ATHENS — Sony Michel claimed he knew in the huddle before the play that he was about to score the game-ending, game-winning touchdown Saturday night.
“The offensive line came in there and said, ‘Listen, let’s end it right here. Let’s get a touchdown,’” the Georgia tailback recalled after the game. “I knew what they wanted. I saw it in every guy’s eyes in that huddle.
“Once I got the ball, it was daylight. Everybody was blocked. I was untouched through the hole and into the end zone.”
Regulation had ended with the Bulldogs and Georgia Southern tied 17-17, and UGA’s defense had kept the Eagles off the scoreboard on the first possession of overtime. Then, on the UGA offense’s first snap of overtime, Michel burst up the middle for a 25-yard touchdown and a 23-17 victory.
“That last play was beautiful,” Michel said. “The offensive line … drove the defense off the line. They won the battle, the one-on-ones.”
As far as he could recall, Michel said, it was the first time in his life he won a football game with a “walk-off” touchdown.
Michel was mobbed by his teammates. Senior defensive end Sterling Bailey said to him: “Thank you, thank you.”
“This night was dedicated to the seniors. That touchdown was dedicated to the seniors,” Michel said. “The whole time I was running, I was thinking of the seniors.
“We wanted to send them out with a victory their last game in Sanford Stadium, and we did. I’m very excited for them.”
His excitement didn’t seem tempered in the least by the victory coming with much more difficulty than most in Bulldog Nation anticipated.
“A victory is a victory,” Michel said. “A lot of people have their opinions about Georgia Southern, but they are a great football team. I think they could give a lot of teams, top-10 teams, a run for their money. You can’t come into a game like this and expect to just go up big. Those guys are going to keep fighting. They gave us a challenge tonight, and we stood up.”
The game-winning touchdown was Michel’s longest run of a 23-carry, 132-yard performance.
Michel also had a pivotal play in regulation, a 3-yard run on 4th-and-1 from the Georgia Southern 20-yard line with the Bulldogs trailing 14-7 in the third quarter. The first down kept UGA’s drive alive and led — two plays and one penalty later — to a nifty 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Greyson Lambert to wide receiver Terry Godwin.