Notes from Oxford: Phillips makes big play

"It was a nice feeling,'' Jermaine Phillips said. "It was like seeing a present under the Christmas tree.''

OXFORD, Miss. — Jermaine Phillips didn't expect to celebrate touchdowns when he moved from wide receiver to safety two years ago. When the opportunity came Saturday against Mississippi, the senior rover says it felt like Christmas.

In what Georgia coach Mark Richt said was the biggest play of the game, Phillips returned an interception of an Eli Manning pass 82 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

Georgia led only 21-9 and Ole Miss was driving in Georgia territory, looking to pull to within five points, when Phillips delivered the play that put the game away.

"It was a nice feeling,'' Phillips said. "It was like seeing a present under the Christmas tree.''

Manning's pass was affected by the pass rush of freshman defensive tackle David Pollack.

"Pollack said he tipped the ball and I got great blocks down field from (Tony) Gilbert and (Robert) Geathers,'' Phillips said.

Phillips returned the ball down the Ole Miss sideline, winning the race with Manning near the end zone. Phillips leads the team with three interceptions this season.

Ihe 82-yard return was the fourth-longest in Georgia history. It was Georgia's longest interception return for a touchdown since 1962, when Joe Burson returned one 87 yards against Auburn.

It was the second straight year Georgia has returned an interception for a touchdown against Ole Miss. Cornerback Tim Wansley scored on a 35-yard return last year.

For starters: Sophomore defensive tackle Ken Veal made his first career start as the fill-in for David Jacobs. Josh Mallard and Shedrick Wynn were left as the backups for Veal and Pollack, making only his second career start. Pollack moved up as a starter last week when Johnathan Sullivan moved to defensive end following the season-ending knee injury suffered by senior starter Bruce Adrine.

Also, Chris Hewitt started at offensive guard for Kevin Breedlove, who was sick after his pregame meal. Hewitt also made his first career start.

"Hewitt stepped in there and did a great job,'' Richt said. Finally, J.T. Wall started at fullback when Verron Haynes moved to tailback.

Be back in five years: Georgia and Ole Miss have been annual opponents since 1966, but that will end in 2003. The Rebels will visit Athens next season but will fall out of the Georgia schedule in 2003 when the Bulldogs' SEC rotation will include LSU, Alabama and Auburn as the Bulldogs' Western Division opponents.

In the new rotation, which begins new season, Auburn will be the only Western Division opponent to remain on Georgia's schedule every year. Conference schedules will include five games against division opponents, plus two rotating games and one permanent opponent from the other division. After next year, Georgia is not scheduled to play Ole Miss again until 2006.

Bowl talk: There were representatives from the Sugar, Cotton, Peach and Citrus Bowls at the game.

Marching orders: Joked Richt of the drive which set the pace for the second half, in which he called nine straight running plays: "No, Coach (Vince) Dooley didn't tell me at halftime to do that.''

It was Georgia's first of 27 touchdown drives this season that did not include at least one pass. Dooley, now Georgia's athletics director, relied on similarly conservative play-calling on offense in his 25 years as coach.

Travel adventures: The irony of the incident that shut down Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport Friday and complicated travel plans for the Georgia team is that the man arrested, David Lasseter of Gainesville, Ga., was wearing a Georgia T-shirt in his mug shot and apparently was bound for the Georgia-Ole Miss game.

According to reports, Lasseter was trying to catch a flight to Memphis when he breached security at the airport, causing the facility to be shut down for four hours. Georgia's busses already had left Athens for the airport but had to turn around and travel two hours to Augusta for their new charter flight. Other Georgia personnel who planned to meet the team at the Atlanta airport had to find their own way to Oxford. When the attendance — 47,457 — was announced Saturday, one observer said "Yeah, but there were 47,458 tickets sold.''

Facing another bus ride back to Memphis, a flight to Atlanta and a bus ride to Athens, Richt said after the win: "We could have a bunch of delays and I don't think they would bother anybody.''

Growing: The capacity at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, now listed at 45,577, will expand to 60,000 when the current south end zone renovation project is completed. The project will complete a horseshoe configuration, leaving temporary stands only in the north end zone.

Charles Odum can be reached at

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