ORLANDO, FL - Kregg Lumpkin saved himself and his Georgia teammates a bitter offseason when he scored an overtime touchdown Thursday afternoon to lift the Bulldogs past Purdue 34-27 in the Capital One Bowl.
Kregg Lumpkin gave the No. 12 Boilermakers (9-4) the chance to complete an unlikely rally by fumbling with 1:19 remaining in the game. He helped ease the bobble, however, when he scored on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line to put Georgia ahead on the first possession of overtime.
Georgia's defense, which had surrendered a 24-0 lead, then stopped Purdue on first-and-goal from the 9. Junior linebacker Arnold Harrison, who left the game in the second quarter due to a dislocated finger, broke up passes on second and third down, and linebacker Tony Taylor intercepted a Kyle Orton pass in the end zone to seal the victory for No. 11 Georgia (11-3)
"I'll tell you what, that was fun," Coach Mark Richt said.
Purdue coach Joe Tiller wasn't as thrilled, thanks in large part to a pass interference call that set up the Bulldogs' decisive score. On the second play of overtime, Georgia faced a second-and-3 from the 18 when quarterback David Greene threw an incomplete pass to tight end Ben Watson in the end zone. However, linebacker Bobby Iwuchukwu was called for pass interference, moving the ball to the 3. Tiller argued the ball was uncatchable
"I feel bad for both teams that a call like that was made in overtime," he said. "That ball was 10 or 12 yards over his head, and the last time I checked, Shaquille O'Neal isn't playing for the University of Georgia. Let's not kid ourselves, there was one big play in that overtime. If not for that play, they would've had to run the ball and I think we would've stopped them, quite frankly. They would have gotten three (points) and we would've teed it up from there."
Said Richt: "I can see where Coach Tiller might get riled up about that, but I could see Ben's (shoulder) pad exposed where he got held. I saw it happen and wondered if the official was going to call it. I'm thankful he did."
Georgia almost didn't take advantage, rushing three times but advancing the ball just 2 yards. Lumpkin was stopped six inches from the goal line on third down.
"I was thinking kick (the field goal) but then when it got down to inches, I was thinking, well, if it's inches...," Richt said. "Then Greene gave me that look like, 'Coach, we've got to go for it,' so we went for it."
The play was called Blastoff. The Bulldogs hadn't practiced it during their bowl preparation, but Lumpkin scored easily by leaping over the goal line.
"It's something we've run over and over, and I thought everyone would know what to do," Richt said. "Actually, I think our fullback went the wrong way, but Kregg found a way to get in there."
It was a thrilling finish for 64,565 fans in the Florida Citrus Bowl who probably thought they were in for a dull game. The Bulldogs had 306 yards in the first half on the way to a 24-0 lead with 4:47 left in the first half. Greene finished 27-of-37 for 327 yards and was named the game's MVP. He threw three touchdown passes for the first time in 20 games and all of them came in the first half.
Fred Gibson, who hadn't scored a touchdown since the season-opening game against Clemson, ended both of Georgia's first two drives with scoring catches, one of 6 yards and one of 4. Placekicker Billy Bennett set the NCAA record for field goals in a season (30) and extended the lead to 17-0 early in the second quarter. Reggie Brown then caught an 11-yard pass from Greene with 4:47 left in the first half to put the Bulldogs up 24-0.
"At 24-0, you can get kind of relaxed," Georgia linebacker Odell Thurman admitted.
Neither coach relaxed, though. Both said they thought back to the teams' only previous meeting, the 2000 Outback Bowl in which Georgia trailed 25-0 before staging the biggest comeback in bowl history to win 28-25 in overtime. At halftime, after the Boilermakers had cut the lead to 24-10, Tiller wrote 25-0 and 24-0 on a blackboard in the locker room.
"I told our team we were ahead by a point (being down just 24)," he said. "I said to play the second half like they were ahead."
Orton, who left the game for one series after dislocating the thumb on his left (non-throwing) hand, scored on a 2-yard bootleg with 9:11 left in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 24-17.
Bennett then seemingly sealed the victory with a 40-yard field goal, his 31st of the season, with 4:27 left.
"I thought that was it a lot of times," Bennett said, "but Purdue is a great team."
Orton pulled Purdue within three points with 1:34 left in the game when he threw a 3-yard scoring pass to Anthony Chambers following a 60-yard pass to John Standeford.
On the second play of Georgia's ensuing drive, Lumpkin took a toss sweep right and had the ball stripped by defensive end Shaun Phillips while trying to stay on his feet and run more time off the clock. Richt said he called the sweep rather than ordering Greene to take a knee in order to run more time off the clock, he said. If Georgia had taken a knee on second and third down, it would have had to punt the ball to the Boilermakers with about 15 seconds left in the game, he had calculated.
"In the future, I'll go ahead and punt the son of a gun," he said.
Purdue's Craig Terrill recovered the ball at Georgia's 34-yard line with 1:19 remaining, but a Georgia defense that gave up 209 second half yards didn't allow the Boilermakers a first down and forced a 44-yard game-tying field goal from Ben Jones with 49 seconds left.
After Lumpkin's touchdown, Georgia turned it over to the defense again.
"We told the offense if they scored seven, we wouldn't give up seven," said defensive end David Pollack, who was named Georgia's defensive MVP. The game was Georgia's first overtime under Richt, who called his team together at the 50-yard line at the end of regulation and told them over and over, "This is what 'Finish the Drill' is all about."