ATHENS — There’s a very key from Georgia’s win over Georgia Southern that’s gone unnoticed, thanks to the awareness of Nate Theus.

It happened early in the third quarter, with Georgia trailing 14-7, and punting. And Georgia Southern, preparing to receive that punt, put in a trick play.

Most of the players on the Eagles’ return team moved to their side of the field – the right, and Georgia’s left – but it was a feint. The ball was heading to the other side, where one Eagle was waiting to field it, and four blockers – by Georgia coach Mark Richt’s count – were preparing to block.

The idea is that every Georgia player will chase the wrong man, and Richt said it almost happened.

“Our whole team is going to the return man, except one guy: Nate Theus. He saw it,” Richt said.

Theus is the long snapper. He’s a fifth-year senior and one with apparently a long memory. That exact trick play has been used in the NFL before, and shown to the Bulldogs in the past as a warning – not this past week – but Theus remembered it.

He ran towards the lone Eagle on that side of the field, who elected not to field the ball. It rolled dead at Georgia Southern’s 12.

“It would’ve been touchdown if he didn’t do that,” Richt said. “So that was a huge play by Theus on that.”

Georgia would punt again after its next possession, but this time it was muffed by the Eagles, recovered by the Bulldogs, who punched it in to tie the game. The Bulldogs eventually eked out a 23-17 win in overtime.