Chick-fil-A Bowl: Georgia 31, Virginia Tech 24

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 30, 2006

By Charles Odum

Associated Press

ATLANTA — At 6-4, Georgia’s season appeared lost. The Bulldogs’ streak of 10-win seasons and top-10 rankings would end at four and they were facing the real possibility of a losing record.

After three straight wins over ranked opponents, including a 31-24 comeback upset of No. 14 Virginia Tech in Saturday night’s Chick-fil-A Bowl, Georgia coach Mark Richt had reason to be ecstatic.

“To be where we were, pretty much lost and forgotten, and to beat three ranked teams … is pretty fantastic,” Richt said.

Georgia finished an up-and-down season with three straight victories over ranked teams — No. 5 Auburn and No. 16 Georgia Tech before the bowl game — a first for the program.

The Bulldogs (9-4) also found their offensive coordinator for the future while salvaging the season.

New Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo’s offense delivered in the second half as Georgia rallied from an 18-point deficit.

The offense, led by freshman quarterback, Matthew Stafford, had help from senior linebacker Tony Taylor, who set up two fourth-quarter touchdowns with interceptions.

Virginia Tech gave up only 9.3 points per game while shutting out four opponents in the regular season, but Georgia scored 28 second-half points to rally from a 21-3 halftime deficit.

“At halftime we said ‘Look, we’re down 21-3 but all we need to do is get a couple of first downs,’ ” Bobo said. “We knew we were going to have the opportunity to get some guys open deep if we could protect, and we were able to do that.”

Stafford was a modest 9-for-21 passing for 129 yards with one touchdown and one interception, but his total included passes of 41 yards to Martrez Milner, 24 yards to Mario Raley and 27 yards to Brannan Southerland.

Only Georgia Tech, which beat Virginia Tech 38-27, scored more points against the Hokies this season.

“Never could I see us having a 21-3 lead and then losing the game,” said defensive tackle Carlton Powell. “They definitely got the momentum, and it started snowballing.”

Powell called the loss “doubly heartbreaking.”

“They kept getting the ball on our side of the field,” Powell said. “It hurts a lot more when you shoot yourself in the foot.”

Richt gave Bobo, the quarterbacks coach, play-calling duties before the final regular-season game against Georgia Tech. Bobo was promoted to offensive coordinator this month after Neil Callaway accepted the job as Alabama-Birmingham’s head coach.

“(Bobo) had a lot of nerve to make some of the calls he did,” Richt said. “It’s a little bit unfair to throw it at him late in the season, but he handled it well.”

Taylor’s INTs gave the senior linebacker seven for the season and helped Georgia rally after Virginia Tech (10-3) led 21-3 at halftime.

“By the 13th game I think we should be able to handle business like that,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said.

Sean Glennon was 13-for-26 passing for 94 yards with three interceptions — all in the final quarter.

“We threw it to the other team … and let Georgia back in it,” Beamer said.

Stafford threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Milner in the third quarter and passed to Milner again for a 2-point conversion in the fourth quarter that tied the game at 21-21.

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