With less than two minutes to play in their game against Colorado at Folsom Field, the Georgia Bulldogs were positioned for a game-winning field goal. Instead, Colorado senior linebacker B.J. Beatty forced a fumble by Bulldog running back Caleb King at the Buff 30-yard line. Fellow linebacker Jon Major fell on the ball, preserving a 29-27 victory for Colorado. In a game in which both teams fostered—and then lost—two-score leads, it was only fitting that the 52,855 on hand be treated to an unexpected ending.
Colorado was led onto the field by the 1990 national championship team. Over 80 players and coaches were on hand for the weekend to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Colorado's first national championship in football.
Perhaps inspired by the presence of the title team, the 2010 Buffs started the game better than they had any game in the young season. Colorado took the opening kickoff and smartly marched 80 yards in 13 plays. Brian Lockridge got most of the 11 carries on the drive, but it was an eight-yard scramble on 3rd-and-6 at the Colorado 24-yard line by quarterback Tyler Hansen that set the tone for the drive. Ten plays later, on 2nd-and-goal, Hansen hit utility back Matt Bahr for a four-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Buff lead.
The applause from the appreciative Buff crowd had hardly died down when Georgia return man Brandon Boykin took the ensuing kickoff back 72 yards. The Colorado defense was up to the task, however, as seven plays by Georgia netted only nine yards, and the Bulldogs had to settle for a 33-yard field goal by kicker Blair Walsh. 7-3, Colorado.
After an exchange of punts, Colorado again went on the attack. A 21-yard gain by running back Rodney Stewart on a lateral from Tyler Hansen took the ball out near midfield as the first quarter came to a close. On 3rd-and-4 at the Georgia 36-yard line after the break, Hansen hit Brian Lockridge for a 35-yard pickup to the one-yard line. Lockridge did the honors on the next play, putting the Buffs up 14-3 with 13:15 to play in the half. The Buffs, by almost any measure, were playing well.
The rest of the second quarter, though, was all Georgia.
Wide receiver A.J. Green, suspended for the first four games of the season, had his first touch of the year on a reverse on Georgia's next play from scrimmage, gaining 40 yards. A 32-yard run by Caleb King on the very next play set up the Bulldogs at the Colorado eight. On third down, quarterback Aaron Murray hit A.J. Green on a three-yard touchdown pass to cut the Buffs lead to 14-10.
Colorado was forced to punt seven plays later, with Branden Smith returning the Zach Grossnickle offering back 36 yards to the Colorado 39-yard line.
This time, it took Georgia only one play to score. A.J. Green got behind Colorado cornerback Jalil Brown, coasting in for a 39-yard touchdown. The score gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the game, at 17-14, with 7:47 to play in the half.
After a three-and-out by the Colorado offense, Georgia marched quickly down the field, picking up first downs on four consecutive plays. The drive was thwarted, however, when Jalil Brown intercepted a Murray offering in the end zone. The Buffs gave the ball back a few plays later, however, as Tyler Hansen was intercepted at the Buff 39-yard line.
Again the Buff defense stiffened, though, and, as the half expired, Blair Walsh, who was eight-for-eight for the season to that point, missed a 41 yard field goal.
Halftime score: Georgia 17, Colorado 14.
Colorado had dominated the first quarter; Georgia the second. The Buffs were down three points, but it could have been worse. Georgia had posted a 72-yard kickoff return, a 40-yard reverse, a 32-yard run, a 36-yard punt return, and a 39-yard pass completion in the first half. The Georgia offense, in six first half possessions, had an average starting position of the Georgia 45-yard line—and yet the Bulldogs had only 17 points to show for their efforts.
Buoyed by the introduction of the 1990 national championship team at halftime, complete with a motivational speech by former Colorado head coach Bill McCartney, Buff fans were ready to cheer the Buffs onto a second straight second-half comeback.
But it didn't begin well.
Georgia received the second half kickoff, and the Bulldogs didn't even bother with requiring a third down on an 85-yard drive until the offense was inside the Colorado 10-yard line. On 3rd-and-goal from the eight, Murray teamed up with Marlon Brown for Murray's third touchdown pass of the evening.
