TAMPA — Though it came in a losing effort, Georgia got a bit of everything Monday from senior Brandon Boykin, who earned Outback Bowl MVP honors after managing to score on offense, defense and special teams in the Bulldogs' 33-30 triple-overtime loss to Michigan State.
Boykin set the tone for the game on Michigan State's first play, leveling WR Keshawn Martin in the end zone for a safety and 2-0 Georgia lead. He had the longest play of the game, a 92-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter, then made a cameo on offense, scoring on a 13-yard pass from QB Aaron Murray to give Georgia the lead again with 6:44 left in the game.
"He's a very dynamic football player and a great person, a guy who loves his team and Georgia and football," coach Mark Richt said. "I know he's going to have a really good (pro) career. I'm sure he'll be a pretty high draft pick and have a great future."
He finished with 183 all-purpose yards, second behind WR Tavarres King, who caught six passes for 205 yards, including an 80-yard TD. Had media balloting taken place after the game, the MVP nod might have gone to Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard, who had two interceptions, one returned 38 yards for a touchdown.
SMALL CROWD: Attendance was announced as 49,429, just barely missing the smallest crowd in the 17 years under the Outback name. The attendance was 46 more than two years ago for Auburn and Northwestern, and those two crowds are the bowl's smallest since its inaugural game as the Hall of Fame Bowl in 1986, which drew 25,368 fans to old Tampa Stadium. According to the Tampa Sports Authority, Monday's actual attendance was 40,022.
QUIET HOMECOMING: Plant graduate Orson Charles had a quiet game in his return to Tampa, with Georgia's leading receiver limited to a single 2-yard catch on a shovel pass in the first half. Charles is considering skipping his senior year to enter the NFL draft but was not available for interviews after the game.
TOUGH DECISION: Richt was questioned after the game for his decision to kick a field goal in the first overtime on third down from the 25, rather than try to shorten the kick. Richt's logic was that if the snap was botched, Georgia could fall on the ball and kick again on fourth, and he had confidence in K Blair Walsh, who missed the game-winner then had a tying kick blocked in the third overtime.
Richt also gambled on Georgia's second possession, facing fourth and 1 at the Michigan State 5. He called his kicker off the field with a timeout and opted to go for it, and RB Ken Malcome was dropped for a 1-yard loss.
THIS AND THAT: Michigan State DE Denzel Drone, a Plant City grad, had three tackles, including one for a 4-yard loss. … S Jairus Jones (Wharton) had two tackles for the Spartans. … Georgia freshman WR Malcolm Mitchell, who lived in Tampa from ages 3 to 11 and goes by the nickname "Tampa," caught seven passes for 51 yards and a 2-point conversion. … Murray had the odd distinction of completing a pass to himself in the first half, when a throw was deflected by a Michigan State defensive lineman. He caught the loose ball for a 3-yard loss. … Michigan State DE William Gholston had a monster game, finishing with five tackles for loss, including two sacks. He also had a fumble recovery and a team-high seven total tackles. The Spartans as a team were credited with 17 tackles for loss and held Georgia to 51 rushing yards on 39 attempts.
Greg Auman can be reached at [email protected] and at (813) 226-3346.