TAMPA, Fla. -- In the first game of the first day of a new year, Georgia applied a dramatically new ending to a familiar script.
Just more than a month after their unlikely comeback at Georgia Tech was marred by a controversial call by referees which led to a heartbreaking 51-48 loss, the Bulldogs got it right with a 28-25 win over Purdue in the Outback Bowl.
A 25-point deficit? It barely registered a yawn from Georgia, which scored 25 unanswered points to send the game into overtime. The Bulldogs won when kicker Hap Hines kicked a 21-yard field goal to spark bedlam at Raymond James Field before a disbelieving crowd of 54,059.
It was the largest deficit overcome for victory in college bowl history.
"It's a great win for Georgia," coach Jim Donnan said. "We needed it bad."
The epic climb off the mat applied an exclamation point to an often disappointing season, and it capped Georgia's greatest comeback in school history. The previous came just last year in the Peach Bowl, where the Bulldogs (8-4) overcame a 21-0 deficit against Virginia and went on to win, 35-33.
"This is two years in a row we've gotten down like the Titanic," said Donnan, whose team was behind 25-0 with 10:38 left in the second quarter, apparently on the edge of wretched disaster. "That was as close to looking like a game was fixed as I've ever seen."
Down 25-18, Georgia marched 94 yards on 13 plays and scored when quarterback Quincy Carter found tight end Randy McMichael for an 8-yard score with 1:19 left in regulation.
Carter rolled left, found his receivers covered, turned right and spotted McMichael straddling the back of the end zone. The pass was short and tipped by Purdue defensive back Adrian Beasley, but McMichael snared it for the touchdown that helped knot the score.
"I saw the ball coming," McMichael said. "I just didn't think I would catch it.
I was trying to knock it down so they wouldn't get the interception, and it was just like right there."
Purdue (7-5), despite amassing 528 total yards and four touchdowns from quarterback Drew Brees, was shut out in the second half.
"Part of any game is putting a team away," Donnan said. "They had a chance to put us away and they didn't."
The Boilermakers did everything they could to keep the Bulldogs within contention. Kicker Travis Dorsch missed his second extra-point try -- breaking a career streak of 56 successful point-afters -- then shanked field goal attempts from 40, 38 and 43 yards.
The last, which missed badly, came in overtime and set up Hines' game-winner.
Purdue twice tried two-point conversions in the first half but failed.
"Little did we know how critical our first missed extra point of the season was going to be," Purdue coach Joe Tiller said. "We were very poor, obviously, in the kicking game."
The Boilermakers were inside Georgia's 22-yard line three times in the second half but didn't score.
"That ought to kill you," said Brees, who passed for 378 yards on 36 of 60 attempts and was named the game's most valuable player. "You drive all the length of the field down there and you have nothing to show for it ... You just have to get it in your head that when you're in the red zone, you gotta get points."
The game's turning point came late in the first half.
Up 25-7, Purdue appeared poised to land the decisive blow when it drove to Georgia's 13-yard line with 1:29 left.
But a third-and-4 pass from Brees was picked off by Bulldogs cornerback Jamie Henderson and returned 49 yards to the Purdue 40. Eight plays later, Hines sent a 32-yard kick through the uprights to send his team into the locker room with a manageable 25-10 deficit.
"I didn't think he was going to throw it," Henderson said of Brees. "I thought he saw me covering, but he threw it anyway."
After Dorsch missed the 40-yarder on Purdue's first drive of the second half, Georgia went 77 yards on eight plays and scored when Carter bulled into the end zone on a draw from 7 yards out to cut it to 25-16.
On the ensuing two-point conversion, Carter pitched right to split end Edwards, who then pitched to running back Patrick Pass.
After Pass scooted just inside the pylon on the rare double-option play, it was 25-18. Matters were suddenly and dramatically different.
And so will, perhaps, be the memory of the 1999 season.
"We knew this game was going to define what kind of team we are," said Carter, who finished with 243 yards passing and 41 yards rushing. "We made a lot of mistakes early on this year and we have some tough losses, but what really defines a team is when they're real down and you think they're out and they come back and get a victory like this."
McMichael said the unlikely comeback was inspired in part by a few verbal jabs from Purdue's players.
"It really made us mad during the game, because they were talking trash and pointing to the scoreboard," he said. "We just said, `We're not going to talk like that. We're going to win this game and shut them up.' "
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