minute game and play our hardest.”