Originally created 10/13/03

Williams: Win at Tennessee left even Bulldogs in awe



KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Shocking the nation is one thing, but it's something entirely different when a team manages to shock itself.

On Saturday night at Neyland Stadium, at least one Georgia player was blown away by the Bulldogs' 41-14 demolition of Tennessee.

"I thought that Clemson score was outrageous," senior cornerback Bruce Thornton said of his team's 30-0 win on the Tigers' home turf in the season opener. "I could have never, ever imagined this. Never."

You'll have to forgive Thornton, who signed with Georgia in 1999, when the Bulldogs were struggling just to win a big game - let alone turn one into a laugher.

After Saturday's raid on Rocky Top, it's probably safe for Thornton to expand his imagination. It's probably safe for him and everyone else to realize that these Bulldogs are in the business of domination.

Any time. Anywhere. Against anyone.

"We want to let everyone know the tide has turned," sophomore safety Thomas Davis said after the Bulldogs' fourth-consecutive victory over the Volunteers.

From 1992 to 2001, Florida and Tennessee ran a monopoly on the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division title. Either the Gators or the Vols represented the East in the SEC Championship game during the 10-year stretch, and Georgia wondered whether it would ever make the short drive to Atlanta for the title game.

It was a feeling of hopelessness and despair for the Bulldogs. A feeling with which Tennessee and Florida are now becoming intimately acquainted.

Georgia (5-1, 3-1 SEC) can lose another game - provided it isn't against the Gators - and still win the SEC East for the second-straight year. The Bulldogs also improved their standing in the race for the mythical national title, thanks to losses from No. 3 Ohio State, No. 5 Florida State, No. 6 Louisiana State and No. 7 Arkansas.

"It just shows this program has come a long, long way," said senior receiver Damien Gary, whose team moved up four spots to No. 4 in The Associated Press poll and fifth in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll.

Georgia has come a long way mainly because of its defense, which concedes touchdowns as often as a politician admits he's wrong. In beating Tennessee and Alabama by a combined score of 78-37, the Bulldogs' defense gave up one touchdown when the outcomes were still in question.

The Crimson Tide trailed 30-3 when it scored its lone offensive touchdown against Georgia. The Vols' second touchdown Saturday came with 46 seconds remaining. Their first was on a bizarre 90-yard touchdown pass that should have been intercepted or, at the very least, batted down.

But the Bulldogs dropped the hammer against Tennessee because they made the play whenever they needed it. And not just the play that everyone was talking about - a 92-yard fumble return for a touchdown on the last snap of the first half.

That play, which gave Georgia a 20-7 halftime lead and all the momentum in the world, staggered the Vols. A methodical, surgical 83-yard drive on the Bulldogs' first possession of the second half knocked them out.

Georgia's offense isn't always pretty. It doesn't resemble some of the point-a-minute machines that coach Mark Richt fine-tuned at Florida State.

But Richt always has the plays ready when he needs them, and he has the quarterback to make them. Even in the face of heavy blitzing, junior signal-caller David Greene managed to pick apart the Vols on the 14-play drive that pushed them over the edge.

"David Greene is a heck of a player," said Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, who watched Georgia convert three third-down conversions and one fourth-down play on the drive that made the score 27-7. "We had him by the shirt, and he still makes a great play."

The Bulldogs are making all the great plays now. Fulmer and everyone else in the SEC should probably get used to it.

Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or larry.williams@augustachronicle.com.



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