They made the score look good, but Georgia’s defense was abominable. In fact, it was abysmal, atrocious, awful, offensive and ostentatiously bad. Fortunately, their offense was spectacular and they made plenty of big plays to win on Saturday over the North Texas Eagles. The Bulldogs, try as they might to give the game away, came away with a victory over the Mean Green, 45-21.
It sets up a huge game with LSU next Friday, which will be Georgia’s third game against a top 10 team in its first four games. Head coach Mark Richt said he couldn’t remember any other team facing such a gamut and it made Saturday’s game against North Texas even more important.
“This was a big game, obviously,” said Richt. “You don’t win this game, [then] it’s the biggest game of the year. This was a good team. The only thing I saw as the difference between them and us was about one inch [in height].”
While the defense only gave up 245 yards to North Texas’s offense, they were easy yards and almost all through the air. In spite of not passing the eye test, Richt said he was actually very happy with the way his defense played.
“I think the key was our defense and how well they played overall,” he said. “Although we did have a couple penalties that helped them throughout the game, but I thought our defense stepped up there. It’s good to see us get that done.”
Georgia’s offense, on the other hand, put on a show for fans in Athens. Quarterback Aaron Murray lit the Mean Green secondary up for 408 yards on 22/30 passing. He didn’t throw a single incompletion in the first half, though he did throw an interception, and ended the day with 4 total touchdowns.
The senior from Tampa, Fla., became the Dawgs all-time offensive yards leader and threw his 100th career touchdown pass, finding freshman wide receiver Reggie Davis from his own 2-yard line for the first of the young wide receiver’s career.
That came after Georgia’s initial scoring drive, a six play, 69 yard drive in which RB Todd Gurley found the end zone, and put UGA up 14-0. It looked like it would be smooth sailing against the unranked Eagles out of Conference USA, but Georgia’s defense made a game of it – at least for a while.
Playing in what began as a drizzle and gradually elevated to steady rain and then a downpour in the game’s final minutes, North Texas QB Derek Thompson threw passes behind, below and above his receivers all day. The senior was unable to take advantage of a Bulldogs secondary that was often late in coverage and left the middle of the field open on numerous occasions.
Eagles’ head coach Dan McCarney made his share of mistakes as well. In either an effort to maintain the illusion of balance or an to mitigate his quarterback’s mistakes, the coach stubbornly stuck to the run and generated -3 yards on 12 attempts by halftime. The team finished with 25 carries for 7 yards on the game. They had -2 yards going into their final garbage time possession of the game.
“We needed to create more turnovers,” said Richt, “but to stop the run like that set up the rest of the game.”
In spite of the Mean Green’s general offensive ineptitude, North Texas did get a big pass interference penalty and a long go route down the sideline from senior wide receiver Darnell Smith to put six points on the board and keep the game tight early. After Georgia marched down the field again, with Murray finding tight end Arthur Lynch for a 16-yard touchdown pass, North Texas responded with senior wide receiver Brelan Chancellor taking the ensuing kickoff 99 yards to the house.
It was the first kickoff return for a touchdown the Bulldogs had allowed since Jeff Demps took it 99 yards for the Florida Gators in 2011.
Despite the sour note, Georgia went into halftime with a 21-14 lead.
In the second half, there was more brilliance from Murray and more poor play from Thompson. Coming out of the intermission, the four-year starter put two straight throws in the dirt and the Sanford Stadium crowd got all over him. He quickly turned it around.
On the next drive, Murray took the Bulldogs 12 plays and 95 yard drive to pass David Greene as Georgia’s all-time leader in offense. He now has more than 12,000 yards in his career.
The Dawgs allowed only one more North Texas touchdown on the day, a blocked punt by senior DB Marcus Trice, recovered by sophomore DB Zac Whitfield in the end zone.
Murray added a rushing touchdown on a QB sneak from the 1-yard line and a passing score to Chris Conley to finish his day. He had 4 total TDs.
The second unit came on late in the fourth quarter and punished the Mean Green with a 2-play 41 yard drive for a touchdown to put the game completely out of reach.
The clock malfunctioned and stopped working, but by that time the starters were on the bench and all that needed to be settled had been.
Todd Gurley led the Bulldogs with 94 yards rushing on 21 carries and Reggie Davis led all receivers with 134 yards on two catches.
Georgia’s game against LSU is set to kickoff at 3:30 on CBS.