University of Georgia

Notebook: Richt admits kickoff decision was wrong one, defends defense

ATHENS -- The squib kick decision was the wrong one, as even Mark Richt admitted afterwards.

It also wouldn’t have mattered if Georgia had not allowed a 21-yard scramble on the next play to get into field goal position.

Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt wasn’t available to the media after the game. But Richt didn’t fault the defense on the play, crediting Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas with a great run.

“Nothing wrong with the (defensive) call,” Richt said. “The guy just made a play.”

Georgia had two safeties far back, and a couple more defenders playing deep. Thomas was pressured, but alertly saw the middle of the field open and ran the ball there, then cut to the left sideline and went out of bounds at the 36.

“He’s a good scrambler and it’s hard to keep a guy like that hemmed up,” Richt said. “We’re just playing to make sure they didn’t throw the ball down and into that position. We played more coverage, but as we’re covering it created more space, and he did a good job of scrambling.

“Pretty good athlete. Nothing wrong with the call, the guy just made a play.”

TURNOVERS HURT

Georgia entered Saturday with a plus-16 turnover margin, second-best in the nation. It left the game minus-one, a major reason it also left the game on the losing end.

The fumbles at the 1-yard line by tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel hurt badly. The Bulldogs canceled those out with Damian Swann’s 99-yard fumble return and the fumble recovery that led to the final touchdown in regulation.

But Hutson Mason’s interception in overtime ended the game. It was the senior quarterback’s first pick since the third quarter of the Vanderbilt game, a span of 163 pass attempts.

Swann’s return

Under different circumstances, Damian Swann’s 99-yard fumble return for a touchdown would have gone down in program lore. It was the longest fumble return in Georgia history.

It was also a very confusing play, as the ball came free during a scrum at the goal line, Swann emerging with it. The play was never ruled dead, although arguably it could have been.

“Thomas followed the fullback and he ran up his back,” Swann said. “When he did that, the ball kind of came free and I saw it. I just tried to get into the play before they whistled it dead and I was able to come away with the ball.”

Thomas evidently disagreed with the call.

“I felt like I was in (the end zone), but they said I wasn’t, so we had to move on,” Thomas said.

More footnotes

There was another play that would have been more celebrated had Georgia won: Kicker Marshall Morgan’s 31-yard run on a fake field goal.

The fake field goal was Georgia’s first successful one since 1997 against Tennessee, and the Bulldogs hadn’t even tried one since 1998 against Auburn.

Holder Adam Erickson flipped it to Morgan, who ran the ball down to the 3-yard line.

“I just saw a huge wide field and I said, ‘Oh snap, I can maybe score?’ ” Morgan said. “So I was just running, hoping for a Rudy play or something. But we got a first down.”

A score might have changed the outcome of the game. Two plays later a holding call put the ball at the goal line. But the Bulldogs still couldn’t punch it in, and had to settle for a Morgan chip-shot field goal to make it 17-14.

Extra points

The overtime game was the first in Sanford Stadium history.

Georgia had been involved in 10 others, including last year at Georgia Tech. Four of the overtime games had been at neutral sites.

The Bulldogs are 6-5 in overtime games. ...

Chubb finished with 129 rushing yards on 25 attempts, but only 12 yards in the second half and overtime.

Still, it was his seventh straight game with at least 100 rushing yards, making him the first Georgia player to do that since Herschel Walker had 11 in a row in 1982. Walker had eight 100-yard rushing games as a freshman in 1980, but his longest streak was four consecutive games. ...

Georgia’s seven points in the first half was the lowest since the Florida game.

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