Georgia holds off Wisconsin as Greene picks up one final win
Jan. 1, 2005
SportsLine.com wire reports
TAMPA, Fla. -- As the winningest quarterback in NCAA history, Georgia's David Greene leaves behind quite a legacy.
"If I could hope, it would maybe just be the guy found a way to win. Not for being the best quarterback, but one who found a way," Greene said Saturday after delivering one last time for the eighth-ranked Bulldogs in a 24-21 victory over No. 16 Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl.
The senior from Snellville, Ga., threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns in his farewell, continuing his assault on the Southeastern Conference record book and adding victory No. 42 to his NCAA mark.
As usual, he got lots of help.
There was Thomas Brown, who ran for 111 yards and one touchdown, as well as Fred Gibson and Jeremy Thomas, who caught TD passes.
Lombardi Award winner David Pollack did his part, too, forcing a crucial fumble with one of his three sacks to capture Outback MVP award.
The Bulldogs (10-2) improved to 42-10 in four years under coach Mark Richt, the second-best run for a Georgia senior class behind the 43-4-1 record compiled while winning a national championship and three straight SEC titles in the early 1980s.
"This has been the best four years of my life," Pollack said. "Don't cry because it's over. Smile."
Greene has started every game since Richt took over in 2001. He surpassed Peyton Manning's SEC and NCAA mark for career wins (39) this season and finished 17-1 against nonconference opponents.
The victory gave Georgia at least 10 wins for the third straight season, one shy of the school record set from 1980-83. The Bulldogs were 13-1 with a No. 3 ranking in 2002 and finished 11-3 with a No. 7 ranking in 2003.
"Hopefully the whole Bulldog nation will always remember this senior class because we did a great job," Gibson said. "Three years in a row 10-win seasons, you couldn't ask for anything better than that."
Greene completed 19 of 38 passes, but also was intercepted twice after throwing only two during the regular season. Wisconsin's Andy Crooks returned the second pick 11 yards for a touchdown, and John Stocco's 2-point conversion pass to Jonathan Orr cut Georgia's lead to three points with 4:13 to go.
The Bulldogs didn't give the Badgers (9-3) a chance to get closer, driving to the Wisconsin 5 before taking a knee on successive plays to run out the clock. Brown gained 49 of his 111 yards rushing on the final drive.
Wisconsin finished with a three-game losing streak after beginning the season 9-0 to climb into national title contention, but losses to Michigan State and Iowa by a combined 79-21 cost the Badgers a share of the Big Ten title and a spot in the Rose Bowl.
"Quite frankly, I think we overachieved this season," coach Barry Alvarez said. "This is a football team that had a lot of adversity, had key players hurt. We were consistent offensively all year, yet we found ways to win," Alvarez said.
"You always want to win, but I think you have to be realistic in the same respect. I do not consider it a disappointing year."
It was the third straight appearance in a New Year's Day game for Georgia, which was ranked as high as No. 3 before falling out of contention for a BCS berth because of losses to Tennessee and Auburn.
Greene began the game by directing a 78-yard field goal drive and threw a 19-yard TD pass to Gibson for a 10-6 lead midway through the second quarter.
He zoomed past Manning's SEC record for total offense on his first completion, a 31-yard throw to Leonard Pope that led to Brandon Coutu's 20-yard field goal.
Wisconsin benefited early from Brown's fumble that set up a field goal and a short Georgia punt that led to Mike Allen's second field goal for a 6-3 lead. A holding penalty wiped a long interception return to the Georgia 15, depriving the Badgers an opportunity to build on the advantage.
Georgia threatened to blow it open early in the second half, scoring on Greene's 24-yard pass to Thomas and Brown's 29-yard run that made it 24-6.
But just when it looked like Wisconsin might get trounced, the Badgers rallied behind the passing of Stocco, who threw a 19-yard pass to Darrin Charles to trim Wisconsin's deficit to 24-13.
The Badgers squandered two opportunities to pull closer when Allen missed a 37-yard field goal and Pollack sacked and took the ball away from Stocco after Wisconsin drove to first-and-goal at the Bulldogs 5.
"In hindsight, it might have been the difference in the ballgame," Richt said of the fumble with 5:38 left.
Stocco finished 12-of-27 for 170 yards and no interceptions. He was sacked seven times, and Wisconsin's leader rusher, Anthony Davis, was held to 79 yards on 21 carries.
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2004-2005, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved