Russ’ coronation as Uga IX, the new bulldog mascot, came at 7:26 p.m. Saturday when a red spiked collar was placed around his neck by university president Michael Adams.
Georgia's Michael Bennett runs after making a catch on Saturday against Florida Atlantic.
Georgia was heading toward near-humiliation less than an hour later when Florida Atlantic scored its second straight touchdown in as many possessions against the No. 7 Bulldogs’ defense to tie the game early in the second quarter.
Georgia’s offense finally created the separation expected with four touchdown drives in a row to blow the game open as the Bulldogs rolled to a 56-20 victory in Sanford Stadium on a night it put up some record-breaking offensive numbers.
“We never panicked,” linebacker Amarlo Herrera said. “We stayed together. We knew we had mental errors, some communication errors. We got those fixed and were able to play football how we play.”
A game that again started rough finished with Georgia rolling up 713 yards of total offense, a school record.
“That is obscene,” tight end Arthur Lynch.
Quarterback Aaron Murray had a career game with 342 passing yards. Running backs Todd Gurley (111 yards on 10 carries, one touchdown) and Keith Marshall (104 yards on 10 carries, one touchdown) became the first pair of Georgia freshmen to rush for 100 yards each since Thomas Brown and Danny Ware in 2004 against Vanderbilt.
And the Bulldogs hit the 40 point-mark for a third straight game to open the season, the first time that’s happened in program history.
“Everything was kind of working,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said.
Said Murray: “It’s a lot of fun to put those numbers up. We’re capable of doing that as an offense. I think we’re very capable of scoring a lot of points, putting on a lot of yards on the sheets.”
Georgia is off to its first 3-0 start since 2008. Now comes a stretch of seven straight Southeastern Conference games, beginning with Vanderbilt (1-2) Saturday night in Athens.
Florida Atlantic, a 41-½ point underdog that went 1-11 last season, had scored seven against FCS program Wagner and 17 against Middle Tennessee, but was tied at 14-14 in the second quarter.
“I was concerned,” coach Mark Richt said. “They were legitimately taking that ball and moving it right down the field.”
How? The Owls converted seven of its first 10 third down tries and hit big plays all over.
“We got them to third down a good bit, we couldn’t get off the field,” Richt said.
A big reason was that SEC sack leader Jarvis Jones was held out with a strained groin and bruised shoulder.
Coaches knew by Thursday that he probably wouldn’t go.
Georgia again played without suspended safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Olegree.
“It’s kind of a revolving door personnel-wise,” Richt said.
When Florida Atlantic’s Damian Fortner went 43 yards for a touchdown, there were some boos among the sold-out crowd.
A 48-yard pass set up a two-yard touchdown pass from Graham Wilbert (18 of 33 for 183 yards, 1 TD, I INT) to Nexon Dorvilus and the game was tied at 14 with 12:19 left in the first half.
“We didn’t fit things the way we need to fit,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “You can give them some credit. Some of it can be some new guys in new spots. The only way you’re going to get better is if you play and
those guys continued to play.”
With starting offensive guard Dallas Lee on the sideline with a left ankle injury, Georgia went to the ground on all eight plays of a 67-yard drive. Marshall picked up 57 yards on five carries. Murray’s 1-yard quarterback sneak made it 21-14.
Then Murray (14 of 19 for career-high 342 yards with two TD passes, 1 INT, two rushing TDs) hit Michael Bennett (4 catches, career-high 110 yards) for a 67-yard touchdown with 1:34 left in half.
Any thoughts of a Louisiana Monroe-type upset of Arkansas or even a real scare like the 31-28 overtime win Auburn had over Monroe earlier Saturday ended on the opening drive of the second half when Lynch scored his first touchdown as a Bulldog on a 36-yard score. Gurley added a 38-yard touchdown run to make it 42-14.
Murray threw an interception into the end zone, but Herrera made up for it on the next play with a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown.
The Owls (1-2) weren’t just going to be happy to pick up the $1 million payout for the game.
“We came out pretty sharp in the first half, and we really played well against a good SEC team,” Wilbert said, “but the second half was a completely different ballgame.”
Georgia in the first half looked like it was missing three of its best defensive players. The Bulldogs led 28-14 at halftime, but the defense didn’t give up another point the rest of the game. Florida Atlantic’s final score came off an interception off backup quarterback Christian LeMay.
