JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — After watching Terry Godwin execute the trick play in practice, Georgia interim coach Bryan McClendon was having second thoughts about calling it in the bowl game.

His players and coaches convinced him otherwise.

Georgia beats Penn State 24-17 in TaxSlayer for 5th straight photo

It may have been the best decision of McClendon’s short-lived coaching career.

Godwin threw a 44-yard touchdown pass that got the Bulldogs going and caught a 17-yarder later, doing a little bit of everything in Georgia’s 24-17 win over Penn State in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Saturday.

“It’s why you have to trust the people that are around you,” said McClendon, tabbed to fill in after fired coach Mark Richt opted not to stick around for the bowl game. “They said it was there.”

Georgia beats Penn State 24-17 in TaxSlayer for 5th straight photo

It was. And it helped the Bulldogs (10-3) win their fifth consecutive game to close the season, send McClendon out a winner in his head-coaching debut and give the senior class its 40th career victory.

“There definitely was a lot of motivation,” Georgia linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “We really felt for B-Mac. He was thrown into the fire, thrown into a situation that he didn’t expect to get thrown into and it was just something that we really wanted to ban together and fight for. He was in the same position we were.”

Incoming coach Kirby Smart was in attendance for part of the game and had to like what he saw. Despite a makeshift coaching staff — Georgia used different offensive and defensive coordinators — the Bulldogs turned in one of their most complete performances since September.

Georgia beats Penn State 24-17 in TaxSlayer for 5th straight photo

It helped that Penn State (7-6) played more than half the game without star quarterback Christian Hackenberg.

Hackenberg left in the second quarter with a right shoulder injury, hurt when linebacker Roquan Smith tackled him. Hackenberg stayed in the game and threw four more passes, but grabbed his shoulder between plays.

He headed to the locker room after an incompletion and returned for the second half in street clothes. He said he wanted to play, but team officials told him no.

Georgia beats Penn State 24-17 in TaxSlayer for 5th straight photo

Hackenberg declared for the NFL draft after the game.

“It’s been an awesome ride, tough way to end it today,” Hackenberg said. “It means the world to me. My family and I talked about it and we felt this was the best decision for me. I felt my role here and my job here has been accomplished.”

A junior and the school’s all-time leader in passing yards (8,457) and touchdowns (48), Hackenberg completed 8 of 14 for 139 yards against Georgia.

Trace McSorley replaced Hackenberg and threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Geno Lewis on the first play of the fourth quarter and then a 20-yard strike to DaeSean Hamilton with 6:14 to play. Hamilton’s leaping grab between two defenders made it close, a welcome change given many of the games on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

The Bulldogs responded with a 50-yard drive that could have sealed the victory, but they failed to convert a fourth-and-2 play at the 23. McClendon decided to go for it because kicker Marshall Morgan injured an ankle on a kickoff and backup Collin Barber missed a 48-yarder in the third quarter.

“If we had gotten a first down, you know, without anything crazy happening, then the game would be over,” McClendon said.

Penn State took over with 1:52 remaining and no timeouts. McSorley converted two fourth-down plays, but eventually ran out time. His final pass, a Hail Mary to the end zone, was batted down as time expired.

The Nittany Lions lost their fourth in a row to end coach James Franklin’s second season.

Georgia led 24-3 late in the third after Sony Michel carried 260-pound defensive end Garrett Sickels into the end zone. Michel started right, made a cut and then gave Sickels a 7-yard ride before stretching across the goal line.

Had it not been for Godwin that might have been Georgia’s top highlight.

Godwin accounted for two scores in the second quarter. He lined up in the wildcat, took the snap and then launched a high, deep pass to Malcolm Mitchell. Godwin was on the receiving end of a touchdown just before halftime.

“I think the coaches believe in me enough to put the ball in my hands to make a play,” Godwin said. “I believe that’s what they’re going to do in the future.”

http://www.sportsfanlive.com

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Former Georgia mascot Uga IX dies

ugaix

ATHENS, Ga. — Former Georgia mascot Uga IX, the white English bulldog known as Russ, has died, one month after giving up his title.

The Savannah, Georgia-based Seiler family, the longtime owners of the Georgia line of mascots, said Russ died in his sleep early Monday morning.

Russ, who was 11, retired before the Nov. 21 game against Georgia Southern when the collar was officially passed along to his successor, Uga X, who is known as Que. Que served as mascot in an unofficial capacity during the 2015 season before his title became official.

Russ had a record of 44-19 as Georgia mascot. He served as interim mascot for 25 games before being officially promoted before the Florida Atlantic game on Sept. 15, 2012.

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Smart Ready to Lead Bulldogs

Dec. 7, 2015By John Frierson
UGAAA Staff Writer

Eight days ago, something longstanding and successful came to a close. On Sunday, something new and full of possibilities began.

Welcome to the Kirby Smart era of Georgia football. His hiring was announced Sunday and he went public Monday with his introductory news conference at the Georgia Center.

“I’ve thought about this day all of my life,” he said.

