In storybook fashion, Georgia defied the cynics and proved there is life after Herschel Walker, beating UCLA, 19-8, before 82,100 who soaked in the magic and withstood a hot summer rain that fell like red clay stones.
Georgia's junkyard defense was the hero this night, time and again stopping the Bruin offense led by quarterback Rick Neuheisel, who completed 18 of 34 passes for 203 yards.
With Georgia leading, 12-6, UCLA drove from its 21 to the Bulldogs' 14 in the final minutes. But Neuheisel's fourth-quarter pass was deflected in the end zone by Darryl Jones with 2:14 left.
Georgia took over, and with 1:06 left punter Chip Andrews took a safety, making it 12-8. UCLA moved to the 32 after the ensuing kick, but Neuheisel let a last effort for victory slip away when he attempted to dump the ball off to his fullback and found instead the waiting arms of Charlie Dean. He intercepted and sprinted 69 yards for the touchdown.
"It was a relief to see Charlie Dean take the ball and run down the field," Georgia Coach Vince Dooley said. "It was a great birthday present (his birthday is Sunday).
"The defense was just superb. Time after time they came up with the big play. (Defensive back) Terry Hoage may be the best I've ever seen."
It was UCLA's passing game without Tom Ramsey and Georgia without Herschel--and both exhibited signs of life hereafter.
Georgia used three tailbacks in filling the void left by Walker. Barry Young, who roomed with Walker for three years before the Heisman Trophy winner signed with the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League seven months ago, started and gained 43 yards on 10 carries. David McCluskey, a promising freshman Dooley often compares with Walker, gained 33 yards and Keith Montgomery 31.
"Offensively, we made some mistakes but most of those were by our young backs," Dooley said. "But they'll learn by experience. Overall, I was pleased with the offense."
Georgia scored on its first possession with a 26-yard field goal by Kevin Butler. While Bulldog sentimentalists paraded around the hedges with a banner thanking Walker "for the memories," and others mourned his loss by searching for him in the red sea of faces, Georgia moved down the field on a 42-yard, nine-play drive.
With his slashing runs around end and aggressive play, Young appeared to counter the belief that Georgia wasn't Georgia without Walker at I-back. Butler's field goal came with 9:02 remaining in the first quarter.
With 4:22 left in the period, linebacker Tommy Thurson deflected Neuheisel's pass to Kelvin Nelson and Andre Holmes intercepted at the Georgia 44. Georgia moved 40 yards in 10 plays before Butler kicked his second field goal.
Lack of offense kept UCLA's defense on the field most of the first quarter; the Bruins had only one first down to Georgia's seven. Neuheisel, who threw four interceptions, was starting for the first time in his five-year career.
In the second quarter, Georgia linebacker recovered Danny Andrews' fumble on the 37. Ten plays and 63 yards later, quarterback Todd Williams, replacing John Lastinger, ran the option to the right side and went untouched into the end zone. The two-point conversion failed and the score was 12-0.
UCLA's passing game picked up just before halftime. Neuheisel, using tight end Paul Bergmann, receiver Mike Sherrard and flanker Karl Dorrel, finally began to succeed on a mix of dump passes and quick curls and moved the Bruins to the Georgia 14. John Lee's 32-yard field goal ended the 66-yard drive and made the score 12-3.
Montgomery fumbled on the Bulldogs' next possession. Linebacker Neal Dellocono recovered on the 20 and Lee kicked his second field goal with five seconds left.