ATHENS — The Georgia offense, having scored one touchdown in seven quarters, faced a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter against No. 12 Arkansas.
Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt stood before the entire team to the sideline and forced them to take a knee as he lectured his point home.
“He told us to keep fighting,” junior receiver Israel Troupe said.
After struggling to score points up to that point, the Bulldogs managed to reel off two touchdowns in less than four minutes.
The sudden offensive success was a credit to perseverance, Richt said.
“You know people just started making plays,” senior receiver Kris Durham said. “That’s what you build off of, is people makng plays. We got the ball rolling, and we started accomplishing.”
The successful segment displayed many good examples of a promising Bulldogs’ offense.
Quarterback Aaron Murray, who finished 15-of-27, for 253 yards, connected with Durham on a 45-yard strike to set up the first score.
Redshirt sophomore Tavarres King dove into the end zone to complete the first touchdown after slipping through two tackles.
Then, Washaun Ealey drove up the middle of the Arkansas defense to tie the game with a 3-yard run.
On the way to the end zone, the offense diversified often. Logan Gray took a snap from quarterback and rushed. Ealey took a direct snap. Murray hit five different receivers.
This was the offense most had expected to see from the very beginning of the season.
“I think throughout the game on offense we had our sparks here-and-there,” Murray said. “Throughout the first half we had sparks here and there, we just weren’t finishing drives. I felt we moved the ball well (Saturday); just certain times we weren’t finishing the drives when we needed to. Other times we started up strong and also finished it. I think that’s a positive for us.”
The offense took possession with less than three minutes to play at the 40-yard line.
Instead of riding the wave of momentum, the drive only lasted three plays and 6 yards. After two touchdowns in less than four minutes, the offense couldn’t muster a few first downs to get in position for a game-winning field goal attempt.
“All we needed was about 15 or 20 yards and (place-kicker Blair Walsh) could have put it in for us,” Murray said. “We were close. We definitely had our shot to win it. It definitely hurts knowing we had our shot and we couldn’t win the game.”
The jumpstart to the scoring and subsequent crash back to a three-and-out is the mark of an inconsistent offense, Murray indicated.
“It’s just one of those things — sometimes you’re faced with adversity and it’s how you respond,” said Durham, who finished with five catches for 101 yards. “We were faced with a lot of adversity in the fourth quarter. We tried to show some character.”
Looking at the game as a whole, Georgia finished 6-of-15 on third-down conversions. Georgia finished with 19 first downs, but nine came in the fourth quarter.
On three occasions, Murray was sacked on third down, including on the pivotal third-and-4 play with less than a minute to go.
In total, Murray was sacked six times and scrambled past the line of scrimmage another 14 times.
“I think a couple of times I held (the ball) a tad bit too long,” Murray said.
Murray shouldered some of the blame, but the line was in flux entering the game, with Tanner Strickland making his first career start in place of senior Chris Davis. Junior Trinton Sturdivant was inserted during the game at tackle, sliding senior Clint Boling to guard.
“I don’t know,” Boling said. “I haven’t really seen how Trinton and Tanner played. We’ll have to go back and watch tape and then reevaluate.”
The fact that there was only one catch by a tight end is perhaps the most glaring statistic in the box score.
The position group has long been viewed as a team strength but has only four combined catches in three games.
“I don’t know why they didn’t have any catches (Saturday),” said Troupe, who had one catch for 16 yards. “Teams have been game-planning to stop them from catching passes. They’ve been blocking well though.”