The Georgia comeback was complete—the Bulldogs had turned a 14-3 deficit into a 24-14 lead.
Rather than crumble, though, Colorado struck back. On the Buffs' second play from scrimmage of the third quarter, Rodney Stewart raced for 65 yards down the Colorado sideline. The longest run of the 1990 season gave the Buffs a 1st-and-goal at the Georgia eight-yard line. On 3rd-and-goal from the two, a scrambling Tyler Hansen dove in for a score, and Colorado had new life.
The new score should have been 24-21, but the Buffs, after lining up in a spread formation on the extra point attempt, had numbers on the Bulldogs. Holder Cody Hawkins hit tight end Riar Geer for the two-point conversion, and the Buffs were now down just two points, 24-22. "I told (CUBuffs.com contributing editor) B.G. Brooks that we were going to do stuff like this," said Dan Hawkins after the game. "I said, 'watch, if we get this we'll look like geniuses, but if we don't, then it'll be the stupidest thing that we've ever tried.'" The play did work, but if it had failed, the Buffs would have been down four, instead of being down just a field goal...
On the next series, the Colorado defense then forced a three-and-out by the Georgia offense, then took the lead for good five plays later. On first down at the CU 33-yard line after the punt, the Georgia defense stacked the box, bringing eight players to the line of scrimmage. Tyler Hansen faked a handoff, then hit freshman wide receiver Will Jefferson for a 46-yard gain. The Buffs drive stalled at the Georgia 21-yard line, and senior kicker Aric Goodman hit from 38 yards out to give Colorado a 25-24 lead.
Georgia was guilty of roughing the kicker. Colorado elected to take the points off the board, taking a 1st-and-10 at the Georgia 11-yard line instead. On the next play, Rodney Stewart hit the pylon for an 11-yard touchdown run.
After an exchange of punts, Georgia opened the fourth quarter with an 80-yard drive. The Bulldogs were stymied though, and could gain only two yards after a 1st-and-goal at the Colorado four-yard line. Bulter connected on his second field goal of the game, this time from 20 yards out, to cut the Colorado lead to 29-27.
A full 12:30 remained on the game clock, and Colorado thereafter commenced a drive winning teams are supposed to piece together late in a game. Chewing up almost nine minutes of game clock, the Buffs held the ball for 16 plays. On 3rd-and-13 at the Colorado 28, Tyler Hansen scrambled away from a sack, hitting Rodney Stewart for a 24-yard gain. Then, on 3rd-and-10 at the Georgia 48, Hansen scrambled again, this time keeping the ball for nine yards. Going for it on 4th-and-1, Rodney Stewart gained two to keep the drive alive. Later, Stewart gained another crucial yard—and a first down—on 3rd-and-1 at the Georgia 28.
The Colorado offense did everything on the fourth-quarter drive any coach or fan could ask for...except score.
Tyler Hansen was sacked on the next third down, and Aric Goodman, who had his earlier 38-yarder erased from the record books, was wide left from 52 yards out.
Georgia took over with 3:37 to play. The ball was placed at the Bulldog 35-yard line. There was plenty of time left, with one of the best kickers in the nation, Blair Walsh, ready to give Georgia a one-point victory.
The Georgia offense needed only four plays to gain three first downs, quickly moving the ball to the Colorado 27-yard line. Faced with the likelihood that the Bulldogs would simply run the clock down to a few seconds before attempting a field goal, Dan Hawkins called the first of his three timeouts.
On the first play after the time out, Colorado linebacker B.J. Beatty blitzed. Beatty got to quarterback Aaron Murray just as Murray was handing the ball off to Caleb King. The connection between quarterback and running back failed, with the ball falling to the Folsom Field turf. Sophomore linebacker Jon Major fell on the ball...
...and bedlam ensued.
There were over 6,000 Georgia fans in attendance at the game, but they could only sit in stunned silence as the 46,000 or so Colorado fans screamed with delight. Georgia had only one timeout remaining, so the Buffs were able to run out the clock without incident.
Final Score: Colorado 29, Georgia 27.
"We knew they were going to try and run the ball and milk the clock and kick a field goal," said B.J. Beatty of the game's most important play. "I knew I had the opportunity to come off the edge and maybe disrupt their handoff...I was thinking, 'If I could get off the ball fast enough, I can get to that exchange and force it out'...I saw it pop out and all I could think about was holding that running back so he can't get it."
