TAMPA, Fla. -- For the first half of Saturday's Outback Bowl against Purdue, Georgia's defense straddled the fine line between inept and inadequate.
Four touchdowns and 249 yards passing on 21-of-32 passing from quarterback Drew Brees. Eighty-five yards rushing. Eighteen first downs. Twenty-five points. All numbers for which Georgia had become known in 1999.
But the second half was a different story, as the defense orchestrated a remarkable about-face that triggered the Bulldogs' grand renaissance in their 28-25 overtime win.
The Boilermakers were up 25-0 in the first half but were held scoreless after intermission as the Bulldogs scored 28 straight points and overcame the largest deficit for a victory in bowl history.
"You've got to give our defense credit in the second half," Bulldogs coach Jim Donnan said. "We kept then out of the end zone."
Donnan said the difference in halves came from adjustments the Bulldogs made at halftime with hopes of pressuring Brees.
"We went to a three-man rush a little bit to try to disrupt the receivers some and make him throw the ball in front of us, because we weren't getting to him with a five- and six-man rush," Donnan said of Brees, who entered halftime with 249 yards passing but threw for 129 in the second half.
"He had a little more time, but we had him covered underneath a little better," Donnan said.
The Bulldogs (8-4) benefited from three missed field goals by Purdue kicker Travis Dorsch, but the telling moments came late.
Georgia forced the Boilermakers into two punts on their last two possessions of regulation, then defensive tackle Josh Mallard sacked Brees in overtime for a 9-yard loss that saddled Purdue with a third-and-19.
After an 8-yard pass from Brees to wideout Chris Daniels, a 43-yard field goal try on fourth down by Dorsch peeled wide right. The stage was set for Hap Hines' 21-yarder that won it.
"They weren't disrupting anything," Brees said. "They went from a man to a zone. We drove the ball like we have all year long, and we just couldn't get any points out of it."
With Purdue threatening to make the score 32-7 late in the first half, Bulldogs cornerback Jamie Henderson picked off Brees to set the turnaround in motion.
"The whole game plan was to come out and play our game and be combative with routes that they run," Henderson said.
The second-half performance provided a measure of redemption for the Bulldogs' often criticized defense, which entered the game having given up an average of 382 yards per game.
Georgia surrendered 528 yards to Purdue, but Henderson wasn't about to complain about that.
"They can have 800 yards if they want to," he said. "But if they don't score, then it doesn't matter."
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