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August 30, 2008

Ups and Downs in game one

This definitely wasn't the sight Georgia coaches, players and fans wanted to see during Saturday's season-opener against Georgia Southern senior defensive tackle Jeff Owens being helped off the field with an injured right knee.

Although no official announcement was made following the Bulldogs' 45-21 win, head coach Mark Richt was bracing for the worst.

"Jeff hurt his knee and he won't be back anytime soon," Richt said. "We need to take the MRI and X-rays that we need to take and have certainty later on."

Official word will not likely be available until Richt's next press conference Sunday afternoon. Owens was taken to St. Mary's hospital after the game.

Owens' injury took place during the Bulldogs' eighth defensive snap when he appeared to plant his leg, lunge forward, then fell to the turf.

"We've all just got to pick up, me, (Corvey Irvin). but now we've got to look at these younger guys, DeAngelo (Tyson), Ricardo (Crawford) and B- Wood (Brandon Wood) to fill up his spot and provide depth," junior tackle Geno Atkins said. "It's up to us now."

The Bulldogs were already without junior Kade Weston who is expected to miss at least another week with an MCL sprain.

Richt indicated that if the injury is a season-ender, Owens would apply for a medical redshirt and be able to play next year.

"It was sad. I went in there and saw him at halftime and I said 'I don't now for sure, Jeff, but the best part is if it is bad we get to hang around each other for another year," Richt said. "He smiled, and said things happen for a reason. He said he hasn't been through a lot of adversity in his life and this will test him and make him a better man."

Owens wasn't the only Bulldog to get injured, although his was the most serious. Wide receiver Kenneth Harris had his right ankle in a boot after spraining it in the second quarter and did not return, while senior linebacker Dannell Ellerbe left the game midway through the third quarter with cramps and did not return. Also, cornerback Brandon Boykin limped off the field late in the game. Details were not immediately available.

Running back Knowshon Moreno was stricken with cramps during his third touchdown run, but later returned to the sideline.

"I'm fine, no problems," Moreno said after the game."

Ten true freshmen see action

It was a very relieved A.J. Green who sat slumped on his chair inside the interview room following the victory over Georgia Southern.

The touted freshmen said he barely slept a wink Friday night, thinking about his first game wearing the Red and Black.

He didn't disappoint.

Green just caught two passes for 40 yards, but his first was a 36-yard snag while running a skinny post to set up Georgia's first touchdown, before he scored his first career touchdown with a 4-yard catch with 7:46 to play in the game.

"I woke up like every hour," Green said. "It was crazy. I went thinking I could see myself making a couple of catches, but not scoring a touchdown."

Although his touchdown was just a 4-yarder, it an amazing grab nonetheless. Backup quarterback Joe Cox threw behind Green, but the 6-foot-4 wideout adjusted his body in midair while he reached out to snag the ball."

Green wasn't the only true freshman to see his first collegiate action.

All total, 10 true freshman saw action for the Bulldogs, including kicker Blair Walsh, starting right guard Cordy Glenn, running back Richard Samuel, defensive back Nick Williams, defensive back Brandon Boykin, linebacker Marcus Dowtin, defensive tackle DeAngelo Tyson, defensive back Sanders Commings and center Ben Jones. The previous high under Richt was nine in 2002.

Walsh was impressive, converting a 52-yard field goal in the first quarter, but it might have been Jones who was put in the most precarious position of all when he got into the game with Georgia backed up at its own 1-yard line.

The Alabama native held his own and Georgia drove out to the 50 before having to punt.

"We had practiced that situation in practice, and Ben handled it well," left guard Vince Vance said. "I know in his head he was saying 'Oh, crap,' but he did well."

Walsh happy to come through

This was just the opportunity Georgia kicker Blair Walsh was hoping for.

He didn't want his first collegiate field goal attempt to be some measly 25-yarder. He wanted a challenge.

No problem. After the Bulldogs' second drive of the game stalled at the Georgia Southern 35-yard line, in went Walsh to attempt a 52-yard field goal.

"I was talking to some friends and hoping I would get a nice progression, get kickoff, an extra-point and a short field goal to get into a rhythm," Walsh said. "But I get thrown out there for a 52-yarder. Hey, no problem, that works, too."

Walsh made sure that it did.

With the wind at his back, Walsh made the kick with plenty to spare to give Georgia a 10-0 lead. The field goal was the longest for a Bulldog freshman since 54 yarders by Hap Hines in 1996 and Allan Leavitt in 1973.

"That was a big relief, getting that first field goal out of the way," Walsh said. "I will remember this. I'll remember what the wind was like, I'll remember the hash, everything. I will remember everything about this kick."

Uga VII makes debut

Fifty-six and one-half pound mascot Uga VII made his debut for Georgia and was second in weight only to Uga VI in the line of mascots that began in 1956 with Uga I.

Uga VII was brought onto the field in a golf cart prior to kickoff, where he was given a standing ovation by the sellout crowd of 92,746.

Uga VI posted the most wins of any bulldog in school history going 87-27 from 1999-2008.

Traffic a bear

Traffic for Saturday's opener was bad even by Georgia standards. Even three hours before the game, the car ride from Gaines School Road on the Eastside of town to Sanford Stadium was taking 40 minute to navigate.

It was even worse for the Georgia Southern Band. GSU's "Pride of the South" band did not even make it inside the stadium until early in the second quarter.

Countless other fans experienced delays getting parked and getting to their seats.

This and that

Asher Allen and Reshad Jones both returned punts for Georgia and brought back kicks of 54 and 32 yards, respectively. Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe wore No. 44 in honor of teammate and fellow linebacker Marcus Washington who is out for the year with a bad shoulder. Backup quarterback Logan Gray saw action on Georgia's kickoff team and later went back as a punt returner but did not get an opportunity as the ball was kicked away from him. Georgia's helmets will feature a 'JW' decal for the first two games this season in honor of former Georgia snapper Josh Willis of Americus, who was killed in a car wreck on Feb. 4, 2008. Ellerbe's second-quarter interception was the third of his career.



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