ATHENS, Ga. - The last two plays of Georgia's win at South Carolina last month provided a telling example of how the season has gone for defensive linemen Johnathan Sullivan and David Pollack.
With Georgia clinging to its 13-7 lead, South Carolina quarterback Corey Jenkins took off on a run on a third-and-3 play from the Georgia 4. Making one of the most important solo stops of his career, Sullivan wrapped up the quarterback and made the tackle one yard short of a first down.
Sullivan's stop forced an even bigger fourth-and-one play, and this time it was pressure from Pollack which contributed to a fumble by Andrew Pinnock that was recovered by Georgia's Thomas Davis, preserving the win.
Pollack, who earlier had made what still stands as the play of the season for Georgia with his interception of a Jenkins' pass in the end zone for a touchdown, was deservedly the star of the game. Sullivan's big tackle was forgotten by almost everyone but Coach Mark Richt, who made a point of noting the crucial third-down play.
"Sullivan kind of gets lost in this emergence of David Pollack, but Sullivan is playing All-America football,'' Richt said.
Added Pollack: "He's phenomenal, but he doesn't get a lot of credit.''
Sullivan does not mind staying out of the headlines and highlight clips. In fact, he has relished a season of playing away from the spotlight that continues to shine on Pollack.
"I like it like this,'' Sullivan said this week as No. 5 Georgia prepares for Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game at Kentucky.
Added Sullivan: "This way, it takes all the attention away from me, and I can just go out and have fun.''
Junior defensive end Shedrick Wynn says the emergence of Pollack has made Sullivan a more relaxed player. Sullivan began the season as the only member of the defensive line with more than five career starts, but with Pollack, Will Thompson and others emerging as play-makers, the junior does not feel he has to carry the load each week.
"I think it took a lot of pressure off him,'' Wynn said.
Sullivan's teammates and Richt are not the only ones noticing Sullivan's play. The junior will be a candidate to leave school early for the NFL draft. He is projected as a possible first-round pick if he enters the 2003 draft. With his class schedule providing a solid excuse for Sullivan to miss the weekly Tuesday press conferences, the junior from Griffin has almost completely dodged the media this season.
No matter the lack of attention, Sullivan "has been playing outstanding,'' Richt said Tuesday.
"A lot of people want to just measure sacks and tackles for losses,'' Richt said. "Sullivan has just played great, and I think he's an All-SEC, All-America type player.''
No Georgia player can match Pollack's seven-game totals of eight sacks and 12 tackles for loss. In fact, Pollack leads the SEC in both measures of defensive production behind the line of scrimmage.
Still, with 35 tackles, including six for lost yards, two sacks and a team-leading 19 quarterback pressures, Sullivan also is enjoying his best season. He should far surpass his 2001 total of 46 stops and already has set a career high for quarterback pressures.
For Sullivan (6-3, 299) the key to 2002 has been a return to defensive tackle after moving to defensive end late last season. Sullivan made the 2001 move to help compensate for injuries at defensive end, but he was never happy away from his natural position.
Said Pollack, who swapped positions with Sullivan in the offseason by moving from defensive tackle to "Buck'' end: "(Sullivan) hated the Buck position.''
Confirmed Sullivan: "I'm way more comfortable back (at tackle),'' Sullivan said. "I hope this is where I stay. This is where I belong.''
Even if few people notice.