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(Updated 11:45 p.m.)
STARKVILLE, Miss. – Georgia got a number of players back on the field from injuries Saturday night.
Tailback Caleb King, who had missed the previous 2 ½ games with a sprained right ankle, entered the game against Mississippi State late in the first quarter.
He was the third Georgia tailback into the game, following starter Washaun Ealey and Carlton Thomas. King entered the game on Georgia’s next possession after a goal-line fumble by Ealey thwarted a scoring opportunity. King broke free for a 12-yard gain on his first play since the season opener, but that proved to be the highlight of his night. He finished with 23 yards on nine carries.
Meanwhile, Branden Smith, Shaun Chapas and Marcus Dowtin returned to action after missing the previous game with a concussion, sprained ankle and shoulder stinger, respectively.
Smith started Saturday at cornerback. Chapas entered at fullback, in relief of Fred Munzenmaier, on the first play of the second quarter. And Dowtin came into the game at linebacker early in the second quarter.
Football games here have a unique sound: cowbells.
Before Saturday night’s game, messages played on Davis Wade Stadium’s video board, imploring fans to “respect the bell” and “ring responsibly.”
The SEC has a rule against artificial noisemakers, but the league in June passed an exception on a one-year trial basis to officially allow Mississippi State fans to continue their decades-old tradition of ringing cowbells. The catch is that the bells are supposed to be rung only at certain times -– pregame, between quarters, halftime and after MSU touchdowns. The school will be fined by the conference for violations of the policy.
Early-arriving fans started ringing the bells two hours before kickoff Saturday. During the game, the upper right corner of the video board offered a constant reminder of whether it was time to “ring” or “yell.”
Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green was not allowed under NCAA rules to accompany the team to Mississippi State. He was serving the final game of his suspension for selling his Independence Bowl jersey to a person the NCAA considers an agent, former North Carolina football player Chris Hawkins. Green is scheduled to return to action next Saturday at Colorado.
He has played in only two of Georgia’s past nine games, missing three of the final five last season because of lung and shoulder injuries and the first four this season because of the suspension. In one of the games Green played late last season, he left with a shoulder injury early in the second quarter against Auburn. So his only full game out of Georgia’s past nine was the Independence Bowl victory over Texas A&M.
Georgia has more former players currently serving as captains of NFL teams than any other school.
That’s according to this report by the Dallas Morning News, which counted the colleges of the 124 players who were elected full-season captains by votes of their teammates on 26 NFL teams. The other six NFL teams have captains appointed weekly by their coaches.
Six of the 124 permanent captains are former Georgia players: Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, Saints offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb, Bills defensive tackle Marcus Stroud and Panthers kicker John Kasay.
Stafford was quoted by the Dallas paper as attributing his captaincy to this: “We have a great coach, a great leader at Georgia [in Mark Richt]. It probably rubs off on us.”
Davis Wade Stadium is the nation’s second oldest Division I-A on-campus football stadium. It was built in 1914, making it one year younger than Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium. But Mississippi State’s old stadium has a new-age feature the largest high-definition video board in the SEC and the second largest (behind Texas’) in college football. The screen is 111 feet wide by 47 feet high. In square footage, it is slightly smaller than Turner Field’s video board.