Georgia thumps FSU to claim first 13 win season

AP Photo - John Bazemore

NEW ORLEANS — As it turns out, the student learned more than just offense while taking football classes at Florida State.

In a Sugar Bowl billed as a match of offensive wits between Florida State's veteran coach Bobby Bowden and Georgia coach Mark Richt, his former long-time assistant, the Bulldogs' defense and special teams stole the show.  

Lifting Georgia to the first 13-win season in school history, Bruce Thornton scored on a 71-yard interception return and relentless defensive pressure forced three turnovers as Georgia held off Florida State 26-13 Wednesday night at the Superdome.

Richt was Bowden's offensive coordinator before moving to Georgia as head coach two years ago.  

"Coach Bowden is still the teacher, that's for sure,'' Richt said after the game. "I liked spending time with him. I like being next to him. He's one of the best men I've ever known.''  

Said Bowden after the game of Richt, an assistant at Florida State for 15 years: "Yeah, you're happy for him, but that don't overcome my sadness for me.''  

Georgia (13-1) was not as sharp on offense as in big wins over Georgia Tech to end the regular season and over Arkansas in the Southeastern Conference championship game. The offense, held to 11 first downs,  had enough help to make this a positive ending to the Bulldogs' best season in 20 years.  

Musa Smith rushed for 145 yards on 23 carries and was named the Sugar Bowl Most Valuable Player. Otherwise, the offense enjoyed no consistent threat.  T

he Bulldogs' only turnover came on a D.J. Shockley fumble, but it was up to the defense to hold off Florida State in the final quarter.  

Special teams chipped in as well. A Damien Gary punt return set up one touchdown and Billy Bennett kicked four field goals.  

Georgia's lone offensive touchdown came on a 37-yard pass from Shockley to Terrence Edwards in the second quarter. The quick one-play scoring drive was set up by Gary's 26-yard punt return.  

"When the defense is playing as good as ours and the kicking game is so solid, it can get kind of boring, but winning is fun,'' Richt said.  

The touchdown pass to Edwards came on the same call as on the memorable winning pass to Michael Johnson against Auburn.  

"I'm glad Coach Richt has enough confidence in me to single me out and make the call,'' Edwards said. "When you're one on one (against a defensive back)  you've got to win. I just made the jump and made the play.''  

Florida State's Anquan Boldin, who threw a touchdown pass and caught a scoring pass, may have made the biggest impact of any player.  Boldin was 6 for 14 passing for 78 yards and caught three passes for 34 yards.  Boldin started at receiver but played behind quarterback Fabian Walker, who threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in his first career start.  

Boldin had too little offensive support as Florida State (9-5) suffered its first five-loss season since a 6-5 mark in 1981. The Seminoles were invited to the Sugar Bowl due to their Atlantic Coast Conference championship, but they were the first four-loss team to play in the game.  

Walker, a sophomore from Americus, filled in for Chris Rix, who was ruled ineligible by Florida State after missing two final exams.  Walker was 7 for 12 passing for 69 yards with a 5-yard scoring pass to Boldin. He threw interceptions to Thornton and Kentrell Curry.  Georgia recorded six sacks against the two quarterbacks.  

"I think we saw if we protected (Walker) he could produce,'' Bowden said. "I think Georgia saw that too, because they decided to come with pressure, pressure, pressure. They did not let up and we could not handle it.''  

Boldin led Florida State two within 10 points with a scoring drive to end the third quarter. Boldin, the Seminoles' leading receiver who played quarterback in high school, ran for 20 yards and then found  Craphonso Thorpe for a 40-yard scoring pass, cutting Georgia's lead to 23-13.  

After Bennett's fourth field goal pushed the lead back to 13 points, Georgia's David Pollack and Boss Bailey stopped Boldin on a fourth-down run at the Georgia 32 with 6:59 left in the game.  

The Seminoles made one last scoring threat in the final two minutes, moving as far as the Georgia 19.  When Boldin's fourth-down pass from the 28 fell incomplete with seven seconds left on the clock, Georgia players doused Richt with a water cooler.  

The defense also made a fourth-down stop on Florida State's first possession of the game. With Walker at quarterback, the Seminoles held the ball for 10 plays but Walker was stopped by Pollack on a fourth-and-6 run from the Georgia 35.  

Pollack, the SEC Player of the Year, and the only two starting seniors on the defense — Bailey and Tony Gilbert — were productive, but some others also stepped up with lead roles.  

In addition to the interceptions by Thornton and Curry, defensive end Will Thompson, defensive tackles Ken Veal and Darrius Swain and safety Thomas Davis contributed big plays for the defense.  Veal recovered a fumble and his pressure led to Thornton's interception.  

Thompson, a sophomore defensive end from Warner Robins, and Davis, a redshirt freshman from Randolph-Clay High School, each recorded two sacks. Pollack set a school record with his 14th sack of the season.  

In the first half, Georgia managed to produce 17 points despite running only 18 plays.  

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