Georgia falls to UCF for first losing season since 1996

photo Georgia wide receiver Tavarres King (12) catches a pass as he is defended by Central Florida defensive back Justin Boddie (23) in the first quarter of the Liberty Bowl NCAA college football game Friday, Dec. 31, 2010, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

MEMPHIS - The red and black are red-faced.

Central Florida saddled the Georgia Bulldogs with their first losing football season since 1996 by pulling a 10-6 upset in the Liberty Bowl on an overcast but unseasonably warm Friday afternoon. UCF became the first school from a non-BCS conference to dump the Bulldogs in their 10 seasons under coach Mark Richt.

"It's embarrassing to be a part of a losing season," said kicker Blair Walsh, who accounted for all of Georgia's not-so-whopping point total. "I think we felt we were entitled to win this game, and you can't feel that way. At the end of the day, you're playing football. You're not playing conferences."

Perhaps beating up the proud Southeastern Conference is what's in store this Holiday season, with Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina saddling the SEC with an 0-3 bowl start. The Volunteers and Bulldogs finished 6-7, marking the first time the two programs have endured losing records in the same season since 1977.

Georgia certainly seemed eager to claim its fifth consecutive bowl victory, taking its first possession 95 yards on 14 plays. On the 15th play, however, Richt opted for a 20-yard Walsh field goal instead of going for it on fourth-and-1 from the UCF 3-yard line.

"I think it was the right thing to do at the time," Richt said. "We started at the 2-yard line and then we drove the field. I think a couple of players were upset about it, but I was like, 'If you want to go for it, just make it on third-and-1.'

"It was important to put points on the board at that time. I don't think it was a bad decision."

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray went 6-for-6 passing on the inaugural drive for 53 yards, but his second quarter was an abrupt departure as he was intercepted twice.

The Knights couldn't capitalize on Murray's first pick, as UCF quarterback Jeff Godfrey was intercepted by Brandon Boykin in the end zone with 3:19 left in the half. Murray's second interception was returned 13 yards by UCF linebacker Josh Linam to Georgia's 32, and the Knights drove to the 5 before Nick Cattoi connected on a 22-yard field goal that resulted in a 3-3 halftime deadlock.

Walsh connected on a 41-yard field goal at the 9:23 mark of the third quarter, which put the Bulldogs up until Latavius Murray broke through the middle for a 10-yard touchdown run with 9:01 remaining. UCF's Murray rushed for 104 yards on 18 carries to earn bowl MVP honors.

"We've come a long way in eight years," UCF coach George O'Leary said after the Knights attained their 11th victory. "It takes time to get a program going, but I think the depth is there now. I think we'll be a solid football program again next year."

Georgia failed to manage a first down in the two possessions that followed UCF's touchdown, but the Bulldogs made some late noise when Murray completed a fourth-and-8 pass to A.J. Green for 14 yards and a fourth-and-5 pass to Kris Durham for 30 yards. The pass to Durham moved Georgia to the UCF 29 with 45 seconds remaining, but that would be as far as the Bulldogs would advance.

The Bulldogs were held without a touchdown after scoring 30 or more points a program-record seven consecutive times.

"I really don't remember converting a third down after the first quarter," Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said.

Georgia has tentatively set its G-Day game for April 16, and the Bulldogs will open their 2011 season against Boise State in Atlanta.

More: Georgia's Aaron Murray ends year flat

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