- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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It was no easy victory for the Bulldogs, who were ranked No. 1 in the nation for the first time in 38 years. Georgia trailed 7-0 early in the second period, didn't have a first down during the opening 12 minutes and wound up with a 350-339 edge in total yardage. Freddie Gilbert put the Bulldogs on top 10-7 when he ran a blocked punt back 27 yards, and Herschel Walker made it 31-7 with an 18-yard ramble. Walker, however, didn't have one of his customary big days, finishing with 77 yards in 27 carries, eight yards fewer than Auburn's James Brooks had in 21 cracks. Belue was Georgia's main man. Four times on third-and-long he scrambled for first downs, keeping alive three drives that paid off in touchdowns. Rex Robinson of Georgia became the SEC's alltime scoring leader, his 40-yard field goal and four PAT kicks increasing his career total to 261 points.
Mississippi State, which had shocked Alabama 6-3 two weeks earlier, came back from a week's layoff to outlast Louisiana State 55-31. Glen Young of Mississippi State broke a 24-24 tie by running back the second-half kickoff 100 yards. That started a four-touchdown, third-quarter spree by the Bulldogs. Freshman John Bond of Mississippi State, who had begun the day's scoring by teaming up with David Ellis on a 50-yard pass, added a 69-yarder to Mardye McDole during the third-period outburst. This week Mississippi State will take on Mississippi, a 20-9 victor at Tennessee, and then will go to the Sun Bowl, where its opponent will probably be the loser of the Nebraska-Oklahoma game.
For the second time in three weeks Kentucky lost in the waning moments amid confusion and controversy. On Nov. 1 a pair of pass-interference rulings against the Wildcats enabled Tulane to kick a game-deciding field goal after time had run out. Last week Kentucky led 15-14 with 34 seconds remaining and Florida in possession on its own 32. The Gators, who had used all their time-outs, gained 51 quick yards as freshman Wayne Peace completed three of four passes. Cris Collinsworth caught the third of those throws, a 21-yarder, at the Wildcat 17. Kentucky Coach Fran Curci argued in vain that the catch had been made out of bounds. The Gators' Brian Clark then booted a 34-yard field goal with no time left to pull out a 17-15 victory. Florida, which was 0-10-1 last season, is now 7-2 with three games to go, the biggest improvement by any team in the nation. The Gators' 6½-game turnaround is one of the 15 best ever, and two more wins would surpass the alltime mark of eight by Purdue, which went from 1-8 in 1942 to 9-0 the next year. Florida's final three matchups will be against Miami, Florida State and Maryland. Vanderbilt, hoping to double last season's total of one victory, led Miami 14-7 in the second period. But the Hurricanes pulled out a 24-17 triumph. Maryland, which knocked off Clemson 34-7, will take on Florida in the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando. That's the hometown of Chris Havener, a Terp walk-on who caught six of Mike Tice's passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns.
In another ACC game, first-place North Carolina defeated Virginia 26-3; Kelvin Bryant's 81-yard scoring run was the big play of the day. He finished with 111 yards, while fellow Tar Heel Amos Lawrence ran for 95 yards and two touchdowns. That left Lawrence with 4,248 yards, the ninth highest career figure in NCAA history.
George Rogers of South Carolina moved up to fourth on that alltime list by raising his total to 4,790 yards rushing with a 177-yard performance during a 39-38 triumph over Wake Forest. TD runs of two and 24 yards by Rogers gave the Gamecocks a 14-7 lead, but Jay Venuto kept rallying the Deacons with 28-for-50 passing that was good for 447 yards and four touchdowns. The last of his scoring passes was caught by Wayne Baumgardner, who latched on to 12 for 271 yards and two touchdowns. That put Wake Forest ahead 38-31 with 1:16 to be played. After completing an 18-yard toss, South Carolina's Garry Harper unfurled a bomb that glanced off the hands of a Deacon defender and into the mitts of Horace Smith, who ran the final 20 yards to the end zone. That still left the Gamecocks one point short at 38-37. So Harper went to the sure-handed Smith on a two-point pass that wrapped up the scoring. In all, Harper passed for 266 yards and three TDs.
Georgia Tech, which had tied Notre Dame the week before, ran out of magic against Navy, losing 19-8. The Yellow Jackets gained only 41 yards in the first half, didn't complete a pass until late in the third period and failed to cross midfield until the fourth quarter. Tech's defense, though more worthy than its offense, had difficulty bringing down Eddie Meyers, who ran far 148 yards.
Virginia Tech, which beat VMI 21-6, is also bowl-bound. The Gobblers will play in the Peach Bowl against a mystery guest.
Grambling State spoiled South Carolina State's try for a perfect season, 26-3. That left only one unbeaten and untied team in Division 1-AA, idle Western Kentucky.