ATHENS - Georgia got a comfortable victory, as expected, but its overall performance couldn't have left it comfortable heading into its SEC opener in one week.
Georgia beat Buffalo, 45-23, on Saturday, after leading by only eight at the half. The vaunted defense, missing five starters due to suspension or injury, struggled in the first half, and the offense was hit and miss.
Still, a star emerged quickly in Todd Gurley.
The freshman tailback had three touchdowns, including two within his first three touches as a college player: On his second carry, he scored the game's first touchdown, from 10 yards out; and after a Buffalo touchdown, Gurley returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.
In fact freshmen accounted for Georgia’s first 14 points: Kicker Marshall Morgan added the extra points on Gurley's touchdowns.
Gurley added a 55-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, giving him exactly 100 yards in his college debut.
But it was the defense and Aaron Murray, whom the team felt were its bedrock, who were shaky. The defense allowed Buffalo to put together three scoring drives in the first half, including one for 94 yards. Buffalo also dominated time of possession in the first half.
Murray, meanwhile, missed on a few long passes that would have been touchdowns. But the junior settled down, eventually hooking up with Tavarres King and Rantavious Wooten on long scoring plays.
The defense also firmed up in the second half. Buffalo only had 23 offensive yards in the third quarter.
Gurley wasn't the only freshman tailback who did well: Keith Marshall got his first snaps on Georgia’s third offensive drive – and he went for 14 yards, gaining the first down. Marshall and Gurley got the most snaps at tailback; starter Ken Malcome (32 yards on six carries) left the game early with a hand injury.
A potentially more serious injury occurred late in the game: Freshman right tackle John Theus, who appeared to play well, had to be helped off the field in the fourth quarter. Afterwards, trainers wrapped Theus' left ankle.