Top 10 plays of 2002

ATHENS, Ga. - As with compiling any subjective top 10 list, the task of naming the 10 biggest plays in Georgia's 11-1 regular season is difficult. Even naming the No. 1 play invites debate.

Perhaps Michael Johnson's game-winning catch against Auburn would appear to be a slam-dunk at No. 1. In addition to the athletic skills needed by Johnson to catch the ball over a defensive back, and in addition to the fact the play came on a fourth-and-15 from the Auburn 19 in the final two minutes, the play clinched the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division title.

But for sheer athleticism, David Pollack's interception for a touchdown at South Carolina is difficult to top. The common response after the South Carolina game was that no one had ever seen a play to compare with what at first looked like a possible sack and fumble recovery. Because South Carolina quarterback Corey Jenkins' arm was moving forward when he was stripped of the ball by Pollack in the end zone, the call was an interception for a touchdown.

If the situation in the game is not factored in, then the catch of the year has to go to Terrence Edwards for his acrobatic grab against Georgia Tech last week. Georgia already led 17-0 when Edwards prevented an interception on an underthrown ball by quarterback David Greene by sticking his arm in front of Tech safety Jeremy Muyres to deflect the ball. As he was falling, Edwards caught the deflection for a 31-yard gain. Adding to the significance of the catch was the fact Edwards was returning from a separated shoulder injury and had been the topic of a wave of support from Georgia fans after his key drop in the loss to Florida.

Arguments could be made for other big plays, but here is one top 10 list:

1. Johnson's catch; Nov. 16; at Auburn. Georgia trailed Auburn the whole game before Johnson, starting for the injured Edwards, jumped over defensive back Horace Willis to catch a 19-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-down play with 1:25 left in the game. The catch gave Georgia a 24-21 win, the SEC East division title, and Johnson earned SEC Player of the Week honors.

2. Pollack's interception for a touchdown; Sept. 14; at South Carolina. Pollack scored Georgia's only touchdown in a 13-7 win when, pass-rushing from his defensive end position, he stripped the ball from Jenkins as the South Carolina quarterback was attempting to pass out of the end zone. Pollack grabbed the ball and fell in the end zone as the official signaled the Georgia touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

3. Georgia's fourth-down stop against Gamecocks; Sept. 14; at South Carolina. With 20 seconds left, South Carolina had a fourth-and-1 play from the Georgia 2 when Jenkins was hit by Pollack as the quarterback was pitching the ball to Andrew Pinnock, who fumbled. Georgia's Thomas Davis recovered at the 2 to preserve the win.

4. Fourth-and-1 gamble; Aug. 31; vs. Clemson. With 40 seconds left, Coach Mark Richt gambled by going for the first down on a fourth-and-1 call from the Georgia 39 instead of punting to Clemson. Musa Smith picked up the yard to clinch the 31-28 win.

5. Fourth-and-2 gamble; Oct. 12; vs. Tennessee. With 1:43 left and Georgia leading 18-13, Richt faced another tough call on a fourth-and-2 at the Tennessee 35. Instead of punt, Richt called for a toss sweep, and Tony Milton picked up 25 yards to the 10, and from there Georgia ran out the clock.

6. Edwards drops the ball; Nov. 2; vs. Florida in Jacksonville. With about two minutes left to play, Edwards was wide open when he dropped a pass near the Florida 35. A favored Georgia team lost 20-13, as it was 0-for-13 on third-down conversions.

7. Musa Smith keeps drive alive; Nov. 9; vs. Mississippi. Making an impressive offensive statement, Georgia held the ball the final 10:46 in a 31-17 win over Ole Miss. Along the way, Smith gained six yards on a fourth-and-4 run from the Ole Miss 33 and ran for two yards on a fourth-and-1 from the Rebels' 5. Smith had 37 carries for 148 yards, including 12 carries in the game-ending, 19-play drive.

8. Billy Bennett kicks game-winner; Oct. 5; at Alabama. While Georgia proved it was "man enough'' by winning the battles at the line of scrimmage, it was a 32-yard field goal by Bennett with 38 seconds left to play that gave the Bulldogs the 27-25 win - Georgia's first in Tuscaloosa.

9. Edwards makes acrobatic catch; Nov. 30; vs. Georgia Tech. Returning from a separated shoulder, Edwards prevented an interception by Muyres on an underthrown pass when he deflected the ball and then caught the deflection for a gain of 31 yards. The second-quarter catch allowed Georgia to retain the momentum in the 51-7 win.

10. Fred Gibson sets the tone; Aug. 31; vs. Clemson. The first time he touched the ball this season, Gibson returned a kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown. It was the first touchdown return on a kickoff for Georgia since 1990.

Other players worthy of honorable mention: Tim Jennings' 44-yard interception return for a touchdown against Ole Miss; Sean Jones' two interceptions returned for 58 yards and one fumble returned for 11 yards - all in the first quarter at Auburn; and Boss Bailey's blocked field goals against Tennessee, Ole Miss and Georgia Tech.


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