BOULDER, Colo. -- The losses continue for Georgia's football team, each one seemingly more excruciating than the previous.
The Bulldogs lost their fourth consecutive game here Saturday night, falling to Colorado 29-27 in a game decided when tailback Caleb King fumbled the ball away in the final two minutes.
King's fumble came after Georgia had reached the Colorado 27-yard line, seemingly driving toward a possible game-winning field goal or touchdown.
The loss gave Georgia (1-4) its first four-game losing streak in 20 years, or since the final four games of the 1990 season. The Bulldogs need a win at home over Tennessee next Saturday to avoid their first five-game single-season losing streak since ... 1953.
The latest loss spoiled the return to the Georgia lineup of wide receiver A.J. Green, who played for the first time this season after serving an NCAA suspension. Green caught seven passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns and added 40 yards rushing on an end-around play.
He amassed those statistics despite Georgia not getting the ball to him in the first quarter and despite missing much of the third quarter with what he described as "a lot of cramping" in his hamstrings and calves.
"It's bad luck, man," Green said of the loss. "Nothing's falling our way. They fumble, and we can't do anything. We fumble, and it costs us the game.
"But we have to keep working. We're not going to give up hope. We're all we have right now."
Georgia had a shot to pull the game out, getting the ball at its own 35-yard line after Colorado missed a 52-yard field goal with 3:37 to play.
Quarterback Aaron Murray drove the Bulldogs down the field. An 11-yard pass to Tavarres King, a 4-yard pass to Caleb King, a 12-yard pass to Shaun Chapas and an 11-yard run by King moved the Dogs to the Colorado 27 with 1:55 to play. But on the next play, King fumbled the Murray handoff as he was hit by Colorado linebacker B.J. Beatty. And the ball was recovered by Beatty's fellow linebacker, Jon Major. And Georgia's losing streak reached four.
"That's as basic of a play we as we've got," Georgia coach Mark Richt said of the play that produced the fumble. "You say, ‘What's our No. 1 running play?,' and that was it. They got penetration, obviously, but you've still got to be able to secure that ball for a four- or five-yard loss. You've got to hold on to it, but we didn't."
Richt expressed confidence his players will "stay together, keep working," and he had no complaints about their effort or attitude. But he conceded, "The bottom line in football is wins and losses, and right now we haven't gotten [a win] in awhile."
Saturday's game started as Georgia's previous three losses had. Once again, the opponent scored the first time it had the ball.
Colorado went 80 yards in 13 plays, the big one a 39-yarder on the draw by quarterback Tyler Hansen, who ran up the middle and then cut toward the right side of the field and kept going until brought down at the Georgia 13. Five plays later, Hansen hit tight end Matthew Bahr on a 4-yard touchdown pass.
On the subsequent kickoff, the Bulldogs responded with a 72-yard return by Brandon Boykin to the Colorado 24. After immediately getting inside the 20 on an 8-yard Murray-to-Aron White pass, Georgia wound up settling for a 33-yard Blair Walsh field goal that cut Colorado's lead to 7-3.
Early in the second quarter, Colorado stretched its lead to 14-3 with an eight-play, 78-yard drive. A 35-yard pass from Hansen to tailback Brian Lockridge gave the Buffaloes a first-and-goal at the Georgia 1, from where Lockridge scored on a run. The extra point made the score 14-3.
Then Green came out to play in the second quarter.
The first time he touched the ball, Green ran 40 yards down the left sideline on an end-around. Three plays later -- one of them a 32-yard run by King -- Green made an extraordinary, leaping, stretching, left-handed catch of a Murray pass in the end zone to cut Colorado's lead to 14-10.
"No other receiver in the nation can make that catch," Murray said. "To go up and catch it with one ar, and bring it down with only one arm, it's pretty unbelievable."
Georgia forced a punt on Colorado's next possession and, after a 40-yard punt return by Branden Smith to the Buffaloes' 39, Green struck again.
He beat the Colorado secondary down the middle of the field and caught Murray's pass in stride at the goal line to give Georgia its first lead since the season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette. Walsh's extra point made the score 17-14.
Georgia failed to add points as the first half ended when Walsh missed his first field goal of the season, a 41-yard attempt that went wide right. Green's show resumed on Georgia's first drive of the second half.
Murray hit Green down the right sideline with a 50-yard pass to the Colorado 20. A few plays later, Marlon Brown's first career touchdown -- an 8-yard pass from Murray -- allowed Georgia to stretch its lead to 24-14.
That didn't last long, as Colorado tailback Rodney Stewart broke free for 65 yards -- the longest run of his career -- on an option pitch from Hansen to the Georgia 10. Hansen scrambled into the end zone from the 2 after dropping back to pass and narrowly avoiding a sack. Colorado successfully went for two points to cut Georgia's lead to 24-22 midway through the third quarter.
With Green temporarily out of the game because of the cramping, Georgia punted on the next possession after Murray was sacked on third down. Then things started going very badly for Georgia.
First Colorado wide receiver Will Jefferson got behind Vance Cuff deep down the middle for a 46-yard pass. Then, as Colorado tried to settle for a 38-yard field goal, a roughing-the-kicker penalty against Cuff gave the Buffaloes a first down at the Georgia 11, from where tailback Rodney Stewart took a pitch and scored on the next play. The extra point put Colorado ahead 29-24.
Georgia edged within 29-27 early in the fourth quarter, reaching the Colorado 2-yard line but then having to settle for a 20-yard Walsh field goal after incomplete passes in the end zone on second and third downs.
The Bulldogs were within range of another Walsh field goal when King fumbled late. In fact, Colorado coach Dan Hawkins already was preparing for Georgia to take the lead.
"We kind of knew that if they got the ball down to the 40 they would have an opportunity to kick a field goal from there," Hawkins said. "The guy can boom it, so to me it became ‘let's burn our timeouts right here so we have plenty of time on the clock if they kick a field goal [and] go up by one."
Alas, that field-goal attempt never came.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.