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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Cap One Bowl Game Notes

It was billed as a clash between two of the top running backs in the nation, but neither Michigan State's Javon Ringer nor Georgia's Knowshon Moreno found much room to run in the Bulldogs' 24-12 win in the Capital One Bowl on Thursday.

The two Doak Walker Award finalists combined for just 109 yards on the ground, less than what each has averaged per game on their own. Ringer netted just 2.3 yards per carry in the game, while Moreno managed only 2.7 per run, but chipped in with a receiving touchdown in the fourth quarter.

"They did a good job stopping the run but guys just did a good job in the second half adjusting to the things they were doing," Moreno said of his slow day on the ground.

While Georgia's failure to get the running game going didn't prevent the offense from moving the football in the second half, Michigan State's offense struggled throughout the game without its usual contribution from Ringer.

Turing the usually run-heavy Spartans offense into a one-dimensional aerial attack was the game plan from the outset for Georgia's defense, however, and linebacker Rennie Curran said it was executed to perfection.

"Really from the first play, we came out, we were fired up," Curran said. "Even in pregame warm-ups, our mind-set was to not let them run the ball, and we stuck to it."

-- Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford set a school record with his 21-yard touchdown pass to Moreno in the fourth quarter. It was Stafford's 25th touchdown throw of the season, topping the old mark of 24 held by D.J. Shockley and Eric Zeier.

"It's a testament to the guys going up and getting it for me, because lots of times I wasn't on the mark, and the guys up front giving me time," Stafford said. "I think a lot of people, as they should, pay a lot of attention to Knowshon Moreno. He's a heck of a running back, and our play-action game was pretty solid this year. It's great to be in the record books, no doubt, but wins are important to me and that's why I'm happy to send these seniors out with their 10th win this year and 40th overall. That's really what I'm worried about. The records the icing on the cake for me."

-- Only one player in Georgia history has finished a season with more than 1,000 receiving yards, but both A.J. Green and Mohamed Massaquoi were poised to eclipse that mark Thursday.

Green needed a mere 49 yards and Massaquoi was 90 shy of 1,000, but neither player managed to make much of an impact in the game. Green was held to one catch for 12 yards, while Massaquoi's lone reception netted 10.

"It was different kinds of coverage, rolling safeties outside," Green said, "but we had a lot of guys step up like Mike (Moore), so they can shut us down, but we've got a lot of weapons."

It was Moore who stole the show against Michigan State. The junior wide receiver upstaged his usually prolific teammates with a career-best six catches for 97 yards and a touchdown in the game.

"I was joking around with them and said, 'Look guys, you had your 900. Let me have a good game and you guys cool out today,'" Moore said.

-- While Green didn't hit the 1,000-yard plateau, he said he was still pleased with how his freshman season unfolded. Green finished the regular season as the SEC's top receiver, despite a nagging groin injury that worsened as the year went on.

After capping his freshman campaign Thursday, Green said he was anxious to give his body a break and start healing, but stressed he would be putting in plenty of work before the 2009 season kicks off.

"I think I had a pretty good season," Green said, "but I'm going to work hard and come back and have a better sophomore season."

-- Stafford and Moreno aren't the only players considering departing school early for the NFL, but while cornerback Asher Allen's decision hasn't garnered as many headlines, he's joining his teammates in dragging the process out until the last minute.

"I haven't decided yet, but it has to come up before the 15th," Allen said. "So I've got 14 days."

-- Georgia head coach Mark Richt had hoped his team would finish its season in a BCS bowl game. While the Bulldogs ended up at the Capital One Bowl instead, Richt suggested the game nearly matched the BCS atmosphere.

"If you are ever thinking of having a BCS bowl game or changing one from one spot to another," Richt said, "this is the place it should be without any question."

-- Georgia finished last in the SEC in sacks this season with just 17, but that didn't keep the Bulldogs from unleashing a flurry of pressure on Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer on Thursday.

Georgia racked up six sacks in the game including two by defensive end Jarius Wynn in easily its best pass-rush performance of the season.

"We played like our hair was on fire," defensive tackle Corvey Irvin said. "We played with emotion, with great enthusiasm out there as a defense."

-- In a season full of bumps and bruises for the Bulldogs, Georgia added one last name to its overflowing list of the walking wounded.

Right tackle Josh Davis, who started Thursday's game because Justin Anderson was still nursing a nagging foot injury, left the game early with a shoulder injury. Afterward, Richt was unsure the severity, but said Davis' arm was in a sling.

"Having him go down and then Chris Davis having some problems in the first half with his hip, that's just a credit to (offensive line) Coach (Stacy) Searels and what he's done with that offensive line all year," Richt said.

-- Georgia's three points in the first half marked its lowest bowl output since trailing Virginia Tech 21-3 in the 2006 Chick-fil-A Bowl. Just as they did against the Spartans, however, the Bulldogs beat the Hokies in that game, too.

-- Georgia set a record for punt return average this season with a mark of 17.58 per return, breaking the old record of 16.48 set in 1980.

-- The win was the 10th of the season for Georgia, and the 40th for the 2008 senior class.

1 comment:

AlexKirby said...

Took UGA and took home the prize