JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — After watching Terry Godwin execute the trick play in practice, Georgia interim coach Bryan McClendon was having second thoughts about calling it in the bowl game.
His players and coaches convinced him otherwise.
It may have been the best decision of McClendon's brief head coaching career.
Godwin threw a 44-yard touchdown pass that got the Bulldogs going and caught a 17-yarder later, doing a bit of everything in Georgia's 24-17 win over Penn State in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Saturday.
"It's why you have to trust the people that are around you," said McClendon, tabbed to fill in after fired coach Mark Richt opted not to stick around for the bowl game. "They said it was there."
It was. And it helped the Bulldogs (10-3) win their fifth consecutive game to close the season, send McClendon out a winner in his head-coaching debut and give the senior class its 40th career victory.
"There definitely was a lot of motivation," Georgia linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. "We really felt for B-Mac. He was thrown into the fire, thrown into a situation that he didn't expect to get thrown into and it was just something that we really wanted to band together and fight for. He was in the same position we were."
Incoming coach Kirby Smart was in attendance for part of the game and 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, who injured his right shoulder and declared for the NFL draft after the game.
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.
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. McClendon decided to go for it because kicker Marshall Morgan injured an ankle on a kickoff and backup Collin Barber had missed a 48-yarder in the third quarter.
"If we had gotten a first down, you know, without anything crazy happening, then the game would be over," McClendon said.
Penn State took over with 1:52 remaining and no timeouts. McSorley converted two fourth-down plays, but eventually ran out of 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.
PENN STATE QB HACKENBERG DECLARES FOR NFL DRAFT
Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg is leaving school early for the NFL.
"This place means a lot to me," Hackenberg said. "It's been an awesome ride. Tough way to end it today. It means the world to me. My family and I talked about it and we felt this was the best decision for me. I felt my role here and my job here has been accomplished."
Hackenberg left Saturday's Taxslayer Bowl loss to Georgia in the second quarter with a right shoulder injury. Linebacker Roquan Smith landed on his shoulder after a scramble. Hackenberg headed to the locker room after an incompletion and returned for the second half in street clothes. He said he wanted to play, but team officials told him no. He hadn't missed a snap in three years before Saturday.
"I'm disappointed I wasn't able to finish the game," he said.
Hackenberg said he made his decision to turn pro before the team left State College for Jacksonville.
Hackenberg, a junior, is the school's all-time leader in yards passing (8,457) and touchdowns (48) as well as completions, attempts and total offense. He completed 8 of 14 passes for 139 yards against Georgia.
Redshirt freshman Trace McSorley replaced Hackenberg and completed 14 of 27 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns.
"Things are in good hands moving forward, and I'm proud about that," Hackenberg said. "I did get emotional about it, had a little breakdown in the locker room. But all is good. We're moving forward."