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Updated: Sunday, September 1, 2002 5:38 PM EDT
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(12) Georgia 31, Clemson 28

ATHENS, Georgia (Ticker) -- Georgia, which has aspirations of contending for the Southeastern Conference championship this season, barely avoided an upset in its opener.

Aaron Hunt came up just short on a 46-yard field goal with 2 1:43 remaining as the 12th-ranked Bulldogs held on for a 31-28 victory over Clemson.

Georgia ran out the clock as Musa Smith picked up a first down on a gutsy 4th-and-1 at the Bulldogs 40 with 38 seconds left. With Clemson out of timeouts, all quarterback David Greene had to do was take a knee twice.

"Sure, we could have punted," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "They were out of timeouts, but a punt could get blocked or returned. It was a dive play we put in late in camp, but we executed it well and were able to run out the clock."

Georgia (1-0) squandered a 21-7 lead and overcame a poor game by Greene, who completed just 12-of-21 passes for a career-low 67 yards.

Clemson (0-1) rallied for a 28-21 lead on Yusef Kelly's two-yard run with 2:25 left in the third quarter.

Georgia tied it on David Shockley's 24-yard touchdown pass to Terrence Edwards with 12:35 left and took a 31-28 lead on Billy Bennett's 43-yard field goal with 9:41 remaining.

The Bulldogs also struggled on the ground, rushing for just 86 yards on 39 carries. Smith was the only Georgia back with more than 10 yards.

However, Georgia got a big special teams play as Fred Gibson returned a kickoff 91 yards to break a 7-7 tie with 10:54 to go in the first half. Gibson became the first Bulldog to go the distance with a kickoff since 1990.

The Bulldogs made it 21-7 on Shockley's nine-yard run with 8:10 left in the second quarter, but the Tigers closed to seven points on Willie Simmons' 21-yard TD pass to Kevin Youngblood with eight seconds left before halftime.

Clemson tied it on a 55-yard fumble return by defensive end Bryant McNeal with 9:54 to go in the third quarter.

Simmons completed 17-of-37 passes for 165 yards with an interception. The Tigers also had their problems on the ground, rushing for just 68 yards.

The Bulldogs took a 40-17-4 lead in a series that dates to 1897. However, the teams were playing for the first time since 1995.