THAT MUCH CLOSER: Bulldogs overcome slow start to knock out Rebels, inch closer to SEC East title

The Ole Miss defense got to Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray time and again in the first half Saturday.

The Rebels had five sacks in the first two quarters, but when Murray escaped trouble or pulled a Houdini act with a play fake, he caused big-time trouble with big plays.

His touchdown passes of 68 and 40 yards awakened Georgia in the second quarter as the Bulldogs stormed back from a 10-0 deficit and buried the Rebels 37-10 in Sanford Stadium to move one win away from getting to Atlanta for the SEC championship.

“Man, that’s a great thing about Aaron,” said receiver Tavarres King, on the end of an important 40-yard touchdown pass with three seconds left in the first half to put Georgia ahead for good at 14-10. “He doesn’t get too rattled. If I was sacked five times, I’d be back there going crazy. He didn’t do that.”



The Bulldogs (8-1, 6-1 SEC) will return to Atlanta for the SEC championship game with a win Saturday night at flailing Auburn (2-7, 0-6 in the SEC) in a 7 p.m. game. A Georgia loss would send Florida to the league title game.

“We’re pumped,” said Murray, who finished with threw four touchdown passes on a day he threw for 384 yards on 21 of 28 passing. “We’ve just got to get ready for a battle next week.”

Georgia, No. 6 in the BCS and No. 7 in the AP, stayed on track for a shot at a BCS bowl bid and national title game, but coach Mark Richt made sure his players kept their focus squarely on not overlooking Auburn.

“I told the guys, ‘Get your mind right right now, get your jaw set,’” Richt said. “We know that they’re capable of knocking us off so we’ve got to get ready.”

Ole Miss, a two-touchdown underdog, had reason to feel good about its own chance to bring down the Bulldogs after a 34-yard Bryson Rose field goal and a 13-yard touchdown pass from Bo Wallace to tight end Jamal Mosley made it 10-0 with 11:45 left in the second quarter.

Georgia was sputtering on offense — Richt admitted Ole Miss outplayed Georgia in the first half — before Murray’s big plays got Georgia going. Richt could tell Georgia’s fans were getting “antsy,” in the sold out crowd.

On a third-and-1 at the Georgia 34, Murray sold a handoff to Todd Gurley on a fake and with his back facing the defense hid the ball near his right thigh before turning and hitting a wide open Marlon Brown behind the defense on a 66-yard TD pass. Brown caught it inside the Ole Miss 40 and coasted to the end zone.

“Everything worked,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “We got the look we wanted and it was one of those you’re like, ‘Just please don’t overthrow him.’ … Just felt we needed something, a big play.”

Georgia got another right before halftime.

Murray pump faked but then had to escape pressure and leave the pocket. He scrambled to his right and saw King and fired a 40-yard touchdown pass downfield to the senior, who got behind Trae Elson and Charles Sawyer with three seconds left in the half.

“‘Throw it. Just throw it, Murray,’” King said he thought to himself. “It was neat that he got out of the pocket and was able to find me and we were able to make a big play.”

Murray was surprised that Ole Miss wasn’t in coverage to protect against the deep ball.

“He was wide open,” Murray said.

Guard Chris Burnette left in first half with a shoulder contusion. Georgia shuffled its line and Bobo decided to throw more on first and second down in the second half.

“We went five out instead of keeping guys in to protect and give him more options to get rid of the ball quicker,” Bobo said.

Georgia didn’t give up a single sack during a second half it scored on its first two possessions on a 42-yard touchdown pass to Malcolm Mitchell and an 8-yard touchdown run by fullback Zander Ogletree.

His twin brother, Alec, the junior linebacker, dropped Jeff Scott for a 3-yard loss in the end zone for a safety.

Georgia shutout the Rebels for the game’s final 41-plus minutes to hold them to their lowest scoring output of the season.

The Rebels (5-4, 2-3) entered averaging 38.3 points per game.

“Over the last two weeks, we’ve been consistent,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “Guys have played with energy, played the way we need to play.”

Georgia and Ole Miss played hot potato with the football, turning the ball over a combined four times in five plays in the first half.

Keith Marshall fumbled and Ole Miss recovered at the Georgia 31.

Bo Wallace hit Vince Sanders on a 12-yard completion, but Bacarri Rambo knocked the ball away and Damian Swann picked it up and raced 53 yards to the Rebels 30.

Two plays later, Gurley gained 13 yards on a run before Denzel Nkemdiche forced a fumble and Ole Miss recovered.

The follies ended after Alec Ogletree picked off a Wallace pass at the Georgia 49.

“That was wild, wasn’t it?” Richt said.

Georgia ended up outgaining Ole Miss 533-234 and with a runaway win, the kind that it hadn’t had since Sept. 22 in a 48-3 rout over Vanderbilt.

“Right now we’ve still got one more (SEC) game,” center David Andrews said. “We’ve got to win that game or all of those other victories don’t matter.”

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