Nobody knows how this will go, not even Smart, the former Bulldog All-SEC defensive back (1995-98) who went on to become one of the nation’s top defensive coordinators. Now, in his first head coaching job, the Bainbridge, Ga., native has the difficult task of replacing Mark Richt. Georgia and Richt parted ways after 15 seasons last Sunday.

Smart worked as Richt’s running backs coach in 2005 and often sounded like his former boss during his opening comments Monday. He spoke of “the Georgia way,” that the “student comes first” in student-athletes, and he thanked Richt for that opportunity in 2005 and “also for laying a foundation of integrity at this university.”

The gathering inside the Mahler Room at the Georgia Center at times felt like a reunion. Smart’s family was there, including his parents, his wife Mary Beth (a former Georgia women’s basketball player), their three children, and a lot more.

Former Georgia coach Jim Donnan, who coached Smart his final three seasons after replacing Ray Goff, was also on hand. Donnan gave Smart his start in coaching by hiring him as an administrative assistant for the 1999 season.

“He’s really had a good background and he’s always been a good leader,” Donnan said. “I think it will be easier for him than just about anybody coming in here because he knows the lay of the land.”

He knows UGA, he knows recruiting in the state of Georgia and he knows what it’s like as a player to go through a coaching change. All of those things stood out to Bulldogs sophomore tight end Jeb Blazevich.

“I think the main thing for me is it means a lot and it’s very comforting that he’s been in my seat,” said Blazevich, who met his new coach at a team meeting Sunday night. “He’s been on the practice field working out and he’s done everything in Athens and he’s been through the same kind of coaching change.

“I think the wisdom he’ll have and being able to remember and sympathize with us, as well as direct us and guide us the way that we need to go, it’s really comforting.”

Smart said part of his message to the team Sunday was about what it takes to get to the highest level of college football. As Alabama’s defensive coordinator the past eight seasons, Smart has played a vital role in helping the Crimson Tide get to the top, winning national titles in 2009, 2011 and ’12, and the Tide are among the four playoff teams this season.

“We’re going to challenge them and demand toughness and effort out of every person and every aspect of their life,” he said. “We’re going to push them harder than they’ve ever been pushed. But I think to be excellent, they have to do that.”

The Richt era of Georgia football spanned 15 seasons and in that time the Dogs won 145 games and two SEC crowns (2002 and 2005). By any measure it was a good run, especially the 13-2 record against Georgia Tech. But that didn’t mean the program couldn’t benefit from a change and a new voice.

“It was the best decision for the University of Georgia and I felt like it was the right way to go, so here we are today with a new coach and a new direction,” J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Greg McGarity said.

If you think Smart is worried about walking into a job loaded with high expectations, guess again. If this wasn’t a place that had big goals and the capability of reaching and surpassing them, he probably wouldn’t be here.

“There’s no greater pressure than (the pressure) I put on myself, I can tell you that,” Smart said. “That’s the way it should be. You put pressure on yourself and you demand excellence from everybody in your organization. We’re going to go out there and have the intent to win every game we play.”

Smart has had numerous job offers the past few years, numerous opportunities to take the next step and become a head coach. His father, Sonny Smart, a longtime high school coach, said his son patiently waited for the right situation.

“He had no idea that this would ever come open and he’d been torn the last couple of years about should he go or not. But Alabama was paying him a lot, he had a great job and his family was happy,” Sonny Smart said. “He had some opportunities, but it just was not right.”

This is right. This is home. This is the future of Georgia football.

John Frierson is the staff writer for the UGA Athletic Association and curator of the ITA Men’s Tennis Hall of Fame. You can find his work at: Frierson Files. He’s also on Twitter: @FriersonFiles and @ITAHallofFame.

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mark-richt-atheU

Mark Richt may have had some trepidation Thursday as he walked into the team meeting room at Georgia, about to tell his former players that he would be leaving them immediately, and for another school.

The worries went away quickly.

Before Richt could say anything, Georgia players held their hands together to make the sign of “The U,” as in the University of Miami, the team they knew from press reports Richt was about to take over.

The teary-eyed Richt smiled and made the sign back at them.

This was according to several people who were in the room or were familiar with what happened. The accounts of Thursday’s team meeting described it as “very emotional.” Instead of coaching the team one final time, in its bowl game, Richt told them he would be leaving immediately and assistant coach Bryan McClendon was taking over on an interim basis. Richt told the players his original plan was to take at least one year off, but that Miami – his alma mater – was an offer he couldn’t resist.

According to one account, Richt harped on how much a pleasure it had been to be the lead the Georgia program for 15 years, and that he was going to make sure the Paul Oliver Network – which he set up last year to help players transition into the real world – would stay intact.

Richt also said something that stood out to senior long snapper Nathan Theus, who tweeted out the quote after the meeting:

“Life is about people, not rings. Rings collect dust.”

That’s a statement that will rankle some Georgia fans, upset that Richt didn’t win an SEC championship in his final 10 years at Georgia, after winning two in his first five. But it’s been a consistent message from Richt, who said something similar last year in an interview about the PO Network.

A couple hours after Thursday’s meeting, Richt boarded a plane bound for Miami, officially leaving Georgia football behind.

DawgNation

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