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GAC's Chapple, King make college debut

ATHENS - They much ballyhooed coronation of Uga VII as Georgia's new mascot wasn't the only premier in the Bulldogs' 45-21 victory over Georgia Southern on Saturday.

Two former GAC teammates - Georgia's Caleb King and Georgia Southern's Lee Chapple - got their first chances to shine on the big stage of college football.

And both made auspicious debuts in front of a sellout crowd of 92,746 at Sanford Stadium.

"I was born and raised in Atlanta, so I knew what Georgia football was about," Chapple said. "It really felt like I was at home. It was really exciting being a part of it."

As excited as Chapple was, imagine how King must have felt.

After missing the last half of his senior season at GAC with a knee injury and sitting out a redshirt season last year, the 5-foot-11, 212-pound redshirt freshman tailback had to wait another half before finally seeing his first action as a Bulldog on Georgia's second possession of the second half.

It was worth the wait.

The announcement of his 5-yard gain on his first carry elicited a noticeable cheer among the Bulldog faithful - noticeable to everyone, apparently, except King.

"That's what people were saying, but I didn't even hear it," King said. "I want to thank the crowd and thank all the fans."

As it turned out, King gave the Bulldog nation plenty to bark about even with its team up 31-0 heading into the second half.

He actually finished as the game's leading rusher with 95 yards on 12

carries, including a nifty 27-yard scamper that helped set up Matthew Stafford's 5-yard touchdown pass to Kemiko Goodman with 6:07 left in the third quarter.

"I started out a little nervous," King admitted. "After I ran that first play, I got the jitters out. ... It was everything (I thought it would be) and more.

"It felt real good playing. Now, I feel like part of the team."

King wasn't the only one feeling good about his performance. Bulldogs coach Mark Richt also was pleased with what he saw out of King and fellow freshman running back Richard Samuel, who finished with 34 yards on six carries, in their backup roles to star tailback Knowshon Moreno.

"I'm just glad they got a chance to play," Richt said. "When Caleb got in there, he really took advantage of his opportunities. And there was some very fine blocking for him, but he also had a couple runs where he had to break tackles and he had to make people miss."

Chapple's day started earlier than King's, with the 6-1, 190-pound redshirt quarterback starting the game under center for Georgia Southern and alternating with sophomore Antonio Henton throughout the day.

Despite the final result, Chapple was up beat about his day, which ended with him leading the Eagles to two of their three touchdowns - scoring one of them on a 1-yard sneak - and completing 9 of 18 passes for 86 yards.

"The first snap, I felt comfortable," Chapple said. "Being in the offense for now two years, there's nothing real special being thrown at us.

"I was real comfortable in the second half. We scored two straight touchdowns. It's always awesome to score on two straight drives."

Eagles coach Chris Hatcher was equally optimistic of the play of both Chapple and Henton, and reiterated his previously stated assertion that his team has two starting quarterbacks.

"We've got two good ones," Hatcher said. "I thought (Chapple) handled himself extremely well. He got off to a bad start, and that was what I was concerned about - whichever guy went out there first. They may have been better off being the second guy going out there with all the youth.

"But he bounced back and, boy, he really threw the ball well in the second half."