There was not much for the Bulldogs, or their coach, Mark Richt, to say. "That's as basic of a play as we've got," said Richt, whose team fell for the fourth consecutive time for the first time since (ironically enough) 1990. "You say, 'What's our number one running play?', and that was it." Quarterback Aaron Murray accepted the blame. "I don't know where the guy came from," said Murray of Beatty. "I handed the ball off, and it just came out. That's pretty much how it happened. You can't blame Caleb King for that. It just happens sometimes."
For a team to which "just happens sometimes" had happened too many times in recent years, the unexpected gift of a victory was welcome. "It felt really good," said Tyler Hansen, who went 13-for-20 for 158 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. "There hasn't been many times where we won two in a row while I've been here, and it feels really good to put two weeks together."
The Colorado rushing game, for the second consecutive game, posted great numbers. Rodney Stewart led the way with 149 yards on 19 carries, with Tyler Hansen contributing 51 and Brian Lockridge 36. In all, Colorado ran the ball 47 times on the evening, gaining 235. Added to the 252 yards rushing against Hawaii, the Buffs had now posted back-to-back 200-yard rushing games for the first time since 2006.
With the victory, the Buffs completed their 2010 non-conference schedule with a 3-1 record. While the winning record gives Buff fans reason to hope for Colorado's first winning record since 2005, it bears recalling that the 2008 Buff team opened with a 3-0 record, including a stirring 17-14 overtime win on a Blackout night against West Virginia, only to lose seven of the final nine games of the season to finish 5-7 and home for the holidays.
"It's definitely a confidence booster," said Jon Major, whose fumble recovery against Georgia will be long remembered by Colorado fans. "We know we're not there yet, but I think this shows that we will be competitive in the Big 12 this year."
Up next for the Buffs are the Missouri Tigers. No team in the Big 12 has dominated Dan Hawkins' teams as much as Missouri has, and the Buffs will be returning to the scene of the 58-0 crime in 2008, still looking for their first road win since 2007.
- Colorado leveled its all-time record against Georgia at 1-1, atoning for the last-minute 14-13 loss in Athens in 2006. The victory was also the first by a Colorado team at home against an SEC team, with the only other SEC team to venture west, LSU, leaving with a 44-0 victory in 1979.
- Colorado is 3-1 for the first time since 2008, when the Buffs opened with a 3-0 record. The back-to-back wins were also the first since the opening of the 2008 season.
- Colorado scored on its first drive of the game for the first time in 2010, but it was the fourth consecutive game in which Georgia had given up a touchdown on the opponent's opening drive. Utility back Matt Bahr, a converted offensive tackle, scored the first points of his career on the four-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Hansen.
- The Buffs were flagged only three times against Georgia, after being flagged for an average of nine penalties per game in the first three contests.
- The last time Colorado rushed for over 200 yards in consecutive games came in late 2006, when the Buffs turned the trick against Kansas State and Iowa State. The Buffs raised their record to 8-1 under Dan Hawkins in games in which the Buffs rushed for over 200 yards.
- Junior defensive end had both of the Buffs sacks against Georgia. The two sacks were the first of Hartigan's career.
- Rodney Stewart's 149 yards rushing moved the junior up on several all-time lists. He now has 10 career 100-yard games, tying him for seventh most with three other players—Hugh Charles, Merwin Hodel, and Cortlen Johnson. With 1,848 yards, Stewart is ranked 22nd all-time, just behind legendary Byron "Whizzer" White (1,864).
- Tyler Hansen also moved up on two lists, with credit going to both his arm and his feet. Hansen's 158 yards passing gives him 2,436 career yards, moving him into 13th place, past Zach Jordan (2,287; 1950-52) and Bernie McCall (2,332; 1964-66).
- Hansen's 65 rushing yards (sacks excluded) also moved Hansen past Zach Jordan in quarterback rushing yards, with his 789 rushing yards good enough for 14th place on that list.
- The 52,855 in attendance was not a sell-out. The new capacity for Folsom Field, after some offseason modifications, is 53,613.
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