UGA linebacker suspended after DUI arrest

Georgia's football team will be without a key defensive player for the next two games as a result of outside linebacker Cornelius Washington's arrest early Sunday morning on a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Coach Mark Richt said Washington, the team leader in sacks, will be suspended from at least Saturday's game at Tennessee and the Oct. 15 game at Vanderbilt, per UGA Athletic Association policy regarding DUI charges.

Washington, 22, was arrested after being stopped by police in Commerce for driving 92 miles per hour in a 55-mph zone, according to an incident report obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Washington was northbound on U.S. Highway 441, about 20 miles from Athens, when he was pulled over at 1:48 a.m., about 10 hours after the end of Georgia's 24-10 victory over Mississippi State in Sanford Stadium. Washington had played perhaps his finest college game Saturday, recording two sacks.

"I asked Mr. Washington if he had been drinking and he stated yes but [that] it had been several hours prior," the arresting Commerce Police Dept. officer wrote in the incident report. Washington said he had "a couple of shots," according to the report.

Washington posted an alcohol level of .12 on a breath test, police said. The legal limit is .08.

He also was asked to perform a series of field sobriety tests, which he failed, according to police.

Washington was booked into the Jackson County jail, charged with DUI and speeding. He was released on $3,500 bond.

There were three passengers in the 2009 Dodge Journey driven by Washington, according to the police report. One, a 20-year-old female, was arrested on a charge of underage consumption of alcohol.

Richt met with Washington on Sunday.

"He's sick. He feels awful. He knows that he let the team down, let his coaches down, let his family down, the Bulldog nation in general," Richt said. "He understands there's going to be a price to be paid. He's going to take his punishment like a man and come back and finish strong for us."

The incident  marred a weekend that otherwise went well for the Georgia team.  The Bulldogs' third consecutive victory, coupled with losses by South Carolina and Florida, moved Georgia into a three-way tie for first place in the SEC East. The Bulldogs, Gators and Gamecocks share 2-1 league records.

Richt said Athletic Association policy calls for a suspension of 20 percent of the season when an athlete is arrested on a DUI charge. The suspension is generally rounded down, meaning Washington faces at least a two-game absence. He'll be eligible to return for the Oct. 29 game against Florida.

His arrest marked the second consecutive year that a Georgia player was charged with DUI in the hours following a game against Mississippi State.  A year earlier,  freshman linebacker Demetre Baker was dismissed from the team after his DUI arrest.

Baker was the 10th Georgia player to be arrested last year, and Richt had warned the team shortly before Baker's dismissal that the next player to get in trouble with the law would face dire consequences.

Washington is the first Georgia player known to have been arrested this year.

"The team rules haven't changed, but it was a different climate a year ago, for sure," Richt said.

Richt had no answer Sunday as to who will replace Washington in the starting lineup against Tennessee, which is the SEC's second most prolific passing team at 337 yards per game. Options include redshirt sophomore Chase Vasser and true freshman Ray Drew.

Washington, a junior from Hephzibah, had begun to emerge the past two weeks as a dominant pass rusher.

"It's a setback, but I don't know if it'll deter us from playing hard and playing well," Richt said. "It'll give someone else an opportunity to play well."