Senior defensive end David Pollack caused and recovered a Matt Jones’ fumble midway through the fourth quarter to provide the No. 10 Bulldogs their first and only cushion in a 20-14 victory over the Razorbacks in front of 71,644 fans at Razorback Stadium.
“Winning seems to be coming harder for this team than you would like,” Coach Mark Richt said. “Nevertheless, we won it.”
Pollack’s play, which was started when cornerback DeMario Minter blitzed and wrapped up Jones’ ankles, not only led to a 24-yard field goal but also knocked Jones out of the game, basically ending the Razorbacks’ comeback hopes.
Pollack knew from studying film that Jones carries the ball awkwardly, he said.
“He always does,” he said. “You just have to catch him.”
The Arkansas quarterback battled a pulled groin all week but looked plenty nimble against the Bulldogs before being taken down by Minter and Pollack. The senior started the game and accounted for 181 yards passing and another 21 rushing.
But his fumble was the critical play of the game. It came with 9:12 left in the fourth quarter and gave Georgia the ball on Arkansas’ 8-yard line. The offense could only move 1-yard, but freshman kicker Andy Bailey made up for two earlier misses by hitting a short field goal to put Georgia up 20-14 with 7:40 left.
“Our defense bowed up and did a great job of shutting it down when we needed to,” Pollack said. “We love it being on us. We like to be out there playing.”
Georgia’s offense left plenty for the defense to do. Quarterback David Greene threw for a career-high 382 yards, freshman Thomas Brown had 107 yards rushing, and the Bulldogs had two 100-yard receivers for the first time since 2001. Georgia totaled 513 yards of offense, eclipsing 500 for the second straight week, but scored just two touchdowns and the two touchdown drives combined for only 84 yards.
“To have that much yardage is great, those things don’t happen by accident, but points is the name of the game,” Richt said.
Georgia (6-1, 4-1 SEC) has plenty of motivation to turn its offense around. The Bulldogs play No. 20 Florida this week in Jacksonville, Fla. The Gators have beaten Georgia 13 of the last 14 years, and the Bulldogs are “already” thinking about the Gators, linebacker Odell Thurman said.
“This game is over,” he said. “It’s in the bag. We’re going to be talking about Florida on the way home.”
Arkansas fell to 3-4 overall and 1-3 in the SEC.
Georgia trailed at halftime but took its decisive lead on its second possession of the third quarter. The Bulldogs moved the ball on the first drive but missed a 46-yard field goal. Their defense saved them, though, as Thurman forced a DeCori Birmingham fumble on the first play of the ensuing drive. Derrick White recovered the ball and returned it to Arkansas’ 34-yard line.
The Bulldogs scored five plays later on a 10-yard pass from Greene to tight end Leonard Pope with 4:48 remaining in the third quarter.
Once the game finally got to halftime, Arkansas led 14-10. It took that lead on an 18-yard fumble return for a touchdown by defensive end Marcus Harrison with 1:29 left in the half. Harrison recovered the ball after linebacker Jeb Huckeba stripped it from a stumbling Greene.
The Bulldogs quickly drove down the field, moving from their 20 to Arkansas’ 14 with two seconds left in the half. Pope caught a 16-yard pass from Greene and went out of bounds to put the Bulldogs in field goal range, but the clock operator at Razorbacks Stadium allowed the clock to run out even though two seconds clearly remained.
Razorbacks coach Houston Nutt tried to take advantage of that by leading his players toward their dressing room. After the officials herded Arkansas’ players and coaches back to the sideline, Georgia called a timeout to get its field goal team set. The Razorbacks then called two straight time outs in an attempt to unnerve Bailey, a freshman.
It worked, and Bailey missed a 31-yard field goal as time.
“I was like, ‘Dang, it’s going to be a tough night if we keep it up like this,’” Thurman said.
However, the defense shut out the Razorbacks in the second half. Entering the game, Arkansas had outscored opponents 52-7 in the fourth quarter.
“You win some pretty, you win some ugly,” said center Russ Tanner, a Johnson County graduate. “It don’t matter. It counts the same.”