Red, white and blue were the colors of choice in pregame and halftime patriotic tributes before a sellout crowd at Sanford Stadium. However, the barrage of yellow flags from the officials showed that Arkansas (1-3 overall and 0-3 in the SEC) is still struggling and Georgia developed substantial rust while waiting three weeks to play the game.
Georgia and Arkansas combined for 27 penalties. In records dating back to 1964, Georgia has not played a game with as many penalties. Georgia drew 13 flags for 122 yards. Arkansas was penalized 14 times for 97 yards.
"I'm sure there was a little bit of rustiness out there,'' said Georgia coach Mark Richt. "It's hard to keep the continuity with that much of a layoff.''
Still, after his first SEC victory, Richt added: "I'd rather look sorry and win than look good and lose. ... We did a lot of outstanding things, but definitely we did enough things that could of or maybe should of lost the game.''
After managing only three field goals in a 14-9 loss to South Carolina on Sept. 8, Georgia solved some of its red-zone problems. Quarterback David Greene completed touchdown passes to Terrence Edwards and Randy McMichael, and Verron Haynes and Musa Smith ran for scores. Billy Bennett added two field goals, including a 55-yarder. He also missed two attempts.
Greene completed 20 of 37 passes for 298 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He was the only quarterback to play for Georgia. It appears more probable that freshman D.J. Shockley will be redshirted.
Edwards, who struggled with key drops in the loss to South Carolina, caught six passes for 122 yards and a touchdown.
"The week we lost to South Carolina, there were no fingers pointed because of how we lost,'' Edwards said. "The players stuck behind me. I just went out there and played up to my ability.''
Greene's only interception was a deflected pass off Edwards' hands late in the first half. McMichael added four receptions for 68 yards and a touchdown.
"We had a great game, not just me,'' McMichael said. "David threw great and the guys on the offensive line blocked great. Everyone just played awesome. I wanted to make the big play, but it wasn't just me.''
Georgia led only 27-23 in the fourth quarter before putting the game away with a touchdown drive capped by Greene's 4-yard scoring pass to McMichael with 8:13 left to play.
The Georgia defense then stopped Arkansas on downs. On Georgia's final possession, Smith and Jasper Sanks combined to eat up all but the final 69 seconds on the clock, ending the Razorbacks' comeback hopes.
Smith and Sanks worked in more of a tailback platoon than Georgia utilized in its first two games. Smith rushed for a game-leading 100 yards. Sanks added 54 yards rushing on 11 carries.
Georgia lost linebacker Will Witherspoon and receiver Reggie Brown to knee injuries. Brown, who was the team's top kickoff return specialist, will require surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and is lost for the season. Witherspoon's injury was not thought to be as serious, but he did not return after spraining his left knee in the second quarter.
Georgia's defense gave up only a field goal in the second half, though Arkansas stayed close with a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown from Marvin Jackson in the third quarter.
"I think the layoff didn't help us; that would be a good excuse,'' said Georgia defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. "I didn't feel like we were as crisp.''
Arkansas entered the game ranked last in the SEC in passing, rushing and scoring and last in the nation in total offense. The Razorbacks gained momentum against the Georgia defense with inside screens — especially effective to Richard Smith — and deeper routes to George Wilson, who was especially effective in drawing pass interference calls against Bruce Thornton.
Bennett, known more for his accuracy than his leg strength, drilled a 55-yard field goal in the first half. Bennett's field goal was the longest for Georgia in 17 years — since Kevin Butler's 57-yarder against Georgia Tech in 1984.
"Bennett was the difference as far as momentum is concerned,'' Richt said. "I was getting ready to punt that ball and he got in my ear and said ‘Coach, the wind is not blowing. I can make it.' I'm proud of him of him to be brave enough to think he can make it.''
Bennett tried another 55-yarder on the last play of the first half, but he topped the ball and the attempt was low and short.