Senior tight end Martrez Milner caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Joe Cox with less than a minute left to cap a two-touchdown rally and a 14-13 victory over Colorado.
“You just know it’s gonna happen,” Coach Mark Richt said. “I don’t care who you’re playing, you’re going to have a game where you’re in trouble and you have to suck it up and you’ve got to get your guts checked and find out what you’re about. I’m just very thankful or the fight our team has, for the leadership our team has and for the unity our team has.”
Georgia (4-0) scored all its points in the game’s final nine minutes, 11 seconds to finally topple a Colorado team that entered the game 0-3 with a loss to Division I-AA Montana State on its resume.
“They really beat us,” said senior linebacker Tony Taylor, who led Georgia with 13 tackles. “We lucked up and got a couple plays in and pulled it out somehow.”
It was indeed an unlikely ending. Until 46 seconds remained, Milner was known more for the passes he didn’t catch.
“I don’t care; I don’t care,” offensive lineman Daniel Inman said. “He caught that one, and that one mattered.”
The Bulldogs faced third-and-five when Milner lined up on the left side of the offensive line and saw the coverage Richt was hoping for when he made the play call, straight man-to-man with no safety deep and linebacker Brad Jones lined up on Milner.
“I really had three really good options,” Cox said. “On my drop, I looked at Trez out of the corner of my eye, and I saw him fly around (Jones) and I knew the guy was a lot smaller than him and I knew if I just hung it up, it would be a touchdown.” Milner, who led Georgia with four catches for 64 yards, caught the pass in the back of the end zone and was immediately mobbed by his teammates.
“The first thing that went through my head was, ‘How am I going to get up off the bottom of this pile?’” he said. “It was a great game, and it felt good for me. Any catch is a confidence builder, and that definitely was a confidence builder today.”
As unlikely as the receiver was on the decisive play, the passer was moreso. True freshman Matthew Stafford appeared to have seized the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback job, but he was yanked after three ineffective quarters against the Buffaloes.
Cox, who had thrown five collegiate passes before Saturday, came in with 3:09 left in the third and the Bulldogs trailing 13-0.
“I just went around to the offensive linemen and said, ‘Give me some time and let’s go down the field,’” he said. “I said, ‘We need two scores, that’s it. We know our defense is going to hold them. If we can’t score two times, we don’t deserve to wear Gs on our helmets.’”
Cox’s four drives accounted for 195 of Georgia’s 284 total yards and both touchdowns. The first score came on a 23-yard screen pass to fullback Brannan Southerland with 9:11 left in the game.
“Joe came out there and got in the huddle the first time and got in our face and told us we were going to do this,” Southerland said. “He gave us some leadership.”
A Sanford Stadium crowd of 92,746 came hoping to see the Bulldogs shut out their third straight opponent but instead watched as the home team narrowly avoided being blanked for the first time since 1995 against Alabama.
“It’s just an indescribable feeling,” Cox said. “It’s something you never think you’ll get a chance to do when you’re playing sports, and it came today. Luckily, the team came through.”
Georgia’s shutout streak ended less than 12 minutes into the game when Colorado got a 26-yard Mason Crosby field goal. After a 1-yard touchdown run from quarterback Bernard Jackson and another field goal from Crosby, Colorado led 13-0 with 11:25 left in the third quarter.
After three quarters, the Buffaloes had 272 yards to Georgia’s 128 and had a 25:41 to 19:19 advantage in time of possession. However, the Bulldog defense allowed just 72 yards and forced its only turnover in the second half.
“Our guys weren’t complaining about being on the field,” defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said. “They were just wanting to make a play. Our guys did a great job of not losing it. I really liked our football team today.”