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SEC: Gary's return keeps Georgia on a roll 41-10

©Associated Press
September 29, 2002

ATHENS, Ga. -- Damien Gary and Georgia have turned the punt into one of the game's most exciting plays.

Gary returned one 71 yards for a first-quarter touchdown, and the Bulldogs went on to beat New Mexico State 41-10 Saturday. Georgia also blocked a punt for the second week in a row.

"I doubt anyone is going to get popcorn when the other team goes back to punt," coach Mark Richt said. "We have a chance to block it or return it for a TD."

Gary also caught a 20-yard score, but he's most dangerous when he drops deep on special teams. He already was leading the SEC in punt returns, and his season average jumped to 17.7 yards.

"I'm approaching every play like it's one play and out," Gary said. "Unless they kick it out of bounds, I definitely think I'm going to bring it all the way back."

New Mexico State was a 28-point underdog, but the Aggies went ahead 7-0 after intercepting a tipped pass deep in Georgia territory.

The Bulldogs struggled on their first two possessions, prompting a few boos from the Sanford Stadium crowd. But Gary turned things around with the opening quarter winding down.

After cradling a long, high punt at his 29, Gary picked his way up the right side, got a big block from Ben Watson and broke into the clear for the second touchdown return of his career.

On Sept. 21, Gary had an 80-yard touchdown return against Northwestern State nullified by a penalty. This time, he looked back to make sure there were no flags.

"If Damien doesn't fair catch it, he's going to get some yards," Georgia quarterback David Greene said. "You know he's going to make the first guy miss, and maybe two or three guys. I've been here three years, and I've never seen the first guy tackle him."

Greene had two touchdown passes and Musa Smith ran for two as the Bulldogs routed an overmatched opponent for the second week in a row. They beat Division I-AA Northwestern State 45-7.

* * *

TENNESSEE 35, RUTGERS 14: Kelley Washington had seven catches for 197 yards and a touchdown, all in the second half, as the host Vols stumbled badly early but rallied.

Rutgers' Nathan Jones returned the opening kickoff 100 yards, and the Scarlet Knights took a 14-7 halftime lead before Washington came to the rescue.

After missing his first two games with a sore right knee and barely being a factor in the Sept. 21 loss to Florida, Washington caught his first pass 23 seconds into the third quarter.

He had three catches in a row, including one he turned into a 52-yard gain down the sideline, before Jason Witten capped the series with a 13-yard touchdown reception to tie it at 14. Washington's 48-yard catch on the possession set up Troy Fleming's 16-yard touchdown run with 10:07 left in the third quarter.

Washington finally scored when he caught a pass from Casey Clausen and went 58 yards untouched to the end zone to put Tennessee ahead for good.

Jabari Davis added the Vols' final score on a 4-yard touchdown run with 1:41 remaining.

"I think we got the Florida business out of our system," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said.

LSU 31, MISS. STATE 13: Domanick Davis gained 295 all-purpose yards and scored two touchdowns for the host Tigers.

"We started out flat and someone had to step up," Davis said. "Today it was me."

The defending SEC champions have beaten Mississippi State in 10 of the past 11 games, including six in a row at Tiger Stadium.

Davis, who had two punt returns for touchdowns nullified by penalties in LSU's first two games, wasted no time getting one that counted against the Bulldogs.

He put the Tigers up 7-0 the first time they got the ball after returning a punt 78 yards for a touchdown. It's the first time Mississippi State allowed a punt return for a score since 1994.

"Davis is not easy to get your hands on," Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill said. "I thought that we would be able to make some plays on him, but we just couldn't get our hands on him."

Davis finished with 122 yards rushing and 173 yards on returns. It was his ninth straight game with at least 100 all-purpose yards. In all, LSU outrushed the Bulldogs 256 yards to 88.

ALABAMA 30, ARKANSAS 12: Shaud Williams compiled 216 total yards and Brodie Croyle completed 12 of 24 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns for the visiting Crimson Tide.

Alabama dominated the Arkansas offense, which had scored 83 points in its first two games. The Crimson Tide made two sacks, intercepted Matt Jones twice and held the Razorbacks to 299 yards.

Williams rushed for 119 yards on 11 carries, caught two passes for 88 yards and returned punts for 9 yards. Santonio Beard gave Alabama two 100-yard rushers with 134 yards on 21 carries.

USC 20, VANDERBILT 14: Corey Jenkins ran for 97 yards, threw for 180 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown for visiting South Carolina.

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