“At halftime, we came in and we made some adjustments,” safety Sanders Commings said. “We were like ‘OK, let’s go ahead and turn it on’ and that’s what we did.”
Score by quarter
1 2 3 4 Final
Florida Atlantic 7 7 0 6 20
Georgia 14 14 21 7 56
Records: Georgia (3-0, 1-0 SEC); FAU (1-2)
G — Aaron Murray 1 yd run (Marshall Morgan kick), 2:25
FAU — Fortner, Damian 43 yd run (Zaccario, Vinny kick), 1:24
G — Keith Marshall 2 yd run (Marshall Morgan kick), 1:14
FAU — Dorvilus, Nexon 2 yd pass from Wilbert, Graham (Zaccario, Vinny kick), 3:47, FAU 14 – GA 14
G — Aaron Murray 1 yd run (Marshall Morgan kick), 8-67 3:02, FAU 14 – GA 21
G — Michael Bennett 67 yd pass from Aaron Murray (Marshall Morgan kick), 0:59, FAU 14 – GA 28
G — Arthur Lynch 36 yd pass from Aaron Murray (Marshall Morgan kick), 2:14, FAU 14 – GA 35
G — Todd Gurley 38 yd run (Marshall Morgan kick), 1:48
G — Amarlo Herrera 35 yd interception return (Marshall Morgan kick)
G — Christian LeMay 1 yd run (Marshall Morgan kick), 2:14
FAU — Glanton, A. 42 yd interception return (Zaccario, Vinny kick blockd)
First downs 15 26
Rushes-yards (net) 38-135 42-328
Passing yards (net) 183 385
Passes Att-Comp-Int 33-18-1 21-15-2
Offensive plays-yards 71-318 63-713
Fumble Returns-Yards 0-0 0-0
Punt Returns-Yards 1-10 5-27
Kickoff Returns-Yards 4-77 3-54
Interception Returns-Yards 2-42 1-35
Punts (Number-Avg) 8-40.0 3-46.3
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 3-2
Penalties-Yards 4-40 8-49
Possession Time 33:56 26:04
Third-Down Conversions 9 of 19 5 of 9
Fourth-Down Conversions 0 of 1 0 of 0
Red-Zone Scores-Chances 1-1 4-5
Sacks By: Number-Yards 0-0 1-9
RUSHING: Florida Atlantic — Fortner, Damian 14-81; Wallace, J. 12-33;
Jackson, M. 7-11; Curtis, Stephen 2-6; Wilbert, Graham 3-4. Georgia — Todd Gurley
10-111; Keith Marshall 10-104; Ken Malcome 7-46; Rantavious Wooten 1-24; Aaron
Murray 3-20; Brandon Harton 4-14; Christian LeMay 7-9.
PASSING: Florida Atlantic — Wilbert, Graham 18-33-1-183. Georgia — Aaron
Murray 14-19-1-342; Christian LeMay 1-2-1-43.
RECEIVING: Florida Atlantic — Dukes, William 5-98; Dorvilus, Nexon 3-16;
McKinney, D. 3-16; Fortner, Damian 2-21; Deleon, Alex 2-15; Jones, Travis 2-10;
Hankerson, B. 1-7. Georgia — Michael Bennett 4-110; Arthur Lynch 3-73; Marlon
Brown 3-44; Tavarres King 2-53; Malcolm Mitchell 1-49; Justin Scott-Wesley 1-43;
Chris Conley 1-13.
INTERCEPTIONS: Florida Atlantic — Glanton, A. 1-42; McKnight, J. 1-0.
Georgia — Amarlo Herrera 1-35.
FUMBLES: Florida Atlantic — McKinney, D. 1-1; Kelley, Sean 1-0; Wilbert,
Graham 1-0. Georgia — Damian Swann 1-0; Arthur Lynch 1-1; Christian LeMay 1-1.
Stadium: Sanford Stadium; Attendance: 92746; Kickoff time: 7:35; End of Game: 10:50; Total elapsed time: 3:15; Officials: Referee: David Smith; Umpire: Jeff Roberson; Linesman: W.Randall Kizer; Line judge: Will McDonald; Back judge: Dax Hill; Field judge: Andy Britton;
Side judge: Chad Hill; Scorer: Joe Sturniolo; Temperature: 79; Wind: calm; Weather: partly cloudy; Replay Official: Robert Rougeou