ATHENS — Georgia coach Mark Richt insisted that Isaiah McKenzie was back deep to return a fourth-quarter punt against Auburn only because freshman Terry Godwin hadn’t been doing a good job of calling out directions on short punts. But whatever the reason McKenzie was back there, he made an argument for being there every time from now on.
McKenzie took his only return of the day 53 yards for a game-turning touchdown. The score gave the Bulldogs a 17-10 lead with 9:28 to play and jump-started them on the way to a 20-13 SEC road victory. On Monday, the sophomore from Fort Lauderdale was rewarded by being named the SEC’s Special Teams Player of the Week.
The special attention for McKenzie was for more than that one play. The punt-return TD represented the fourth of his young career — which ties a school record held by Buzy Rosenberg (1970-72) — and McKenzie’s fifth kick-return TD of any kind, which ties him with Brandon Boykin, who also had four punt and one kickoff return touchdowns from 2008-11.
Before Saturday, Auburn had not allowed a punt return for a TD in 10 years.
McKenzie also accounted for Georgia’s other TD against Auburn. The “Y” receiver scored on a 4-yard run on a jet sweep around left end, which tied the game at 10 with 1:20 remaining in the third quarter. It was the first offensive score of McKenzie’s career.
McKenzie has been one of the Bulldogs’ most dynamic play-makers the past two seasons. But a chronic hamstring problem has made it difficult for him to stay on the field. McKenzie aggravated that injury on a punt return in the Oct. 3 loss to Alabama and he didn’t play for the next two weeks. McKenzie has now started the last three games at wideout. He had two catches for 15 yards against the Tigers, is sixth in receiving with 9 catches for 119 yards and leads the team in punt returns with 12 for 172 yards and two touchdowns.