Dawgs beat MTSU 29-10

ATHENS — There were a lot of positives to take away from Georgia's 29-10 win over Middle Tennessee State.

ATHENS — There were a lot of positives to take away from Georgia's 29-10 win over Middle Tennessee State.

Before a record-crowd of 92,020 at Sanford Stadium on Saturday, the Bulldogs (2-0) earned 25 first downs thanks a strong mix of the running and passing games, saw a possible breakout game from freshman tailback Michael Cooper and didn't turn the ball over once.

There were also some negatives that will have Georgia coach Mark Richt and his staff working overtime to correct before the Bulldogs' SEC opener this Saturday against South Carolina.

The most notable is the injury to junior flanker Fred Gibson, who pulled a hamstring while returning a kick with 2:09 left in the game.

Richt took the blame for Gibson's injury.

"The biggest disappointment for me was Fred Gibson being in there returning kicks when we're up 29-10 and there's only a few minutes left," Richt said. "I knew Fred was in the game. I could kick myself. It should not have happened. You can beat me on that; I deserve it."

Gibson fielded a short kickoff and appeared to pull up lame before he was touched by Blue Raiders (0-2) defenders.

Richt said he didn't think Gibson (five catches for 81 yards) would be available this week for South Carolina.

The only consolation for the Bulldogs is that Georgia has other quality targets to throw the ball to. Reggie Brown finished the day with seven catches for 88 yards, while Damien Gary added five catches for 61 yards.

Richt also wasn't happy with Georgia's poor discipline on the field.

The Bulldogs committed 13 penalties in the first half alone en route to a school-record 18 for the game.

"I will say it was a good win," he said. "I wasn't real happy with the way we played the first half, especially the penalties. It's not a good sign of a disciplined football team. I do think we came back in the second half and played a better half of football."

"It was a mess," said quarterback David Greene. "That's the best way to put."

Georgia jumped ahead 3-0 on Billy Bennett's 35-yard field goal on the opening drive, but the Blue Raiders were able to tie the score, thanks to an effective ground game and penalties on the Bulldogs' defense before Brian Kelly tied the game with a 41-yard kick.

The Bulldogs looked more scattered on its second series. At one point, Georgia faced a third-and-32 on its own 37 thanks to a combination of penalties and good MTSU defense before punting it away.

But Georgia settled down somewhat after that as Cooper stepped into the forefront after starting tailback Tony Milton left the game in the second quarter with a bruised leg.

Greene (21-of-28, 267 yards) led the Bulldogs across 81 yards in 2:42 before Cooper scampered into the end zone from 8 yards out off a quarterback draw to give Georgia a 10-3 lead with 7:48 left in the first half.

Cooper finished the day with 12 carries for 90 yards and drew praise from his teammates.

"Cooper did a great job of hitting the holes," said Greene. "When Tony hurt (his leg), Cooper stepped in and did really well."

When Georgia moved to the MTSU 7 in the third quarter, the fans were calling for him to get the ball. Ultimately he did, scoring on a 3-yard run with 4:29 to go in the period, giving the Dogs a 20-3 lead.

"When you score like that, and there's perfect blocking on the play, it feels real good," said Cooper, who has been battling sickle cell anemia.

"I'm glad I got the offense rolling a little bit. It was a big game for the whole team. ... Today was a bit of a kick-start. It's a feeling I really can't describe."

Richt said he would have to see what Milton's condition was before deciding if Cooper would start against South Carolina. Cooper didn't hurt his case for more carries.

"He did a great job," Richt said. "We'll have to look at the film to see if he did as good a job with his blocking. I hope he did stick his head in on the right guy."

Ronnie Powell added seven carries for 31 yards and a touchdown in relief of Cooper.

The Bulldogs settled down on both sides of the ball in the second half. In addition to making fewer mistakes on offense, they held the Blue Raiders to just three first downs after halftime.

MTSU's lone big play in the second half was a 71-yard touchdown pass from Andrico Hines to Kerry Wright with 2:09 left in the contest after most of Georgia's starters had been pulled.

"We didn't make any adjustments," said junior defense end David Pollack. "We just executed. We had a lot of mental mistakes in the first half. We had to get back to fundamentals.

"We played all right, but it was far from great. We had too many missed assignments and too many mental errors. That does not take any thing away (from MTSU). They were a good football team."

Things now get more competitive for the Bulldogs with the start of SEC play.

"We haven't scored (an offensive touchdown) touchdown against (South Carolina) the last two years," Greene said. "We've got our work cut out for us."

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