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September 2, 2006

Dawgs win opener, 48-12

ATHENS, Georgia -- Mikey Henderson got it right the second time.

Henderson atoned for fumbling a punt return just before the end zone by bringing back the next punt 67 yards for a touchdown to trigger No. 15 Georgia's 48-12 season-opening rout of Division I-AA foe Western Kentucky.

Three different tailbacks scored touchdowns for the Bulldogs, who scored the first 31 points as they overwhelmed the Hilltoppers and won their 10th straight home opener as they tuned up for next week's Southeastern Conference opener at South Carolina.

"We've got to get better in all areas before we play South Carolina," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "We've got to find out who needs to start and who needs to get some quality snaps. We'll have a good idea of what's coming at us."

A junior flanker nursing a hamstring injury, Henderson fielded Western Kentucky's first punt at the Georgia 34-yard line, sped up the middle of the field and appeared certain to score when he held the ball aloft inside the 5 - and lost control of it.

Henderson tried to track it down in the end zone but stepped out of bounds as he picked it up. After a replay review, officials ruled a touchback, giving possession to the Hilltoppers and bringing groans from the crowd at Sanford Stadium.

The defense forced another three-and-out. This time, Henderson took the punt at the 33, headed for the right sideline, got a block and cut back to the middle of the field, outrunning a pair of tacklers to the end zone - and holding onto the ball.

Henderson aggravated his hamstring injury and did not return, but the Bulldogs did not need him, dominating on both sides of the ball.

On defense, Georgia did not allow a first down on Western Kentucky's first seven possessions, also forcing a fumble that set up Joe Tereshinski III's 17-yard TD pass to Mario Raley just over seven minutes into the contest.

"The defense had a bunch of three-and-outs," Richt said. "They made big plays but made some mistakes, too."

A native of Athens and a third-generation Bulldog, Tereshinski is taking over for D.J. Shockley. In his second career start, the senior completed 7-of-17 passes for 90 yards before taking a seat in the third quarter.

Backups Matthew Stafford and Joe Cox also took snaps, with Stafford - a true freshman - throwing a late TD pass.

"All of the quarterbacks played well," Richt said. "I thought Joe Tereshinski had a good start. He had a solid performance. We had some protection breakdowns on the line. Overall, he did a nice job of running the show."

"I didn't think there was too much pressure on me to pass for a touchdown today," Tereshinski said. "If we would have scored on all rushing plays, it would have been fine. I think there were some good things today because we won, but we definitely need to work on some things before the South Carolina game (next week)."

A 37-yard field goal by Brandon Coutu made it 17-0 before Kregg Lumpkin and Thomas Brown each added two-yard TD runs in the second quarter. Lumpkin had 26 yards on five carries and Brown added 26 on 10.

Stymied for most of the first half, the Hilltoppers put together an eight-play, 80-yard drive and averted the shutout on Justin Haddix's 17-yard scoring toss to Curtis Hamilton.

"You have to grind out some first downs on this type of team to have any chance of winning and we did not do that," WKU coach David Elson said.

A senior making his 37th straight start, Haddix was 12-of-27 for 126 yards, one TD and one interception. He appeared to suffer an injury in the fourth quarter.

Danny Ware added a 41-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter. He collected 68 yards on six carries.

"You won't find a better trio of running backs than what Georgia has," Elson said.

Western Kentucky fell to 0-10 all-time vs. SEC schools.



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