ATHENS, Ga. - For Mike Bobo, 97 yards is vindication.
"I don't know if this is total redemption for me, but it sure feels good," said the senior quarterback, who drove Georgia 97 yards late in the fourth quarter to rally the Bulldogs to the elusive first victory under the Jim Donnan regime Saturday - a 15-12 win over Texas Tech.
Before an abundance of empty, rain-drenched Sanford Stadium seats, Bobo's 22-yard TD pass to senior split end Juan Daniels with 1:45 left in the game was the capper to the heroics, after Tech's Heisman hopeful at tailback Byron Handspard nearly left the Dogs for dead.
"We all kept believing we could do this," said Daniels, who caught six passes for 97 yards, tying his career best performance. "We went out there with a plan on that drive, and we executed it to perfection."
"I finally came through in the clutch," said Bobo, whose 292 yards passing on 16 of 34 attempts, and 57-yard completion to junior Corey Allen were both career bests. "We had some trouble at times tonight, but kept showing flashes. Bottom line, we went 97 yards to win the football game, and none of the negative stuff before that matters now."
It took Bobo more than three quarters to bring victory within reach, realistically, for the first time this season. His 1-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter gave Georgia a 7-6 lead.
But Handspard, who rushed for 214 yards on 37 carries - the biggest rushing output against Georgia since Tennessee's James Stewart ran for 211 yards in 1994 - squashed in seconds what it took the Dogs 45 minutes to accomplish.
The junior's 47-yard TD run with 12:16 left in the fourth quarter erased Georgia's short-lived lead, and the Red Raiders appeared poised to send the Dogs reeling to their first 0-3 start in 17 seasons.
With 0-3 and, most likely, more second-guessing of his talents staring him in the face, Bobo saved his best for last.
"We needed this win so badly," said Donnan, following his first victory at Georgia. "I do have a deep belief in these kids. This win might help us get over the hump."
Bobo completed a pair of clutch passes to Daniels - a 30-yarder to keep the drive alive on fourth-and-10 from the Georgia 48, and the TD strike.
"To go 97 yards when you're 0-2, no one in the stands or watching on television thought we could do it," said the Thomasville, Ga., native. "But we knew we could. We believed. The coaches believed, and we did it."
After showing signs of life last week in a 23-14 loss to South Carolina, a sluggish first-half performance on offense rendered Georgia's outlook grim.
The explosive Red Raiders offense put Georgia in an early hole with a 10-play, 67-yard first-quarter scoring drive. Hanspard's 4-yard TD gave the Raiders a 6-0 lead, after the snap on the extra point was mishandled.
By the second quarter, Hanspard already reached the century mark - his ninth consecutive 100-plus yards rushing performance.
His Georgia counterpart, tailback Robert Edwards, rushed for 43 yards in the first half on seven carries, but Donnan made it clear that he would provide Bobo ample opportunity to turn the Dogs' fortunes around.
Bobo completed just four of his first 10 passes for 83 yards, and it was looking much like a replay of the 11-7 Southern Miss debacle that brought the Donnan era in like a lamb.
After bearing the brunt of criticism in the aftermath of Georgia's subpar offensive effort against South Carolina last week, Bobo failed to jump-start the Dogs lethargic passing game in the first half.
On Georgia's second possession of the game, Bobo opened with the 57-yard completion to Allen on a screen.
On second-and-goal at the 8, Tech defensive end Tony Daniels came up with a big play that, in the early going, appeared to be the forerunner of another disappointing night for Georgia.
Bobo's flip to Torin Kirtsey on an option was batted by Daniels, as he dove past the Georgia offensive line into the backfield. Daniels dove on the loose ball and thwarted Georgia's lone first-half scoring threat.
With Edwards, Georgia's main rushing weapon, on the sidelines the entire second half after re-injuring the left foot he hurt over the summer, Bobo pulled the biggest 1:12 minutes of his football career out of the bag.
"We knew we were gonna score there," he said. "There was never a doubt, because this team has so much heart and character. We kept believing, and took a big step forward tonight."
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