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Outback Bowl: SEC's best helps shut down Badgers

David Pollack's three sacks, including one in which he recovers a fumble, earn him the game's MVP award.

By EMILY NIPPS
Published January 2, 2005


TAMPA - It was one of those quick, flashy plays that can make the other team cringe. With just more than five minutes left, Wisconsin stood on the Georgia 5, primed to cut into the Bulldogs' 11-point lead. But defensive end David Pollack sacked John Stocco, caused a fumble and snatched the loose ball in the air before the Badgers could get their bearings.

"It was a good call by Coach VanGorder," Pollack said of defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. "And it was fortunate that the ref was in the position to see the play."

The Badgers scored a minute later on an 11-yard interception return by Andy Crooks, and the two-point conversion got Wisconsin within a field goal. But the Bulldogs chewed up the clock on the ensuing possession to win 24-21. Pollack's sack and fumble recovery is the kind of play Georgia has come to expect from its defensive leader. The two-time SEC defensive player of the year and three-time All-American helped set the tone for a defense that allowed Wisconsin only 230 yards of offense compared with Georgia's 460.

Stocco was sacked seven times, including three times by Pollack and two by junior safety Thomas Davis. Defensive back Greg Blue had 11 tackles and middle linebacker Odell Thurman six tackles and a sack.

"You can't take one guy out of our defense," said Pollack, who was named the game's MVP. "We have so many guys that make plays.

"Odell stepped up. Davis stepped up."

Wisconsin had a tough time moving the ball early, mustering five first downs and 54 yards during the first half.

Down 24-6, the Badgers picked it up when Stocco hit Darrin Charles for a 19-yard touchdown, their only offensive touchdown of the game, with 3:16 left in the third quarter.

"We had the chances," Wisconsin offensive coordinator Brian White said. "We had some momentum, and we couldn't carry the momentum forward. That's disappointing for us, and that's why they are (No.12) in the country on defense."

It was especially disappointing, coach Barry Alvarez said, that the Badgers took their eyes off Pollack during the sack and fumble recovery knowing he had done it before. He also did it against South Carolina in 2002 and Arkansas this season. Thurman said while one player doesn't make Georgia's defense good, Pollack makes everyone around him better.

"When you're down and you think Georgia's out: David Pollack," Thurman said. "That's what he's there for."