If you are a regular visitor to this page or to my Twitter page (@BlogAndTackle), you know how closely I follow the NFL. But, I also follow college football as part of a weekend gig doing stats work for the ESPN family of networks during football season.
My travels took me to Athens today to work the game between No. 12 Arkansas and Georgia.
Every stadium in the SEC has a great game-day atmosphere, and Georgia is no different. From UGA — the bulldog mascot — to the “silver britches” to playing “between the hedges,” Athens is a good place to see a college football game in the fall. Athens is also the home of the band, R.E.M., and the well-known music clubs are packed on weekends.
Arkansas came into Athens with a 2-0 record, while Georgia (1-1) suffered a tough defeat last week at South Carolina, and starting 0-2 in the SEC would make coach Mark Richt’s seat warmer.
The Razorbacks and Bulldogs gave the fans a good show on Saturday, and Arkansas got a late score and survived a last-play scare to win 31-24.
The Hogs pulled away from a 7-7 first-quarter tie for a 17-7 halftime lead. UA quarterback Ryan Mallett’s second TD pass of the game with eight seconds left in the third quarter pushed Arkansas’ lead to 24-10, and Georgia was reeling.
But the Bulldogs rallied with 10 fourth-quarter points to tie the game at 24-24 with 3:55 to play. The teams traded punts, and the Hogs got the ball back at their 27 with 47 seconds left.
Mallett needed just three plays, pass completions of 18, 15 and finally, a 40-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Greg Childs with 15 seconds left, to give UA a 31-24 lead.
UGA had one last chance, but a Hail Mary pass from quarterback Aaron Murray was knocked away — almost into the hands of Marlon Brown at the goal line —as time expired.
Arkansas rolled up 433 total yards to Georgia’s 392. Mallett completed 21-of-33 passes for 380 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. The junior quarterback averaged 18.1 yards per completion.
There were scouts from eight NFL teams in attendance, and Mallett gave them plenty to look at. The Razorbacks play a wide-open NFL-style offense under head coach Bobby Petrino, who was making his first appearance in Georgia since he left the Atlanta Falcons late in his first season as coach in 2007.
Ultimately, the Razorbacks showed why they are one of the top teams in the SEC. They will get their biggest test of the season next Saturday when they face No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Meanwhile, Georgia will try to win their first conference game when it visits Mississippi State in Starkville.