Since the departure of Kyle Weblog, I have been going through Georgia football history withdrawal. I figured I would attempt to take Dawg Sports readers on an excursion throughout the glorious history of our program, but with a bit of a twist. I plan on launching a series where we will go through the 2013 football schedule with yours truly selecting a past memorable game against each foe, provided there has been one.
Without further ado, I present you with Georgia's most monumental showdown with the South Carolina Gamecocks.
September 14, 2002
Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, SC
Georgia: 13, South Carolina: 7
Don't let Georgia's dominant 42-17-2 series record against our not-so-friendly neighbors from the East fool you. There have been some very close and hotly contested battles between the Bulldogs and the Gamecocks, especially in recent memory. As a matter of fact, one part of our state recognizes the rivalry as the best around. Since Mark Richt became Georgia's coach in 2001, the series scoreboard reads Georgia: 230, South Carolina: 216. Of Coach Richt's seven victories over the Gamecocks, five have been decided by seven points or less.
2002's nail-biter that came down to the wire and cemented a now-legendary Dawg's name in the Georgia football annals was one of these victories.
Like many games against the Gamecocks from that decade, this one was one in which points were relatively hard to come by. Ninth-ranked Georgia's heralded offense struggled against a stout South Carolina defense for most of the contest.
The Dawgs took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter on a 22-yard kick by Billy Bennett, but until the fourth, the major highlight of the game was sophomore DE David Pollack's second-quarter recovery of an Andrew Pinnock fumble (caused by UGA LB Tony Gilbert) at the Georgia 2. At the half, the Dawgs still held onto a 3-0 lead.
The third quarter passed as a relatively uneventful chess match where both defenses held. The Dawgs had possession as the fourth quarter began, but the drive resulted in a Jonathan Kilgo punt from the South Carolina 36 to the 4 with no return. Gamecock QB Corey Jenkins completed a three-yard pass to Ryan Brewer on first down. With the Gamecocks on their own 7, Jenkins, dropping into the end zone, attempted a second-down pass to Andrea Gause. Jenkins was immediately swarmed by Pollack, who knocked the ball loose and it, in #47's own words, "kind of stuck to [his] hand." The referee signaled touchdown and Pollack was credited with an interception. Jenkins later said, "That's when I thought, 'Oh my goodness, this is just one of those days when everything is going to go wrong.'''
South Carolina answered with a touchdown of their own on the very next drive to make it 10-7, Georgia. The Dawgs would add another Bennett field goal later in the fourth for a 13-7 lead. The Gamecocks threatened one more time in the game's final moments. With only 12 seconds remaining, Andrew Pinnock mishandled a pitch from Jenkins, which bounced off the running back's chest and miraculously ended up in the hands of Bulldog safety Thomas Davis at the Georgia 2.
You are now free to wipe the sweat from your brow. The Dawgs would go on to win this nail-biter en route to the 2002 SEC Championship, the football program's first since 1982.
While game MVP honors could go to a number of people (for example, to Bennett for his six points or to Davis, whose fumble recovery sealed the game), I have to give the game ball to David Pollack, whose end-zone INT of Corey Jenkins remains one of the most celebrated and recognizable plays in Georgia football history.
Pollack, like yours truly, received his bachelor's degree from UGA in history and, not at all like yours truly, left Athens as one of the school's all-time gridiron greats and fan favorites. He was a first-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2005. Just a year later, this DGD suffered a career-ending and potentially life-threatening injury of his sixth cervical vertebrae in a game against the Cleveland Browns. Pollack now represents his alma mater as a college football analyst and broadcaster for ESPN. He and his wife Lindsey live in Georgia and had their first son, a potential future Bulldog great named Nicholas, in 2008.
Please join me in raising a paw to David Pollack and the 2002 Georgia Bulldogs for delivering an epic performance in a crucial game on September 14, 2002, a game I consider the best ever played against the South Carolina Gamecocks.
What are some of your favorite contests against South Carolina? The 1980 battle between Herschel Walker and Georgia native George Rogers? The 2004 come-from-behind shocker? The 2009 shootout between Joe Cox and Stephen Garcia?
Next Stop: The University of North Texas Mean Green, against whom Georgia has never played. I'll have to get creative with this one. Any suggestions? Please feel free to share them in the comments below.