10-1 Dogs now turn thoughts to hated Jackets, then SEC title game after clipping the Eagles' wings
Posted on Nov 17, 2012 by Murray Poole |
As expected, the tenacious Georgia Southern Eagles gave the Georgia Bulldogs plenty of trouble with that triple-option thing in the first half Saturday at Sanford Stadium before the SEC Eastern Division champions put their foot down on the visitors after intermission and ran away with a 45-14 victory.
The win, which featured four more touchdown passes from junior quarterback Aaron Murray, pushed the Bulldogs to 10-1 on the season with now only state rival Georgia Tech standing in the way of Georgia carrying a six-game win streak into the Dec. 1 SEC championship game against likely Alabama. The Yellow Jackets will buzz between the hedges this Saturday for a high noon kickoff.
Murray, in drawing near to his third consecutive 3,000-yard passing season, completed 18-of-28 for 330 yards and the four touchdowns, with no interceptions.
With Saturday’s offensive production, Georgia has now set a new school single-season record of 56 touchdowns, snapping the old mark of 54 set in 1942 by the Frank Sinkwich, Charley Trippi-led Bulldog powerhouse (in 12 games) and last season’s 10-4 Georgia team.
“We were just shooting ourselves in the foot the first half,” said Murray. “We were driving the ball, but kept committing penalties or turning the ball over which helped (Georgia Southern) stay in the game. We need to work this week to correct that and be sharper. We just have to continue to focus in practice and in the game,” Murray added. “This is a week-to-week game and we can’t get ahead of ourselves.”
“It was a very good game,” said head coach Mark Richt. “It was hard fought. Georgia Southern has an outstanding football team. They run their offense well. They’re well coached, even the little things like sprinting to the other side at the end of a quarter. They have a plan for everything, and they execute it well.”
Richt admitted the Bulldogs caught a couple of good breaks in the first half. “If not for the chop block, they may score right there,” he said. “Instead, they had to kick a field goal (which missed) and left some time on the clock. I was very impressed with the job Murray and the boys did with less than a minute to go. Murray has been very accurate. It’s got a lot to do with protection and routes and schemes, but if it’s not put on the money, you don’t have a chance. Defensively, we tackled better in the second half. We had to make sure we were tackling better and wrapping up better.”
Things looked easy for the Bulldogs at the outset as Georgia received the opening kickoff and marched 79 yards on 10 plays to grab a 7-0 lead. Consecutive passes from Murray to tight end Arthur Lynch, for 49 and 15 yards, were the key gainers and Todd Gurley would notch the touchdown from one yard out. Marshall Morgan’s kick followed with still 11:21 to play in the opening quarter.
But the Bulldogs then had to fight for their canine lives the rest of the first half. The Eagles, after forcing a fumble by Rhett McGowan after the Georgia receiver had pulled in a 19-yard-pass from Murray, went 55 yards on 11 plays – all on the ground – to knot the count at 7-7. Quarterback Jerick McKinnon sneaked over from the 1 with now 11:53 left in the second period.
The Bulldogs would then assume a 10-7 lead on a 37-yard field goal by Morgan only to see Georgia Southern threaten to go up at the halftime. But when the Eagles’ Dominique Swope hammered out an apparent first down inside the Georgia 5, the Eagles were tagged for a chop block on the play. That moved the ball back out to the Bulldogs’ 22, from where Hanks missed a 39-yard field goal attempt.
Taking possession with just 59 seconds left in the first half, Murray then worked the one-minute drill to perfection, passing Georgia down to the Eagles’ 24-yard line, where he then threw a strike to Malcolm Mitchell in the left end zone corner. The drive covered 78 yards in a quick six plays and only four seconds remained when Morgan’s PAT kick handed the Bulldogs their 17-7 halftime advantage.
And then things finally got easier in the second half as Murray hurled for three more scores, two of the touchdown passes going to Chris Conley, for 13 and 33 yards (Conley running for most of this one after taking a screen pass), and a perfectly-thrown 43-yard strike to Tavarres King in the left end zone corner. Georgia’s final score – after the Eagles had tallied their second touchdown on a 23-yard keeper by McKinnon with 6:41 to play – came on a 13-yard toss from backup Parker Welch to Justin Scott-Wesley.
A powerful passing game and an adequate running attack (120 yards) along with a Georgia defensive unit that surrendered 302 rushing yards to the Eagles – which was somewhat expected when you face this offense only once, and in the Bulldogs’ case twice a year – but allowed Georgia Southern only the two touchdowns.
What Didn’t Work
The Bulldogs got off to a slow start in this game, making one wonder if they were already thinking about Georgia Tech and the SEC title game, but Georgia certainly got to hitting on all cylinders in the second half. The Bulldogs’ offensive line allowed the Eagles to sack Murray a couple of times and the Georgia defense had a difficult time stopping the GSU option on the wide stuff in the first half but, again, coordinator Todd Grantham made the necessary adjustments in the final two quarters to keep the Eagles from mounting any significant drives.
In addition to Murray’s performance, Conley again stepped up big by snaring four passes for 76 yards including his touchdown catches. Lynch showed three catches for 68 yards, King had three for 61 and Mitchell two for 39 including his clutch TD reception just before the halftime buzzer. Gurley ran for 68 yards on 15 carries and in the process soared over the 1,000-yard barrier with now 1,041 on the season. Defensively, junior linebacker Alec Ogletree was again all over the field, recording 12 tackles including one-for-loss. Senior linebacker Christian Robinson responded with likely his best game, recording nine tackles, and then came Garrison Smith and Shawn Williams, with seven stops each. Collin Barber kicked for 51 yards on his lone punt of the game and Morgan converted his only field goal attempt while being true on his six extra-point kicks.
More of Same with Jackets on Way
Georgia Tech, now 6-5 after a 42-24 romp over Duke this past Saturday, will bring the same triple-option, cut-blocking attack to Athens Thanksgiving weekend only, this time, the Georgia defense will see some bigger and stronger players than the ones they faced against the FCS-level Eagles.
“Ten wins is big,” said Richt. “It’s great to have that many with a few games to go. To win 10 in our conference is a big deal. Georgia Tech is very similar in philosophy (to GSU). It’s not run exactly the same way, but a lot of things they do on the perimeter and in blocking style are similar. It’s good that we got that week (of practice) under our belt. Tech is so hard to stop. They’ve got one of the best offensive teams in America. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Tagged: georgia football, georgia southern eagles, aaron murray, mark richt, todd gurley, malcolm mitchell, chris conley, arthur lynch, marshall morgan, collin barber, parker welch, justin scottwesley, tavarres king, alec ogletree, christian robinson, garrison smith, shawn williams, georgia tech yellow jackets
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