BOULDER, Colo. — During a timeout in the waning minutes and with the Georgia Bulldogs already in range for a game-winning field goal, Colorado defensive coordinator Ron Collins decided to turn linebacker B.J. Beatty loose on a blitz.
"I told him, 'Let's run it,'" Beatty said. "Because we knew they were going to try to run the ball, milk the clock and kick a field goal. I knew I had the opportunity to come off the edge and maybe disrupt the hand-off."
Lining up with the Buffs clinging to a 29-27 lead, Beatty was just hoping for the Bulldogs to run the ball, and sure enough, it played out exactly like he envisioned.
Beatty stripped Caleb King just as he got the handoff from quarterback Aaron Murray at the Buffaloes' 30-yard line and he held King back while teammate Jon Major smothered the loose ball.
Rodney Stewart, who rushed 19 times for 149 yards and a score despite not starting, helped the Buffaloes (3-1) salt it away by reeling off a 14-yard gain on first down. Three more snaps and the crowd rushed the field.
It's not that often you see a crowd go crazy over beating a team that's 1-4.
"Their record doesn't reflect how good they are," Beatty said.
But it does reveal how down in the dumps they are over their first four-game slide since 1990.
Not even the spectacular return of Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green from a four-game suspension could halt the Bulldogs' fall. Green caught two touchdown passes among his seven receptions for 119 yards, but he didn't catch another pass after his 50-yard grab on the third snap after halftime, spending plenty of time on the sideline.
"I was just cramping, a lot of cramping," Green said.
The altitude affected Green, who also reeled off a 40-yard run on a reverse.
"I felt it a lot, this being my first game back," Green said. "I'm cramping up like crazy and I can't get my breath."
The Buffaloes were breathing a big sigh of relief when Green went to the sideline.
"Yeah, definitely, because that's their go-to guy," cornerback Jimmy Smith said. "He was doing a lot of damage."
Green's suspension contributed to the Bulldogs' slow start this season. He was penalized for selling his Independence Bowl jersey for $1,000 to a man the NCAA deemed was an agent. But he kept practicing during his monthlong hiatus and it showed Saturday night.
"It's nice to have A.J.," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said. "Everybody could see tonight just how talented and dangerous of a player he is and how he can be a momentum changer."
Green helped the Bulldogs build a 24-14 lead that they'd eventually blow along with a golden chance to sneak out of Boulder with a win.
Aric Goodman missed a 52-yard field goal, giving the Bulldogs good field position with 3:37 left, trailing by two.
They methodically moved downfield and had first-and-10 at the Buffs 27 when Richt called for a run up the middle.
"That's as basic of a play as we've got," Richt said. "You say, 'What's your No. 1 running play? And that was it. They got penetration, obviously, but you've still got to be able to secure the ball for a 4- or 5-yard loss. You've got to hold on to it. But we didn't."
Fired up after running onto the field pre-game with members of Colorado's 1990 national championship team, the Buffaloes jumped out to a quick 14-3 lead. But it looked like the Bulldogs had weathered that emotion with 21 unanswered points, including Green's two TD catches.
Green hauled in Murray's fade pass to the right corner with his left hand despite tumbling over cornerback Jalil Brown in the end zone for his first score, and then he sped past Brown to haul in Murray's 39-yard touchdown toss down the middle of the field for a 17-14 Georgia lead.
Green's 50-yard catch set up Marlon Brown's 8-yard TD reception that gave the Bulldogs a 24-14 lead.
Colorado roared back behind the running of Stewart, who replaced starter Brian Lockridge (ankle), and reeled off a career-best 65-yard burst to set up one touchdown and then put Colorado ahead 29-24 with an 11-yard TD run late in the third quarter.
Blair Walsh's 20-yard field goal made it 29-27, and he was warming up on the sideline about to go in for a potential game-winner when Beatty stripped the ball and the game away from the Bulldogs, who are 1-4 for the first time since 1993.
"Man, it's tough," Green said. "I've never been 1-4 in my life."