Georgia knew it hit the jackpot with the signing of North Carolina natives Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. But perhaps the Bulldogs didn‚Äôt know just how quickly the duo would make an effect.
Though Gurley earned his second consecutive start, both carried the ball 10 times, scored once and combined for 215 of Georgia‚Äôs 328 rushing yards. The two also had at least 100 yards each ‚Äî something that hasn‚Äôt been accomplished by a Georgia freshmen tandem since Thomas Brown and Danny Ware did so against Vanderbilt in 2004.
‚ÄúThat was wonderful to have two true freshmen go over 100 (yards) ‚Ä¶ it‚Äôs probably what they envisioned,‚Äù Richt said of the pair‚Äôs goals when signing with Georgia. ‚ÄúThey‚Äôre probably thinking their plans are going pretty good so far.‚Äù
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said he was excited about the explosiveness of the running backs and believes that the future of the position is bright. Gurley, however, said he was trying to stay focused on the present and avoid looking past anything but next week‚Äôs game against Vanderbilt.
‚ÄúI haven‚Äôt really thought about the future; I try not to get too caught up in that and just worry about now,‚Äù said Gurley, who also returned the ball three times for 51 yards. ‚ÄúYou never know, but I might not be here next year. It‚Äôs all about taking it one game at a time.‚Äù
Georgia thriving as a second half team
Despite being ranked seventh in the nation and favored in each of its three games, Georgia has yet to put a team away in the first half ‚Äî but that‚Äôs not necessarily a bad thing. The Bulldogs have been at their best in the crunch time, averaging 27 points in the final two quarters.
Saturday‚Äôs game was no different. As a 41.5 point underdog, Florida Atlantic stayed relevant in the latter stages of the second quarter, even keeping the game tied at 14 with 6:30 left in the half. The Owls dominated in time of possession ‚Äî 20:14 to the Bulldogs‚Äô 9:46 ‚Äî and were clutch on third down, converting on eight of 12 attempts.
It didn‚Äôt leave Richt comfortable on the sideline.
‚ÄúI was concerned, they were legitimately taking that ball and moving it right down the field,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúThey gave us trouble, both schematically and physically.‚Äù
Coming out of half time, though, the Bulldogs were confident that they could crank things up ‚Äî and they did. The ability to persevere late in games, something Richt said Georgia ‚Äúdidn‚Äôt do last year‚Äù, gives quarterback Aaron Murray confidence heading in to the thick of Southeastern Conference play.
‚ÄúThere are going to be some tight games that come down to the last couple of minutes,‚Äù Murray said. ‚ÄúYou definitely want to be in the best shape, and I think our guys are.‚Äù
New faces starting on defense
In what was likely an attempt to rest Jarvis Jones‚Äô groin pull, Georgia head coach Mark Richt gave freshman Jordan Jenkins the start at outside linebacker. Though Jones ‚Äî the reigning SEC Player of the Week ‚Äî dressed out and participated as a team captain, he did not see playing time.
‚ÄúJordan Jenkins is going to be a really good player,‚Äù defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. ‚ÄúJarvis is one of the best players in the country, but he wasn‚Äôt full tilt and we just felt like where we were, we needed to rest him. That gave [Jenkins] an opportunity to play, and I think he did a good job.‚Äù
Two others who got the nod on defense were cornerback Sanders Commings and linebacker Chase Vasser. The two were absent during the first two games, serving suspensions for offseason arrests.
Vasser was a nuisance to the Florida Atlantic offense early, forcing a fumble in the first quarter and later posting a tackle for loss.
‚ÄúVasser is a guy that can make plays and can do a lot of things for us. He‚Äôs a versatile guy,‚Äù Grantham said. ‚ÄúI was proud of his performance tonight.‚Äù
Commings was also active, recovering a blocked point-after attempt in the fouth quarter. He said he could not have been more excited about playing again.
‚ÄúMissing those first two games was pretty hard on me,‚Äù Commings said. ‚ÄúIt was great to get back out there with my boys and fly around on that field.‚Äù
Georgia posted 713 yards in total offense ‚Äî the most in school history. … Despite only playing in the first three quarters, Aaron Murray threw for a career-high of 342 yards. …Michael Bennett caught four passes for 110 yards, with a long of 67 ‚Äî both were also career highs. …Malcolm Mitchell earned his first offensive snaps of the season, including a catch for 49 yards. … Dallas Lee left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. He remained on crutches on the sidelines for the rest of the game and Richt said he was unsure of the guard‚Äôs status for next week. … Though he fumbled on his second catch of the season, Arthur Lynch made up for it and reached the end zone in early stages of the second quarter. In total, the tight end had three catches for 73 yards and the lone touchdown. …Backup quarterbacks Christian LeMay and Parker Welch both saw playing time in the fourth quarter. LeMay was 1 of 2, with the incompletion going for a pick-six.