Dawgs rally for Chick win: News and Notes

ATLANTA - Josh Kendall's news and notes from Georgia's comeback Chick-fil-a Bowl win.

EARLY RETURN: Junior Brandon Coutu kicked a 39-yard field goal fewer than five minutes into the game to officially mark his return from a hamstring injury.

Coutu, who entered the season an All-America candidate, hadn't made a kick since the Sept. 13 UAB game. He hadn't played since being injured on Oct. 5. He was 7-for-8 before his injury and his only miss came from 53 yards.

Georgia coach Mark Richt said before the game that Bulldog team doctors initially worried if Coutu would ever be able to kick again.

UH OH: After two consecutive games without an interception, Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford threw one late in the first quarter that resulted in Virginia Tech's first score of the game.

Shooting for tight end Martrez Milner on a screen, Stafford threw a looping pass that linebacker Brenden Hill dove and caught at the Bulldog 17-yard line. The Hokies scored five plays later on a 1-yard run by Ore.

The last time Stafford had thrown a pick was the Nov. 4 Kentucky game, when he had three. The early miscue against the Hokies gave him 13 interceptions in his first 241 collegiate pass attempts.

SCARY START: Against what has been the most fearsome punt block team in the country over the past 20 years, Georgia punter Gordon Ely-Kelso lined up for his first attempt standing on his own goal line. The play worked out for the Bulldogs though as Ely-Kelso easily got off a 44-yard punt, and Ramarcus Brown wrestled Virginia Tech return man Eddie Royal to the ground for no gain.

The Bulldogs didn't fare as well on Ely-Kelso's second punt as Paul Oliver missed an early tackle, and Royal went 54 yards to put Virginia Tech at the Georgia 30 and set up another score.

Royal's return was the longest punt return of the season and the longest non-scoring play of the season against the Bulldogs.

BRYANT RESTING: Sophomore wide receiver Kenneth Harris started in place of Peach County's A.J. Bryant, who has battled a groin injury for the past two months. Bryant dressed out but did not play in the first half.

Harris had a critical drop in the first half on a long pass from Stafford that would have resulted in a big gain late in the first half. Senior Mario Raley also dropped a pass in the first half.

SWAN SONG?: If Hawkinsville's Charles Johnson played his last collegiate game Saturday at least it got off to a good start. The junior defensive end, who is considering leaving early to enter the NFL Draft, had a pass breakup on Virginia Tech's first play of the game. On the Hokies' fifth drive, he had a tackle for a 3-yard loss on tailback Kenny Lewis. He then tripped up Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon and was credited with a sack late in the half.

Oliver, a cornerback, and Danny Ware, a tailback, also are considering leaving early for the NFL.

PREGAME SHOW: The pregame show was a compilation performance of more than 200 high school band members from around the country playing songs by Bon Jovi. The last song called for crowd participation along with the tune of "Living on a Prayer." However, the fans didn't take to the idea, and there was very little singing.

The response was much greater for former Bulldog Herschel Walker, who gave the invocation.

The official game ball was driven to the midfield coin toss by a Pontiac convertible carrying Gov. Sonny Perdue.

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