JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Infusing Georgia’s offense with the big-play threat it had been missing, Todd Gurley was making plays everywhere he went with the ball at EverBank Field Saturday.
The sophomore tailback was electric in scoring touchdowns on Georgia’s first two possessions in his first game back since the second quarter against LSU on Sept. 28 when he sprained his left ankle.
“With what he can do when he’s healthy, I personally think he’s the best back in the country,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “We did a nice job of getting him the ball.”
Gurley’s presence was felt on Georgia’s first two touchdowns of the game and on its first two offensive snaps in the Bulldogs’ 23-20 win over Florida.
Quarterback Aaron Murray faked a handoff to Gurley and went 17 yards on a zone read play. Then Gurley got a swing pass from Murray for 14 yards.
He added a 25-yard run and then bounced off two Florida players for a 5-yard touchdown run.
“His presence on the field was awesome, just his personality in the huddle,” Murray said. “Obviously his play-making ability. He made some huge, huge plays for us all day long in the run game, in the pass game. Just great to have him back.”
On Georgia’s second drive on a third-and-1 at the Georgia 27, the Bulldogs went four wide and Gurley caught a short pass over the middle and was gone for a 73-yard touchdown.
“If they brought the heat, he was going to run what he called a vertical hot,” coach Mark Richt said.
Gurley only had safety Cody Riggs to beat at the Florida 40. Riggs grabbed Gurley’s shirt tail but couldn’t stop him. Neither could cornerback Marcus Roberson downfield.
“That was a huge play,” Bobo said. “Just his presence out there gives us physicality on offense and opens up really the whole thing, the play-action pass.”
Gurley went to the training table after the touchdown catch. Then he was over on the bench. And finally into the locker room while Georgia got a 49-yard field goal to make it 17-0 with 4:13 left in the opening quarter.
Bobo said that Gurley “got a little winded.” Richt said he also had an upset stomach.
“It was kind of like a first game for him again,” Bobo said.
Gurley picked up 30 yards on his first touch in the second quarter, giving him 151 yards on his first seven touches. He finished with 100 yards rushing on 17 carries and three catches for 87 yards.
He was “banged up” late in the game but wanted the ball on the final drive, Bobo said, when Georgia ate up the final 8:17. He had eight carries for 19 yards on the drive.
Gurley declined requests for a postgame interview.
“He obviously was hurting there in the second half a lot,” Bobo said. “He’s going to be a little sore but he’s got to get treatment and get ready to go this week because we’re going to need him.”