There’s still one big game to go, but we have some down time to look back at some of the most important moments of the regular season. These plays didn’t all come at critical times (like a Gurley touchdown late in a rout of Vanderbilt), but they all were significant moments in the story of the 2012 regular season either for individuals or the team.
10. Samuel stuffs the fake punt. Georgia had scored just before the end of the third quarter to take a 24-20 lead on Missouri. It was Georgia’s first lead of the game, and it came during a stretch where both teams posted points on four consecutive drives. The fact that neither team was doing much to stop the other had to weigh on Missouri coach Gary Pinkel’s mind, because he called for a fake punt on 4th-and-11 from his own 35. The play actually had a good chance of success and was blocked well, but Richard Samuel was able to shed his blocker and stop the punter short of the first down marker. The Dawgs added a field goal on their next possession and set the stage for Jarvis Jones’ heroics.
9. Grown-man Jarvis. Samuel’s play on the fake punt stopped any momentum Missouri had, but Georgia was still only up 7 on a team that had showed an ability to score quickly. The two teams traded punts midway through the fourth quarter, and Georgia pinned the hosts back on their own 12. A pass interference penalty seemed to bail the Tigers out of trouble and gave them a first down. Jarvis Jones dropped back into coverage on the next play and sat in the underneath passing lane. James Franklin threw right at him, and Jones picked off the pass. He returned it just short of the goal line, and the Dawgs were able to score and open up a 14-point lead. Jones wasn’t finished – he came on a speed rush during Missouri’s next drive and forced a fumble. The Dawgs recovered inside the Missouri 10, and they added another score for a much more comfortable final margin.
8. Norman recovers the onside kick. Even with a bye week, Georgia wasn’t able to shake off the blues of the South Carolina loss. They found themselves in an early hole at woeful Kentucky. It was the kind of night where Marshall Morgan had to bank in a short field goal off the upright just to give Georgia a thin 16-14 halftime lead. Georgia didn’t establish a multiple-possession lead until the fourth quarter, and they needed a roughing the punter call to sustain that drive. Even after the Dawgs went up 29-17, they couldn’t put the upset-minded hosts away. Kentucky put together a scoring drive to pull within five with four minutes left. Georgia’s defense had few answers at that point, and you had that sense of dread about what would happen if Kentucky got the ball back trailing by less than a touchdown. The Wildcats attempted an onside kick, and it was executed fairly well. Kentucky’s blockers controlled the first line of Georgia’s return team, and the Wildcat kicker had a good chance at diving on the ball. The dribbled kick took just a little too long to advance the required ten yards, and the Kentucky kicker had to wait for it to roll. That delay gave Connor Norman an opportunity to sprint in from the side of the play and pounce on the ball right before the Wildcat kicker curled around it. Georgia’s offense was able to get a few first downs and kill enough clock to keep the ball away from Kentucky until the waning seconds, and the Dawgs escaped Lexington.
7. 3rd and 25. Ole Miss had been playing well and were on a little roll after posting their first SEC wins in several seasons. A Homecoming loss would cost the Dawgs everything they had earned in Jacksonville. Georgia’s offense was sluggish in the first half with the only score coming on the hidden ball play. Ole Miss looked in position to take a lead into halftime – especially as Georgia wasted time and lost yards on sacks during their final drive of the half. Instead of a likely field goal opportunity, Georgia was faced with a desperate 3rd-and-25 from the Ole Miss 40. Somehow Tavarres King got behind the Rebel secondary, and Aaron Murray threw his best pass of the half for a touchdown. Georgia rode the momentum to a second half rout.
6. Tough enough. After some poor performances and after a week dealing with the whole “soft” challenge and controversy, Georgia was determined to show something different in Jacksonville. The Bulldog defense took the field first and immediately brought pressure against the Gator offense. Florida QB Jeff Driskel was hit and fumbled on the game’s first play from scrimmage. He recovered the fumble, but Georgia kept up the pressure. Damian Swann came on a blitz from the slot on third down and again separated Driskel from the ball. This time Jarvis Jones was able to recover the ball for Georgia, and the Dawgs were set up early on the Florida 20. Todd Gurley took it in a few plays later, and Georgia had served notice that they were ready for a brutally physical game.
