Georgia remains undefeated with blowout win

semerson@macon.comSeptember 15, 2012 

ATHENS – Mark Richt was sitting down for his postgame news conference Saturday night, ready to dissect what could be picked out from Georgia’s 56-20 thrashing of Florida Atlantic. But first, Richt heard the real big news, that seconds before No. 2 Southern California had lost.

“I saw that,” Richt said, nonchalantly. “Yeah, somebody got the word to me.”

Time will tell whether that result on the opposite coast will have any effect on Georgia’s fate this season.

But as expected, Saturday night’s game was the walkover it needed to be – at least after yet another slow start for the Bulldogs.

Predictably, the final result was lopsided. Still, the Bulldogs managed to make it interesting - for reasons good and bad.

The Bulldogs' offense set records Saturday night, encountering little resistance from a team that was clearly overmatched.

"It was a fun game,” said quarterback Aaron Murray, in a bit of an understatement for the offense, which set a program record with 713 total yards.

The defense, however, had another uneven game, especially in the first half. The absence of its best player, linebacker Jarvis Jones, as well as two suspended starters, was a big part of that. But it was still surprising that Florida Atlantic – which managed just seven points last week against an FCS team – got 14 in the first half against Georgia.

" I think it affected us, I don't think there's any doubt,” Richt said of Jones’ absence. “If Jarvis played, I think we'd be more productive when it came to pressuring the passer. And knowing Jarvis, he probably would've had a sack or two, because he's Jarvis."

The defense rebounded in the second half, just as it did the first two games of this season. That’s also when the offense put several exclamation points on its night.

The previous school record was 667 yards, set in a 1993 win over Southern Miss.

The Bulldogs also surpassed the 40-point mark for the third straight game to start the season. That’s the first time in program history that has happened.

Murray passed for a career-high 342 yards, and along the way, he rushed for two touchdowns and passed for two more.

“He was sharp,” Richt said. “He was sharp from the beginning.”

Tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall each rushed for more than 100 yards. It was the first time since 2004 that two Georgia freshmen did so in the same game. Back then, it was Danny Ware and Thomas Brown.

The defense, having clamped down after the rough first half, even got in the act. Amarlo Herrera’s 32-yard interception return basically put a seal on the game, making it 49-14 late in the third quarter.

It was all enough to overcome the unexpectedly tough start.

Florida Atlantic (1-2) converted eight times on third down in the first half. That helped the Owls keep it close, and it was tied at 14 with 12:19 left in the first half. Two other times Florida Atlanticdrove into Georgia territory.

Much of Georgia’s high hopes this year rested on its defense, returning nine starters from a unit that ranked fifth nationally. But so far the performances have been uneven. The absences may be part of the problem: Defensive back Sanders Commings and outside linebacker Chase Vasser were both playing for the first time this season.

But safety Bacarri Rambo and inside linebacker Alec Ogletree are still out and likely suspended for one more week. And on top of all that, the team’s best defensive player was out this week.

"I think it is hard to get a read, because it's kind of a revolving door personnel-wise,” Richt said. “It's not like we've had our top 11 guys, and never been any issues with injuries or suspension. So I think it's still hard to gauge what we've got."

Commings, comparing the situation to last year, doesn’t think the defense is in bad shape.

"Early in the season it's easy to not play a complete game,” Commings said. “I think last year we didn't really start putting it all together until the middle of the season. Auburn last year was the first time we played a really complete game. But I think we're much closer at this point than we were at this point last year. So I look for this team to do some pretty big things these next few games."

While the defense waited to figure things out on Saturday, the Bulldogs just kept riding their offense, which started strong – Rantavious Wooten went 24 yards on an end-around on the first offensive play – and didn’t have many hiccups.

Murray spread the passes around, with Michael Bennett (four catches, 110 yards, 1 TD) and tight end Arthur Lynch (three catches, 73 yards, 1 TD) getting the brunt of it.

“We had a lot of explosive plays, which was good to see,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “We were clicking today and played well,” Lynch said. “I think today shows the potential that we have on the offensive side of the ball.”

Georgia is now off to its first 3-0 start since 2008. It will face Vanderbilt (1-2) next week in a rematch of last year’s game, which ended with the famous shouting match between Vandy head coach James Franklin and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.

"Oh, I know we'll be motivated,” Richt said. “We'll be motivated for that game."

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