OXFORD, Miss. — The Mississippi defense provided the cure for Georgia's offense.
Now the entire team turns its attention to David Jacobs, hoping for a similarly dramatic recovery.
Exploiting one of the nation's worst rushing defenses, Verron Haynes moved from fullback to tailback and rushed for 192 yards and two touchdowns as Georgia battered the Rebels, 35-15, Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Georgia dedicated the win to Jacobs, who was watching from his Emory Medical Center hospital room in Atlanta.
Hospitalized Wednesday night after complaining of a headache and dizziness, Jacobs' symptoms have been described by family members as like those of a mild stroke. No official diagnosis of his condition has been announced.
Coaches talked with Jacobs Saturday and said he is improving.
Players had Jacobs' No. 99 on the white stripe on the back of their helmets, and Georgia assistant coaches wore No. 99 on their red caps.
"David was on our minds at all times,'' said receiver Terrence Edwards.
Added Haynes: "I know on offense, every time we broke the huddle, we said ‘D.J.' That's who we were playing for today. That's our brother. We've got three more (games) for you, D.J., three more.''
Georgia (6-3 overall and 5-3 in the Southeastern Conference) gained the sixth win needed to qualify for a bowl and now will work toward improving its status in the bowl pecking order. The No. 23 Bulldogs will visit Georgia Tech next Saturday at 7:45 p.m. and will play host to Houston on Dec. 1 in its final regular season game.
Georgia had struggled on offense in losses to Florida and Auburn, but it found more consistency when it relied more heavily on its running game.
Against Georgia Tech next week, it is doubtful Georgia will attempt to repeat the offensive gameplan that worked so well in the second half Saturday.
Trailing 9-7 after a first half that included two interceptions thrown by David Greene, Georgia assumed an offensive personality that Coach Mark Richt admitted was foreign to his background as a specialist in the passing game.
Georgia took the kickoff to open the second half and marched 80 yards on nine plays — each a running play — that included a 23-yard gain by Haynes and runs for 20 and 11 yards by Jasper Sanks.
Though he didn't start, Sanks added 50 yards rushing, including a touchdown from the 1 to cap the drive to open the second half.
Ole Miss may have assumed that without a healthy Smith, who was in uniform but did not play due to his lingering groin injury, Richt would rely on the passing game. Instead, Georgia passed for only 93 yards.
"At the half we checked and were looking at only two or three run plays that were under three yards,'' Richt said. "We decided to come out and see if we couldn't hammer them.''
Georgia scored the first 28 points in the second half as the Ole Miss defense — which ranks 108th in the nation against the run — seemed helpless to slow Haynes, a 233-pound senior.
Ole Miss ranks second in the nation against the pass. That may be because other teams, like Georgia, have found it is so much easier to gain yardage on the ground.
Ole Miss (6-3 overall, 3-3 in the SEC) may have lost a chance to win a bid to the Cotton Bowl, which had scouts at the game. The Rebels visit Mississippi State Thursday night.
Even though Ole Miss has enjoyed a strong season, including wins over LSU and Alabama, Saturday's second half was so one-sided that some in the crowd of 47,457 were booing calls made by Coach David Cutcliffe in the Rebels' fifth straight loss to Georgia. Ole Miss was favored by two points.
"We had one of those days,'' Cutcliffe said. "Sometimes you wonder why that occurs. Our execution was lacking in all phases. We made too many mistakes to beat a good football team.''
Georgia shut down the Ole Miss running game and limited the effectiveness of quarterback Eli Manning, who passed for 233 yards with two touchdowns but had an interception by Jermaine Phillips returned 82 yards for a touchdown that clinched the win early in the fourth quarter.
Richt admitted he has struggled to move past last week's loss to Auburn.
Richt blamed himself for making a bad call — ironically, for a run — at the end of the Auburn game.
"Last week was a struggle for me, personally,'' Richt said. "I'm usually pretty good at shaking things off but last week I felt as bad after a ballgame as far as my lack of contribution.''
Richt said Jacobs' sudden physical problem "put life in perspective for me, but didn't bring my spirits up.''
While the players bounced back with spirited practices, Richt admitted he was "faking it'' as he tried to appear upbeat.
"The players knew I was down,'' Richt said.
Similarly, the players knew Jacobs was down.
"It was a big deal to play well for him,'' said defensive end Charles Grant, who sacked Manning on the second play of the game. "We knew if he was here he would play hard. That's what we tried to do for him.''