On the other hand, it was Purdue's highly regarded defense that kept
the Boilermakers (9-4) alive and helped send the game into overtime.
The Boilers forced a late fumble and made the recovery to set up the
game-tying 44-yard field goal by Ben Jones with 49 seconds left in
Purdue entered the contest ranked 11th in the NCAA in total defense
(291.1 yards) and eighth in scoring defense (16.0 points per game)
"I thought our defense played really at their best," Purdue
Early on, with the offense struggling with just one first down in the
first quarter, the defense was forced to spend a lot of time on the
field, and didn't adjust well to the 80-degree temperatures.
"I don't think it was an adjustment to (Georgia's) speed; we hadn't
played in the hot weather like that in a long time," said Purdue
defensive end Shaun Phillips, who became the school's career sack leader
during the game. "They're a fast team, but we pride ourselves as a
defense on being fast too. The sun was beaming down on us but they did a
great job executing."
Said Tiller, referring to the Bulldogs' 9:46 time of possession: "The
first quarter was a horrible quarter. We just put our defense out there
and left them out there."
Georgia quarterback David Greene was able to have his way against the
Boilermakers through most of the first half, throwing for 224 yards and
three touchdowns as the Dogs (11-3) took a 24-0 lead with 4:47 in the
Tiller was forced to make some personnel moves after the first quarter.
Starting outside linebacker Gilbert Gardner, fourth on the team in
tackles, was lost for the game with a shoulder injury. In addition,
sophomore cornerback Sean Petty made his first career start in the game
replacing Jacques Reeves, who was academically ineligible.
The Dogs were able to exploit Petty's lack of size at 5-foot-11 and
experience by running 6-4 Fred Gibson against him in the red zone, and
Gibson responded with Georgia's first two touchdowns on little fades
into the corner.
"We brought in the other guy (sophomore Brian Hickman), who's been
us longer," Tiller said. "Petty was gassed. He wasn't in shape. I was
surprised about that, actually. I thought, 'Hey, we need to make a
change and we need to make it quickly.'"
Purdue's defense then stepped up and got the Boilermakers back into the
Quarterback Kyle Orton, returning from a dislocated left thumb after a
David Pollack sack, mounted a six-play drive that was capped by his
17-yard touchdown run.
On the ensuing drive, Georgia tailback Michael Cooper was stripped of
the football by Purdue's Antwaun Rogers, which was recovered by
linebacker Nikos Koutouvides on the Bulldogs' 19-yard line with 2:42 to
go in the half.
The Boilermakers took advantage of the play with a field goal to go
into halftime down 24-10.
The shift in momentum seemed to energize Purdue's defense. The
Boilermakers adjusted to Georgia's strategy of throwing short passes to
its running backs in the flat, slowing the Bulldogs' offense down
After giving up 306 yards of total offense to the Bulldogs in the first
half, Purdue held them to 134 the rest of the way.
"We did not make many adjustments," Tiller said. "We
brought a little
more pressure on the ball, but I thought we played at a higher level of
Georgia had a difficult time with Purdue's adjustments.
"In the second half, Purdue played a two-deep coverage," Greene
"We had trouble running the ball. You have to hit the zones but we moved
it better at the end of the game."
That is, until there was 1:19 left. With the Bulldogs up 27-24 trying
to just run out the clock, Phillips poked the ball out of Kregg Lumpkin's hands, and the ball was recovered by Craig Terrill on
Georgia's 34. Three plays later, Jones drilled the game-tying field goal
with 49 seconds to go.
Purdue's defense nearly came up big in the overtime session, stuffing
Lumpkin for no gain just inches from the goal line on third down. But on
the next play, Lumpkin was able to squeeze through, giving Georgia the
lead and eventually the win. A key pass interference call against the
Boilermakers, which Tiller didn't agree with, helped keep the drive
going for the Bulldogs.
Tiller took little solace from his team's comeback.
"We don't have moral victories at Purdue," he said. "We
never will. This was a tough loss for us."