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Ghosts of Bowl Games Past, Part IV: Georgia vs Purdue in the 2000 Outback Bowl

McMike was a good one. A damn good one. - Al Messerschmidt

The first day of the new millennium found me at my dad’s house in Augusta, Georgia. If also found me hungover, but that’s a different story entirely. The only thing that could ease my aching head was the fact the Georgia, despite a mediocre 7-4 record, would be playing in a New Year’s Day bowl game.

At least I thought it would make me feel better. In the early going it seemed that my headache would only get worse. Purdue came out on fire and threatened to run the Dawgs out of the stadium. Purdue quarterback Drew Brees completed about 457 passes in a row, while Georgia’s offense couldn’t do anything. After throwing three first quarter touchdown passes, Brees hooked up with Chris James for yet another score with 10:38 to play in the half. Purdue led 25-0, and the only thing working in Georgia’s favor was the Boilermakers’ failure to convert on 3 out of 4 point after attempts.

At this point, I’d had about all I could stand. I needed some air. Taking a radio along just in case, I went outside. Knowing that the Dawgs were getting drilled made enjoyment of the holiday impossible. Things got a little better when Terrence Edwards took an option reverse pitch and went 74 yards for a touchdown to get Georgia on the board. At least it wouldn’t be a shutout.

Late in the half, Purdue was threatening to score again. But Jamie Henderson intercepted a Brees pass and returned it to the Purdue 40 yard line. Hap Hines kicked a field goal to make the score 25-10. By the time halftime was over, I was back in front of the television, hoping for the best.

The second half featured several events that I still can’t quite explain. Somehow a Georgia defense that had seemed completely overmatched in the first half held Purdue scoreless; partly because Boilermaker kicker Travis Dorsch was kicking the ball everywhere but through the uprights. Somehow the offense which had sputtered and sputtered early on put together two touchdown drives, the first of which was capped by a Quincy Carter touchdown run and followed by a brilliant play call on a two point attempt: Edwards took a handoff from Carter and ran the option, pitching the ball to Patrick Pass who took it in for the conversion.

The second drive began at the Georgia six yard line. Edwards came up with a huge catch on a fourth down play to keep the drive alive. Then, on third and goal from the eight, Carter rolled away from the Purdue pass rush and threw a pass up for grabs in the end zone. About twelve people got a hand on that pass: eleven members of the defense, and finally tight end Randy McMichael, who somehow came down with the ball for a game-tying touchdown.

The game went to overtime. Purdue won the toss and Dorsch promptly missed another field goal attempt. Georgia took over and drove inside the five. The Dawgs had been in just this position against Georgia Tech in the regular season finale, before the worst call I’ve ever seen in a football game (a "fumble" by Jasper Sanks) resulted in a Georgia turnover and, ultimately, a Tech win.

But not this time. After getting the ball right in the middle of the field, Hines came on to try to win the game. Place kicking during the Jim Donnan era was always something of an adventure, and 1999 had been no exception. I waited to see if the impossible would actually transpire. Could the Dawgs really win a game they’d trailed by twenty-five points?

Yes they could! Hines split the uprights, and Georgia had the greatest comeback in bowl history. Despite Brees, as Larry Munson put it, "throwing the ball a thousand times for a thousand yards," the Bulldogs had an epic win. In Augusta, my headache finally began to fade away. Nothing like a little hair of the Dawg!

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