One of the reasons Georgia took a game against Georgia Southern because it needed a tuneup for defending the triple option before taking on Georgia Tech this week.
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray threw for 330 yards Saturday, the fourth time this season the redshirt junior has tossed a 300-yard game.
Georgia Southern gave Georgia a lesson in running the offense for about a half, but the Bulldogs eventually caught up with the scheme and buried the Eagles 45-14 on Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
The holes that Georgia Southern exposed in the first half disappeared in the second half which has been a pattern for the Bulldogs’ defense this season.
Aaron Murray had one of his best games as a Bulldog. After a few anxious moments late in the first half, Georgia rolled to a lopsided win that satisfies the BCS computers.
But the game wasn’t as out-of-control as the final score would indicate. Georgia Southern stood nose-to-nose with Georgia for nearly all the first half. Georgia Southern had a chance to take the lead going into halftime but a chop block penalty and a missed field goal gave Georgia a chance to drive the field to a touchdown pass from Murray to Malcolm Mitchell that pushed Georgia’s advantage to 17-7 and the Bulldogs were never challenged again.
Georgia got a heavy dose of the triple option from Georgia Southern and the Eagles didn’t abandon it in the second half and go into catch-up mode. Georgia Southern’s offense punched holes in Georgia’s defense during the early going. But too many of the Eagles’ deep drives ended without points and they couldn’t hope to match the Bulldogs touchdown for touchdown.
Most important of all, Georgia seemed to get through the game without major injuries although they got some scares from Bacarri Rambo and Merritt Hall.
Murray and the Georgia passing offense continues to set the tone. Murray had his fourth 300-yard passing game of the season, completing 18 of 28 for 330 yards and four touchdowns. He and backup Parker Welch spread the wealth with eight different Bulldogs making catches and four with touchdowns.
Georgia Southern clogged the middle to stop the run and dared Murray to throw. Murray happily obliged and averaged an astounding 11.8 yards an attempt and 18.3 yards a completion.
Georgia Southern’s coverage started loose and didn’t get any better so Georgia could have thrown with abandon the whole game. But it didn’t and kept pecking away with the running game to keep the clock moving and save hits on the quarterbacks and receivers.
Slow defensive starts have become a habit for Georgia this season and Saturday was no different. Georgia Southern’s option gashed Georgia in the first half, especially on pitches.
Georgia Southern ran for 149 yards at 5.1 yards a pop in the first half. It’s wingbacks combined for 78 yards of that total and they repeatedly stepped off six-to-eight yards almost every time they touched the ball.
Although Georgia didn’t defend the pitch particularly well in the first half, it didn’t hurt the Bulldogs too much. Georgia Southern made three drives in the first half that penetrated the Georgia 33 that ended with no points — a turnover on downs, a fumble and a missed field goal.
Georgia Southern’s success against the Bulldogs didn’t last. Georgia stiffened in the second half and cut off the pitch plays. Georgia Southern started the second half with three straight three-and-outs and forced a fumble on the fourth drive. Georgia Southern eventually started gaining some yards again against the Georgia backups but it was too late to make a difference.
Maybe the most exciting play of the game had absolutely no impact on the score, but a former Clarke Central Gladiator was the central figure.
Georgia’s second drive of the game ended with a 51-yard field goal attempt that came up short. Former Clarke Central running back Darreion Robinson was playing deep safety on the attempt and tightroped the end line to make a leaning catch when the field goal came up short.
Most of the Georgia field goal unit stood and watched instead of trying to chase down Robinson, almost like they’d forgotten that a missed field goal can be returned. Robinson ran around the slow-reacting Georgia protection and briefly looked like he might break it all the way to the end zone for the longest possible play in American football.
But Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan cut Robinson off and tackled him on the sideline after a 59-yard return.
Georgia Southern didn’t do anything with the momentum swing as it turned the ball over on downs at the Georgia 34-yard line.
After a date with a Thanksgiving turkey dinner on Thursday, Georgia will host its arch rival Georgia Tech on Saturday.