Dawgged

ATLANTA – One might not be able to spell Sugar without UGA, but you must have West Virginia for a win.

Phil Brady's 10-yard run off a fake punt lifted West Virginia past rallying Georgia 38-35 in the biggest win in the Mountaineers' football history.

No. 11 WVU (11-1) reeled off 28 consecutive points, then withstood a furious rally by the No. 7 Bulldogs (10-3), who pulled within three twice before West Virginia sealed the game on Brady's run.

"The play call is hammer, and when it came in it looked like it was setup perfectly," said Brady, who averaged 36 yards on four punts. "I actually felt like I was running longer than I was."

The deciding special teams' skullduggery came after a wild first half that saw the teams combine for the most points in Sugar Bowl history.

"We almost called it twice before," head coach Rich Rodriguez said of the fake. "We finally called it, and if they gave us the look we wanted we'd run it. If not, we could change out. They gave that to us."

And more. The run, with just more than one minute left in the game, was the last of a series of solid runs made by freshmen Pat White and Steve Slaton. Georgia looked thoroughly confused by WVU's unique spread offense and didn't get into the game until midway through the third quarter. By then Slaton, a first-year tailback, had sliced and diced the Peach State's darlings for a pair of touchdowns.

"He's just special," Georgia corner DeMario Minter said.

Slaton sealed player of the game honors with his last run, a 52-yarder through the heart of the UGA defense. The one-time Maryland signee – leaving All-American defenders like Greg Blue in his wake – finished with 204 yards, breaking former Pitt tailback Tony Dorset's mark of 202 yards at the 1977 Sugar Bowl. It was the first Sugar Bowl win by a Big East team since Pitt beat UGA in 1982.

"I'll send (Coach Ralph Friedgen) a letter of appreciation and shake his hand," Slaton joked of the team that spurned him. Friedgen, of course, is the coach at Maryland, which failed to follow through on an offer to Slaton. That move helped WVU earn the quality win the Big East has been seeking.

"We played a great football team," said UGA head coach Mark Richt, who lost just his second non-conference game in 22 there. "They executed beautifully. If I wasn't playing against them, I really would have enjoyed watching them."

His team essentially did. West Virginia exploded for 21 first-quarter points, scoring on all three possessions. The 21 points took just 14 plays as Georgia fumbled twice. It was 31-21 at the break.

The 52 first-half points are a Sugar Bowl record. It broke the previous record of 44 by Notre Dame (32) and Florida (12) in 1992. It was also the largest deficit ever by Georgia under Richt.

The scoring fest made the Sugar Bowl – a distinct fourth in publicity to the other three BCS games – the most exciting of the two played. The teams rolled up 1,003 yards of offense. WVU managed an 11-minute advantage in time of possession. The other stats were a battle of wills; West Virginia ran for 382 yards, Georgia threw for 224.

The former won out in the end game. Fullback Owen Schmitt ran for 82 yards, including a 54-yard romp past Georgia that was a microcosm of the game. Pat White finished with 77 yards.

"They run it to near perfection," Richt said. "Their quarterback made the right read almost all the time. One thing about this match-up was that no team we played has played that style offense as well as they do or that defense like they do. It was impossible to simulate what we were going to see. I thought it would take time. I didn't think we'd be down by 28."

Yet Georgia rallied, showing gumption and guts unseen in most bowl games. It could have collapsed after it turned the ball over three times and WVU scored touchdowns on the first two. Instead, it got within 31-28 and had momentum when Slaton stepped in – literally and figuratively – again.

He split the middle of the UGA line for a 52-yard score that put WVU up 38-28 with 8:32 left. The run was setup by a powerful third and one run by Schmitt for a first down.

"I just saw it open up," Slaton said. "My line and my fullback did a great job blocking, and I just hit it up in there. I saw the safety and just ran by."

Georgia struck back with a 43-yard toss from D.J. Shockley to Bryan McClendon. The wideout blew by free safety Jahmile Addae when the senior bit on a base stick and go on a post pattern. The score capped a seven-play 90-yard drive in which UGA converted a pair of third downs, including one on a screen pass which WVU had stopped until it did not wrap tackle.

The Mountaineers could have scored more, but took themselves out of scoring range on one drive with three false starts in six times lining up over center. Brady was forced to punt and Georgia then drove 68 yards.

Shockley had a 21-yard run that setup his ensuing touchdown pass to A.J. Bryant. The split end finally broke away from Anthony Mims and came back to the ball as Mims' momentum carried him past Bryant. The score pulled UGA to within 31-28 with 1:44 remaining in the third quarter.

"This team wasn't going to quit," Shockley said. "It hurts to lose, but we didn't execute as well as we hoped."

It was Georgia's only big play of the game until its last score. West Virginia had many more.

After it forced a punt on UGA's first possession, Slaton ripped off a 48-yard scoring run for a 7-0 lead. The Bulldogs then faced a third and 28 before its second punt set up WVU at its own 36.

White, who completed 11 of 14 passes, hit Brandon Myles for 36 yards on the second play and four snaps later snuck a tight pass to Darius Reynaud on a crossing patter for a 14-0 lead with 6:27 left in the first quarter.

Reynaud's end around on West Virginia's next series put WVU ahead 21-0. It marked just the second time the Mountaineers scored 21 points in a quarter this season (Connecticut, 2nd). It also ties the second-highest first-quarter output for a Sugar Bowl behind Tennessee, which scored 24 points in 1971.

White faked a run right before pitching to Reynaud, already at full speed. The wideout hit the outside of the Bulldog defensive front and accelerated off the turn into the end zone past two terrific blocks downfield.

"Down 28, I wasn't sure if anything good was going to happen," Richt said. "We battled and made them sweat anyway."

West Virginia would add Slaton's second score before UGA answered with 14 straight points. Pat McAfee's 27-yard field goal made it 31-14. Georgia scored again just before the half, taking momentum and just a 10-point deficit into the locker room after trailing by 28.

Shockley threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns. White was eight of nine for 94 yards in the opening period. Reynaud had four catches for 34 yards to lead WVU to a perfect 4-4 in red zone scoring chances by the half.

Sugar Bowl Notes:

Georgia is now 20-2 versus non-conference foes under Richt.

WVU is 4-1 in the postseason all-time in Atlanta. All are Peach Bowls wins except this one.

Teams that lead at the half are now 8-0 in BCS Sugar Bowls and 13-1 since 1992. This game was just the second time a current BCS bowl has been moved. The 1942 Rose Bowl was moved after the Dec. 7, 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor amid concerns of another attack.

The first reviewed play in Sugar Bowl history came with 11:37 left in the second quarter when Reynaud's catch was examined and upheld.

Captains for the 2005, selected before the team left for Christmas break, are Mike Lorello, Jahmile Addae, Garin Justice and Ernest Hunter. They were present at the Sugar Bowl coin flip.


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