ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia botched everything from a touchdown to a locker-room celebration Saturday afternoon, but the Bulldogs are Southeastern Conference East Division champions just the same.
The SEC’s most disappointing program at the end of the 2010 season became the first to clinch a spot in the 2011 league title game by defeating Kentucky 19-10 at Sanford Stadium. The Bulldogs suffered four turnovers and scored exactly half of what Vanderbilt racked up on the Wildcats a week earlier in Nashville, but that didn’t seem to matter when Georgia coach Mark Richt seized the moment.
In a locker room covered in plastic with water all over the plastic, Richt felt the time was right to slide across the floor.
"I thought it would be a great idea to run and slide, like I did back in the day," Richt said. "I took off running and dove, but what I didn't realize was that the other end of the plastic was dry, so I laid out and I stuck. Then I couldn't breathe and a bunch of guys jumped on me.
"I thought it was going to be fun. I can't say that it was fun."
Much of Saturday's game wasn't fun for the Bulldogs, who relied on four Blair Walsh field goals to take a 12-10 halftime lead before scoring their lone touchdown on a 7-yard pass from Aaron Murray to Marlon Brown on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The touchdown occurred despite Brown running the wrong route.
"I was supposed to run a double-move route, but I ran a stop-and-go route," Brown said. "It's almost the same route, but I ran the wrong one. I looked at Aaron and Aaron looked at me, and he threw me the ball."
Said Murray: "He ended up in the same location. It just took a little longer. He did a great job of getting behind the safety, and there was a big hole for him once he got back there."
Murray, who set a school record by throwing nine touchdown passes in a two-week span against New Mexico State and Auburn, was a far more pedestrian 16-of-29 for 162 yards with a score and an interception.
One facet that remained stout for Georgia was its defense, which held the Wildcats to 165 yards. Kentucky's lone touchdown occurred after Ken Malcome fumbled at Georgia's 27-yard line, and the Wildcats gained a measly 13 yards on 22 second-half plays.
Kentucky quarterback Maxwell Smith was intercepted twice and had to leave the game twice.
"They were able to hang in the game, but our guys kept sawing wood and kept playing," Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. "Once we were able to get a two-point lead, I said, 'That's two points, so it's on us.' I was really pleased in the second half, when the game was on the line, that we kept getting three-and-outs and creating turnovers."
The Bulldogs (9-2) have won nine straight games in the same season for the first time since 1982. It was not the prettiest win, but it was one that was being appreciated minutes after its conclusion.
"I'm going to remember this as the day I clinched the championship on senior day," senior cornerback Brandon Boykin said. "Everything was riding on this game, and it meant so much to everybody in the program, so there is no better way to go out than being victorious in your last game at home."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...