Bulldogs pound Georgia Southern, 29-7

Athens, Ga.--- As expected, the tenth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs opened their highly-anticipated 2000 season last Saturday by ripping Division I-AA Georgia Southern 29-7 in front of 86,520 rain-soaked fans at Sanford Stadium, the largest crowd ever to watch a game in the state of Georgia.

The Bulldogs (1-0) begin Southeastern Conference play this Saturday, September 9 at South Carolina, a 31-0 winner over New Mexico State last weekend. The game is being televised by ESPN 2, and gets underway at 3:30 p.m.

Georgia moved the ball at will against the Eagles, piling up 374 total yards-203 through the air and 171 on the ground. The Bulldogs' offensive line did a superb job protecting quarterback Quincy Carter. The Heisman Trophy candidate had all day to throw on nearly every passing attempt, and was sacked only once. 

Carter completed 16-of-27 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns. His biggest miscue came on a second quarter interception when the wet ball slipped out of his hand. Carter's longest pass was only 22 yards as the Bulldogs threw downfield only a few times..

"The wet ball bothered us," said Georgia head coach Jim Donnan. "I'm happy with the win and the fan support [considering the conditions]. With the exception of the slipped ball, I thought Quincy Carter was flawless. He made a lot of good decisions, and I think this is going to be a big year for him."

Junior Jasper Sanks led the Georgia ground game with 64 yards on 10 carries. 

The Bulldogs' defense, which was without starters Richard Seymour, Kendrell Bell and Charles Grant due to suspension and then lost linebacker Boss Bailey for the season on its first kickoff, played solidly throughout the game. Georgia gave up only 235 yards-190 rushing and just 45 passing. The Bulldogs did not allow the Eagles a play of more than 20 yards.

Georgia Southern's highly-touted running back Adrian Peterson continued his string of 100-yard rushing performances with 152 against the Bulldogs, breaking the school rushing record of 3,876 yards previously held by Joe Ross. However, the Junkyard Dogs of first-year defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs held Peterson without a touchdown for only the fourth time in his college career. Peterson had two 20-yard runs, but he also was stopped for 3 yards or less on 12 of his 27 carries. 

"We played pretty well," said Georgia defensive lineman Marcus Stroud. "But I think there are things we need to work on for next week. We wanted to keep him (Peterson) under 100 yards, but we did not do that. Last year, we gave up a lot of points and a lot of yards. This year we did not."

From the outset, it was clearly evident that Georgia was by far the better team. The Bulldogs could have easily won by a much more lopsided score and probably should not have even give up a touchdown. However, the Bulldogs did not apply the knockout punch to Georgia Southern (0-1) until the fourth quarter.

The Bulldogs controlled the ball and the clock to open the game. On their first drive, they crammed the ball down the Eagles throats, using a methodical 17 play touchdown drive to cover 84 yards. Carter connected with freshman Durell Robinson on a 12-yard touchdown pass with 8:31 left in the first quarter. Brett Kirouac kicked the extra point to give Georgia a 7-0 lead. 

The Bulldogs were forced to punt on their second drive and then turned the ball over inside the Eagles' 40-yard line on their third and fourth drives. Georgia drove the ball to the Eagles' 14-yard line on its third possession, but turned it over on a Sanks fumble. On the Bulldogs' fourth possession, Carter was intercepted by Nate Gates.

"We stopped ourselves," tight end Randy McMichael said. "They (Georgia Southern) didn't stop us at all. That's something we have to work on next week going into the South Carolina game."

Georgia fans were getting concerned late in the second quarter, as the Bulldogs led only 7-0 and the Eagles had the ball with less than two minutes left before halftime. But then freshman lineman Johnathan Sullivan caused a Peterson fumble to set up the Bulldogs' next touchdown.

Georgia took possession at the Eagles' 46-yard line with 57 seconds left in the half and immediately got a defensive holding call. Carter hit Brown on two consecutive 11-yard passes and then scored on a crafty 12-yard quarterback draw. Kirouac added the extra point to provide a 14-0 Bulldogs' advantage. The entire drive took only 30 seconds.

The Eagles drove into Georgia territory twice in the first half. On their first possession of the contest, Southern got Marcus Stroud to jump offsides on fourth-and-3 from the Georgia 41, giving the Eagles a first down and keeping the drive alive.

Georgia Southern penetrated to the Bulldog 26 before Georgia pushed the Eagles backward. GSU's drive stalled at Georgia's 38 and the Eagles were forced to punt. Georgia Southern's other promising drive of the first half ended when Georgia kept the Eagles from picking up a first down on fourth-and-five from the Bulldogs' 35-yard line.

When Georgia Southern failed to move the ball on its opening possession of the second half, a botched snap on the punt sailed over the head of punter Scott Shelton, who pounced on the ball in the back of the endzone for a safety and a 16-0 Georgia lead. 

The Bulldogs did not have success moving the ball to start the second half, going three-and-out on their first three possessions of the second half. But Georgia padded its lead in the fourth quarter. 

Carter tossed a 7-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Labrone Mitchell and Kirouac added the extra point for a 23-0 cushion with 14:49 left in the game. Then freshman running back Musa Smith added an insurance score with a 2-yard touchdown run with 7:04 remaining. Kirouac missed the extra point attempt.

Smith finished with 58 yards rushing on nine carries. Forty-one of his yards came on the Bulldogs' final scoring drive.

Fellow-freshman wide receiver Reggie Brown had catches of 11 and 20 yards on that final drive. He finished second on the team with 56 yards receiving on four catches. 

Redshirt freshman running back Bruce Thornton had 36 yards on seven carries. 

In all, first-year players accounted for 46.5 percent of the Bulldogs' offense. Georgia played 13 freshmen Saturday.

A total of 58 Bulldogs saw action against Georgia Southern.

After missing a pair of field goals in the second half, the Eagles finally scored a meaningless touchdown with 2:55 left in the game on a 9-yard run by Mark Myers. Shelton tacked on the PAT.

"We weren't intimidated, we weren't scared, we just got beat,'' said Georgia Southern head coach Paul Johnson. ``I don't think we'll play a team with more talent all year."

Reserve cornerback Decory Bryant and third-team running back Kenny Bailey also served their one-game suspensions against the Eagles. Tight end Robert Brannon and second-team linebacker Tony Gilbert played Saturday and must serve their suspensions next week against the Gamecocks.

Bailey tore the ACL in his right knee. He will have surgery some time in the next 10 days and Georgia will apply for a medical redshirt for him, Donnan said.

"That's a tragedy for this football team," he stated. "It's the same thing as losing Quincy on offense. You have no idea how much that takes away from our team. It's a real devastating blow."

However, Donn

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