Game Trojan squad falls to Bulldogs, 44-34

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 3, 2007

ATHENS, Ga. - If Troy was to have an advantage against the University of Georgia Saturday, it was supposed to be on special teams, where Leodis McKelvin leads the nation in punt-return yardage.

But it was Georgia's special teams that made the difference with two big punt returns to break the Trojans' backs, 44-34.

Troy was unable to take full advantage of two early fumbles by the Bulldogs, getting only three points off a Greg Whibbs kick.

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&#8220To take advantage of two early turnovers would have been a great advantage to have,” Troy coach Larry Blakeney said. &#8220They stopped us and made us kick field goals.”

But the Trojans gave the Bulldogs all they wanted - and then some, jumping to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter and then to a 10-7 lead in the second quarter.

&#8220We could have easily been down by 14 early,” said Georgia coach Mark Richt. &#8220I'm glad it's over. … I thought Troy was good enough to beat us. We have ultimate respect for Troy. We played a great team, and if they'd beaten us, they would have been ranked in the top 25 this week.”

Troy quarterback Omar Haugabook threw for 310 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions.

Kenny Cattouse gained 60 yards on 9 carries, but was outshone by Georgia's Knowshon Mareno, a former Pop Warner teammate of Cattouse.

Mareno scored three touchdowns and ran for 196 yards, becoming the first Georgia freshman to gain more than 1,000 yards in a season since Herschel Walker roamed the gridiron for the Bulldogs.

But the Trojans had more first downs, more yardage and fewer penalties than the Bulldogs - but Troy had four turnovers compared to the Bulldogs' three.

But that was with an injured Haugabook at quarterback. Haugabook was injured against Arkansas state, and he was listed as a game-time decision for the Trojans.

It wasn't until Georgia pulled away in the fourth quarter that Blakeney sat Haugabook down, giving redshirt freshman Tanner Jones and true freshman Jamie Hampton some reps on the last drive for Troy.

Hampton tossed a five-yard touchdown pass to Jerrell Jernigan with six seconds left to pull within 10 points.

Jernigan had the best game of his young career for the Trojans, recording 11 catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns.

After falling behind twice in the first half, Georgia re-took the lead with three consecutive scores in the second quarter to go up 24-14 at the half. The Trojans answered in the

third quarter, pulling within four points, 24-20. From there, Georgia scored four times compared to one scoring drive by the Trojans.

Haugabook's one-yard scoring run cut the Bulldog lead to 34-27 early in the fourth quarter, but it wasn't enough for the Trojans.

The Messenger correspondent Ben Stanfield contributed to this report.