Jan 01, 2009

Stafford, Moreno Lead Georgia Past Michigan State In Capital One Bowl

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Matthew Stafford threw three touchdown passes in the second half, hitting Knowshown Moreno for the clinching score to lead No. 16 Georgia over No. 19 Michigan State 24-12 Thursday in the Capital One Bowl.

Ranked No. 1 early this season, the Bulldogs (10-3) gave coach Mark Richt his sixth bowl win in eight tries.

Stafford was just 6-for-14 and an interception in the first half. After that, he looked more like the quarterback that NFL teams covet — if he decides to pass up his senior season — in going 14-for-17 and the three scores in a span of 18 minutes.

Stafford was picked as the game’s MVP, completing his performance by showing a nice touch in threading a 21-yard TD pass to Moreno late in the fourth quarter. Stafford set a single-season school record with 25 touchdown passes.

The loss by Michigan State (9-4) left Big Ten teams 1-5 in bowls this season. Penn State and Ohio State were underdogs in their later bowls.

The expected showdown between star running backs Javon Ringer and Moreno never materialized. Moreno ran for 62 yards on 23 carries; Ringer had 47 yards and a TD on 20 carries.

Neither team mustered much on offense in the first half.

Stafford and Bulldogs broke loose in the third quarter, with Michael Moore catching a 35-yard touchdown passes and Aron White catching a 21-yard TD toss.

Ringer scored on a 1-yard run midway through the fourth quarter — his school-record 22nd — but quarterback Brian Hoyer’s pass for a two-point conversion was long.

Hoyer completed 16 of 31 passes for 159 yards with an interception and gave way to backup Kirk Cousins on a couple of first-half series. He threw 21 yards to Mark Dell on fourth-and-22 late in the fourth quarter, and followed that with an interception in the final 40 seconds.

The Spartans got a pair of first-quarter turnovers in Georgia territory but could only turn them into a field goal to tie it at 3. Michigan State took a 6-3 lead with just over two minutes left in the first half, when the Spartans turned a botched fake punt into Brett Swenson’s 32-yard field goal.

Each team unsuccessfully tried to establish a run game in the first half. Ringer carried 14 times for 35 yards, including just enough to set up Swenson’s field goals.

Moreno had nine carries for 24 yards in the first half.

Balmy, 67-degree temperatures were near perfect but a 24-mph cross wind at the Citrus Bowl was a major factor, as both teams depended first on their ground games, among the tops in the NCAA, with little result.

 

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