Georgia showed off a little of what’s waiting for new coach Kirby Smart in a 24-17 win over Penn State on Saturday in the TaxSlayer Bowl at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.
Freshman wide receiver Terry Godwin threw a touchdown on a trick play and caught a touchdown from quarterback Greyson Lambert, helping Georgia jump out to a 24-3 lead in the third quarter.
Penn State (7-6) lost starting quarterback Christian Hackenberg to a shoulder injury early in the second quarter, but still managed to mount a rally behind redshirt freshman Trace McSorley.
McSorley threw a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter to make things interesting. McSorley hit wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton on a 20-yard touchdown that cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 24-17 with six minutes to play.
Georgia (10-3) answered with a long, time-consuming drive down to the Penn State 25-yard line. Facing a fourth-and-2 and with starting kicker Marshall Morgan out with an injury, Georgia interim coach Bryan McClendon elected to go for it. Penn State came up with the stop, giving the ball back to McSorley with no timeouts.
McSorley got the Nittany Lions in position for a Hail Mary, but the pass was batted down in the end zone, sealing the win for the Bulldogs.
Smart was in attendance at EverBank Field and saw his future team pull out a win, despite being outgained 401-327 in offensive yards. Georgia running back Sony Michel rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown, and senior wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell caught five passes for 114 yards and a touchdown.
McSorley completed 14 of 27 passes for 142 yards with two touchdowns.
Hackenberg, a pro prospect, has not declared for the NFL Draft. He injured his right throwing shoulder after being tackled on a scramble early in the second quarter with Penn State trailing 10-0. Hackenberg stayed in the game for a few plays, before being taken back to the locker room.
NOTES: Georgia fired longtime coach Mark Richt at the end of the regular season and hired Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to take over as head coach. Richt is now the coach at Miami. Smart is still coaching Alabama as the Crimson Tide prepare for the national championship game against Clemson, but did make it down to Jacksonville for Saturday’s game. … NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt drove his racecar onto the field to deliver the coin for the opening coin flip. … Georgia and Penn State entered the TaxSlayer.com Bowl with 28 bowl wins each. That was tied with Oklahoma for the third most in the nation.