Final Record: Overall: 13-1; SEC: 8-1 (Champions)
Dogs Set Record With 13 Wins, SEC Title, Sugar Bowl Championship
Mark Richt had made a great first impression in 2001 and what the Bulldogs accomplished in 2002 was one for the ages. The school's first 13-win season, first SEC title in 20 years, a Sugar Bowl championship, and a final national ranking of #3 (highest since 1980) all combined to send the Georgia program soaring in 2002.
Highlights of the season were many -- third straight victory over Tennessee, clinching the SEC East title at Auburn with a last second come-from-behind victory, setting a school record for margin of victory in a 51-7 win over Georgia Tech, beating western division champion Arkansas in the 'Dogs first-ever appearance in the SEC Championship Game, a record seven national television appearances on CBS, 11 total national TV appearances, and defeating the nation's "Team of the 1990's"--Florida State--in Georgia's first Nokia Sugar Bowl appearance in 20 years.
Georgia's Attendance Average Ranks Sixth Nationally
Georgia's average home football attendance of 86,520 ranked sixth best in the country for the 2002 season according to NCAA statistics.
The 86,520 figure represents a sellout in all six Bulldog home games. The sixth-place finish marks the 16th time in the last 21 years that Georgia has ranked among the nation's top six teams in average home attendance. It's also the 20th time in the last 21 years the Bulldogs have finished among the top seven.
Bulldogs Beat a Team Familiar to Richt in the Nokia Sugar Bowl
New Orleans, La. -- MVP Musa Smith rushed for 145 yards and Billy Bennett kicked four field goals as Georgia defeated Florida State 26-13 before 74,269 fans in the Nokia Sugar Bowl. Georgia completed the season at 13-1, the most wins in school history.
The Bulldogs' defense forced three turnovers by the Seminoles, including cornerback Bruce Thornton's 71-yard interception return for a touchdown (the second-longest return in school history in a bowl game). Nose tackle Ken Veal's fumble recovery led to one of Bennett's four field goals. Smith was the offensive workhorse for Georgia as he carried the ball 23 times for the 145 yards. He had runs 39 and 32 yards on drives that culminated with field goals. Smith ended the season with 1,324 yards, fifth on the school's all-time list.
Bennett staked the Bulldogs to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter as he connected on a 23-yard field goal. The Seminoles took their only lead of the game in the second quarter as quarterback Fabian Walker found receiver Anquan Boldin on a 5-yard scoring toss. Xavier Beitia's PAT gave Florida State a 7-3 edge. Thornton gave the Bulldogs the lead back as he picked off a Walker pass and returned it 71 yards for a touchdown. Earlier this season, Thornton scooped up a blocked punt and ran it in for a touchdown. Bennett's PAT put Georgia out in front 10-7. After a 26-yard punt return by Damien Gary on the Seminoles' ensuing possession, quarterback D.J. Shockley hit receiver Terrence Edwards for a 37-yard touchdown pass. Bennett's PAT extended the lead to 17-7.
Bennett pushed the advantage of 20-7 on Georgia's first possession of the second half by drilling a 42-yard field goal. The kick was set up by receiver Michael Johnson's 34-yard reception to the Seminoles' 29. On Florida State's ensuing possession, end Will Thompson knocked the ball away and Veal recovered it. That set up Bennett's third field goal, pushing Georgia ahead 23-7. Florida State pulled within 10 at 23-13 on the final play of the third quarter, as a two-point conversion run was stopped by linebacker Chris Clemons. Bennett's final field goal, a 35-yarder, came with more than 10 minutes remaining, but the Bulldogs' defense kept Florida State at bay.
FSU- A. Boldin 5-yd pass from F. Walker 13:41, 2nd Q
GA- B. Thornton 71-yd interception return 6:24, 2nd Q
GA- T. Edwards 37-yd pass from D.J. Shockley 3:43, 2nd Q
GA- B. Bennett 42-yd field goal 11:06, 3rd Q
GA- B. Bennett 25-yd field goal 8:49, 3rd Q
FSU- C. Thorpe 40-yd pass from A. Boldin, 0:00, 3rd Q
GA- B. Bennett 35-yd field goal 10:17, 4th Q