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SEC: Georgia clinches East with fourth-down TD

©Associated Press
November 17, 2002

AUBURN, Ala. -- Michael Johnson went up for the ball, and Georgia hasn't come down yet.

David Greene's 19-yard touchdown pass to a leaping Johnson on fourth and long with 1:25 left helped the Bulldogs beat Auburn 24-21 on Saturday, giving them their first East title.

"I know it's only the East, but we're champions," coach Mark Richt said.

Three consecutive incompletions by Greene and a false-start penalty set up fourth and 15. Greene pump-faked then lofted a pass into the left corner of the end zone. Johnson, subbing for an injured Terrence Edwards, outjumped former Georgia signee Horace Willis for the score.

"We lost our best receiver," Greene said. "Then he comes out and makes one of the best catches in Georgia history."

The play is called 70-X-Takeoff, and it earned Georgia, down 21-10 in the third, a shot at its first SEC title since 1982 and ended a three-game losing streak to the Tigers.

Auburn took over at its 28 with 1:18 left, and Jason Campbell quickly hit Robert Johnson over the middle for a 25-yard gain.

Georgia's defense resumed its second-half dominance after that with a sack by Boss Bailey and two Auburn penalties, leaving Auburn with a fourth and 20. Campbell's pass to Tre Smith fell well short with 19 seconds left.

Georgia players raced over to celebrate with their fans, and Edwards helped Kareem Marshall unfurl a banner proclaiming the Bulldogs champions.

The Tigers, who still have title hopes in the West, slumped off the field. They trailed only during the final 85 seconds.

Georgia's past four victories in the series have come at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Greene finished 18-of-35 for 232 yards with an interception. Playing without Edwards (separated right shoulder) and Damien Gary (left leg injury), he passed for just 29 yards in the first half.

Johnson had caught 11 passes coming in but finished with 13 for 141 yards.

Auburn led 14-3 at halftime behind Ronnie Brown's 103 yards rushing, including a 53-yard touchdown. Brown had 10 second-half carries for 21 yards, struggling after injuring his right ankle.

Quarterback Jason Campbell was 12-of-23 for 133 yards with two first-quarter interceptions, also rushing for 72 yards despite getting sacked four times. He threw a 2-yard touchdown to Brandon Johnson and ran for a 21-yard score with 5:45 left in the third for a 21-10 lead.

The Tigers went three-and-out on six consecutive possessions after their final score, gaining 99 second-half yards.

The Bulldogs got to Auburn's 29 on the drive before the winner before turning it over on downs.

Auburn ran just 22 seconds off the clock on three plays and gave the ball back to Georgia at its 41 with 1:58 left and no timeouts.

"All we had to do is control the football," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. "And it wouldn't have been close."

TENNESSEE 35, MISS. ST. 17: Cedric Houston ran for a career-high 149 yards and two touchdowns for the visiting Volunteers.

The Volunteers' James Banks made his first start in place of quarterback Casey Clausen, out with an ankle injury, and went 3-for-8 for 90 yards.

Banks' final pass was his best. He rolled left and fired across the field to a wide-open Jason Witten, who went 29 yards for a touchdown that made it 35-17 with 9:18 left.

The Bulldogs, who lead the SEC with 33 turnovers, are 0-6 in the conference for the first time since 1988.

KENTUCKY 41, VANDY 21: Derek Abney set an NCAA record with his sixth kick return for a score this season for the host Wildcats.

The Wildcats led 28-21 and took possession at their 25 with 4:32 left. Artose Pinner rushed nine times for 82 yards on the drive, finishing it with a 1-yard score with 16 seconds left.

Otis Grigsby recovered a botched snap in the end zone on the final play to seal the Commodores' 16th consecutive conference loss.

Pinner ran for a career-high 224 yards and four touchdowns. He set a school record with his eighth 100-yard rushing game of the season and is the fifth Wildcat to go over 2,000 rushing yards. His four touchdown runs tied a school record.

In addition to the NCAA record, Abney set an SEC record with his seventh career kick return for a touchdown.

ARKANSAS 24, LA.-LAFAYETTE 17: Quarterback Matt Jones accounted for three touchdowns and Kenny Hamlin's interception in the final two minutes sealed the host Razorbacks' victory.

The Ragin' Cajuns stayed close throughout. Charles Tillman blocked his second punt with 2:52 left, and Wendall Williams scooped up the ball for an 18-yard touchdown to cut the Razorbacks' lead to 24-17.

Two plays later, Arkansas turned the ball over when Richard Smith fumbled after a reception. But Hamlin picked off Jon Van Cleave's pass inside the 10 with 1:40 left.

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