JACKSONVILLE, Fla. » Terry Godwin threw a touchdown pass on a trick play and caught one later, helping Georgia beat Penn State 24-17 in the TaxSlayer Bowl today.
The Bulldogs (10-3) won their fifth consecutive game to close the season, this one under interim coach Bryan McClendon and with incoming coach Kirby Smart watching from the stands.
Smart had to like what he saw. Despite a makeshift coaching staff — Georgia used different offensive and defensive coordinators — the Bulldogs turned in one of their most complete performances since September.
It helped that Penn State (7-6) played more than half the game without star quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
Hackenberg landed awkwardly on his throwing shoulder early in the second quarter when linebacker Roquan Smith tackled him on a 5-yard scramble. Hackenberg stayed in the game and threw four more passes, but grabbed his shoulder between plays.
He headed into the locker room after an incompletion and returned after halftime wearing street clothes.
A junior and the school’s all-time leader in yards passing (8,457) and touchdowns (48), Hackenberg completed 8 of 14 for 139 yards against Georgia. He is widely considered one of the top prospects for the 2016 NFL draft, if he leaves school early.
Trace McSorley replaced Hackenberg and threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Geno Lewis on the first play of the fourth quarter and then a 20-yard strike to DaeSean Hamilton with 6:14 to play.
Hamilton’s leaping grab between two defenders made it close, a welcome change given many of the games on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
The Bulldogs responded with a 50-yard drive that could have sealed the victory, but they failed to convert a fourth-and-2 play at the 23.
Penn State took over with 1:52 remaining and no timeouts. McSorley and the Nittany Lions converted two fourth-down plays, but eventually ran out time. His final pass, a Hail Mary to the end zone, was batted down as time expired.
The Nittany Lions lost their fourth in a row to end coach James Franklin’s second season.
McSorley completed 14 of 26 passes for 142 yards. Chris Godwin had six receptions for 133 yards and became the third player in school history to top 1,000 yards receiving, joining Bobby Ingram and Allen Robinson.
Georgia, which parted ways with Mark Richt in late November, led 24-3 late in the third after Sony Michel carried 260-pound defensive end Garrett Sickels into the end zone. Michel started right, made a cut and then gave Sickels a 7-yard ride before stretching across the goal line.
Had it not been for Terry Godwin that might have been Georgia’s top highlight.
Godwin accounted for two scores in the second quarter. He lined up in the wildcat, took the snap, started right and then took two steps back and launched a high, deep pass to Malcolm Mitchell. Mitchell got behind the safeties for a 44-yard score.
Godwin was on the receiving end of a 17-yard score just before halftime. One play after missing Godwin on the same route, Greyson Lambert connected with him in the corner of the end zone.