ATHENS, Ga. — The easy win Georgia likely expected didn’t appear to be in the offing a minute from halftime on Saturday.
The Bulldogs were sluggish on offense for most of the first half against Western Carolina, a Division I-AA opponent that hadn’t won in its last 11 games.
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After a Western Carolina field goal with exactly a minute left before the break, it appeared Georgia would take only a 17-9 lead into the locker room. That’s when the light switch suddenly clicked on for the Bulldogs, who drove 65 yards in three plays to push their halftime lead to 24-9.
That touchdown drive created the first of 28 straight points Georgia would score en route to a 45-16 rout.
"If it wasn’t for our last drive right before the half that we scored on, I think we’d have been very frustrated in the locker room for us because of the job that they did," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "Then for us to come out and score the first drive of the second half, I think that really kind of put it away — or at least it seemed like the game was pretty much in hand at that point."
On the drive just before halftime, Georgia took possession on its own 35. Then bang, Matthew Stafford hit Knowshon Moreno for a 24-yard completion. Then zip, an 18-yard pass to Mohamed Massaquoi along the sideline to stop the clock.
Moreno slipped into the open field on the next play, following Massaquoi and Mikey Henderson’s blocks and capping the 23-yard touchdown run with only 30 seconds elapsed since Georgia took possession.
"Playing in this league, there are going to be times when we need the one-minute situation and put points on the board. We came out and we executed," Georgia receiver Sean Bailey said. "It might be three or four games down the road, but we can look back to this and say we did good in a clutch situation."
The Bulldogs relied mostly on the run on the first drive of the third quarter, moving 67 yards in 12 plays and scoring on Thomas Brown’s 4-yard run on fourth-and-1.
In only two possessions, the Bulldogs turned what had been a one-score game into a 31-9 advantage. Those two drives got Georgia’s slumbering offense in motion. Suddenly, what had been a surprisingly close game became the rout everyone expected.
"Those two drives were very key to feeling good about the day offensively," Richt said.