Georgia sent a message to teams coming to Sanford Stadium in the future: Don’t get us mad by stepping on our ‘G.’
Fired up by Mississippi State players gathering around the midfield logo during pregame warmups, Georgia rolled out to an 18-point halftime lead en route to a 24-10 victory on Saturday.
"They tried to huddle up on our ‘G’ before the game and we fed off of it and we kicked butt," cornerback Sanders Commings said.
Well, at least for the first 30 minutes.
Georgia’s 21-3 halftime lead was more than enough to ensure that it has a winning record again for the first time in nearly 13 months.
It might not a week from now unless Georgia (3-2, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) can put together back-to-back good halves on offense.
"Overall obviously in the second half we didn’t do much," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "There’s something missing in the second half for sure."
Georgia has managed just a field goal in the second half in each of the last two games.
It didn’t matter on a day Georgia’s defense held Mississippi State’s offense to just three points and 213 yards.
The only touchdown for Mississippi State (2-3, 0-3) came on a 72-interception return from Darius Slay, the third time quarterback Aaron Murray was picked off on the day, tying a career high.
"The best Dogs won today — the D-A-W-G-S," Georgia center Ben Jones said. "That was the best dog on the field today."
Georgia managed just 78 yards of total offense and six first downs in the second half.
Tailback Isaiah Crowell rushed for 104 yards on 22 carries, but had just 14 on 10 carries in the second half.
"Two weeks in a row we came out flat in the second half and haven’t seemed energized," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "We’ve got to go back and look at what we’re doing and make sure we get a plan to play better in the second half."
Georgia’s two conference wins are against teams with a combined SEC record of 0-5. Its other win this season is against FCS Coastal Carolina.
Georgia won’t play again at home for more than a month after what could be a defining stretch of October games ahead including at Tennessee next Saturday night and vs. Florida in Jacksonville on Oct. 29.
Tennessee (3-1, 0-1) routed Buffalo, 41-10 on Saturday.
"We’re looking forward to seeing what we’re made of," Richt said. "Tennessee, offensively I know, they’ve been outstanding. They’re throwing the ball extremely well. … It will be a great challenge for our defense."
The defense has met every challenge lately.
It has allowed one touchdown the last three games.
Quarterback Chris Relf, who rushed for 109 yards in Mississippi State’s 24-12 win against Georgia last year, got just 31 yards on 15 carries Saturday.
"He’s another tailback back there," said defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, whose unit held Mississippi State to 56 rushing yards, well below its 217.5 per game average.
Relf was sacked four times and threw two interceptions (to Commings and Shawn Williams) on a day he completed 19 of 31 passes for 157 yards.
"Our goal was to try to not allow let Relf to get started," Richt said. "Try to keep him behind that line of scrimmage in the run game and the pass game and squeeze him as much as possible."
Murray threw multiple interceptions for just the third time in his career, but Georgia lost the other two times to Florida and Central Florida.
"I’ve got to be more precise in my passes and more accurate," Murray said. "The W’s what really mattered and we got that today."
Players from both teams were jawing and pushing a bit at midfield before leaving the field after pregame warmups.
Arthur Lynch and Justin Anderson were in the middle of it for UGA.
Charles said the Georgia locker room after the incident was "intense" and the team was "fired up.
"We were ready," said Charles, who caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Murray just 3:07 into the game. "That’s not something that’s going to fly by. We were definitely ready to go back up there and tee it up and get after it."
Richt said an official came to him about the incident prior to the game, but from what he was told, Richt said Mississippi State had no intention of disrespecting Georgia.
"It reminded me of the old Florida State-Florida days," Richt said, "when it seemed like there was always going to be some kind of issue in pregame warmup. ? The result for us was their blood got hot."
That helped Georgia start fast. It also got first-half touchdowns on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Murray (13 of 25, 160 yards) to freshman Malcolm Mitchell and on a 7-yard Carlton Thomas touchdown run, but the Bulldogs finished slow.
"In order to keep winning, we’re going to have to play offense well for 60 minutes," Richt said, "not just for 30 or however many it’s been."