5. Gurley plows through Vanderbilt. We were introduced to Todd Gurley during the season opener when he followed up a powerful touchdown run with a kickoff returned all the way. But Buffalo was one thing, and Gurley was held to just 65 yards in the SEC opener. His next big showcase came in the SEC home opener. Gurley and Keith Marshall combined for 212 yards and four touchdowns. Late in the third quarter, Gurley topped off the scoring with this run. He took a handoff out of the pistol, got up a head of steam through a nice hole, and shed four would-be tacklers on the way to the endzone. Gurley had more significant runs than this late score in a blowout win, but few of them showed off his combination of power and speed like this one.
4. Rambo takes the ball. It’s likely that Georgia Tech wasn’t going to do much to stop the Georgia offense, but that was the case in 2008 also. Tech had put up a basketball score a few weeks earlier against UNC, and they were used to having to compensate for poor defense. Georgia scored immediately, but Tech began their own march towards a score. The Jackets put together a 10-play drive that set them up on the Georgia 20. Tech back Robert Godhigh ripped off another run that took the ball inside the Georgia 10. With a host of Georgia defenders slowing Godhigh’s progress, Bacarri Rambo was able to go for the ball. Rambo wrested the ball away and took off down the south sideline before he was forced out around midfield. The Dawgs scored for the second time just a few plays later, and Tech didn’t come close to the endzone again until the fourth quarter.
3. Commings sends Tennessee packing. Georgia’s defense hadn’t done much to stop Tennessee since the second quarter. The Dawgs had to protect a single-score 51-44 lead for much of the fourth quarter. Sanders Commings had spent much of September at safety as he covered for the suspended Rambo, and this was his first game back at cornerback full-time. Georgia turned the Vols over on three consecutive possessions to secure the narrow win, and Commings was responsible for two of those turnovers. The Dawgs avoided the upset and preserved their undefeated record – for another week, anyway.
2. Mitchell breaks open the WLOCP. Though Aaron Murray had struggled for most of the Florida game, Georgia’s coaches turned to the passing game clinging to a one-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. The drive started slowly and needed a defensive holding penalty to move the chains. Murray then completed four of his next five passes. A short second down pass to Malcolm Mitchell had to be reviewed, but it set Georgia up with a manageable 3rd-and-5 in Florida territory. Florida showed tight coverage, and Murray was able to find Mitchell again. A move back to the inside got Mitchell clear of his defender, and Florida’s tighter coverage meant that Mitchell suddenly found himself with a lot of green in front of him. He took off towards the north endzone, evaded a couple of desperate attempts to catch him, and gave Georgia and 8-point lead.
1. Jones thwarts the Gators. We started this list with a Jarvis Jones play that gave Georgia a touchdown, and we end it with a Jones play that prevented an opponent’s touchdown. Mitchell’s score gave Georgia a larger lead over Florida, but the Gators were still within one possession of a tie game. They began to find success mixing the run with passes to tight end Jordan Reed, who was creating matchup problems against Georgia’s linebackers. Just inside the Georgia 20, Reed caught a short pass and broke free of Alec Ogletree. Like Mitchell on his scoring play, Reed’s evasion of the initial tackle opened up a path for a score. Georgia’s defenders gave chase, but it looked as if Florida would have the ball inside the five at worst if Reed didn’t score. Branden Smith came in from the side and dove at Reed, forcing the Florida receiver to jump. Jarvis Jones had started rushing the passer but turned as soon as it became clear that he couldn’t get to the quarterback in time. He began pursuing Reed. The slight delay caused as Reed jumped to hurdle Smith gave Jones a chance to catch up with the receiver, and Jones punched the ball free into the endzone. Sanders Commings dove on the loose ball, and the Dawgs were able to run out the clock to secure the win and claim the inside track to a consecutive SEC East championship. Even more, it meant Georgia’s first back-to-back wins over the Gators in over two decades.
Do you have a few different moments in mind? A different order? Let’s hear them in the comments.