The Valdosta Daily Times
The sixth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs scored 37 unanswered points and moved within a game of advancing back to the SEC Championship game, beating the Ole Miss Rebels 37-10 Saturday afternoon at Sanford Stadium.
The Bulldogs will have a chance to advance to their second straight conference title game next Saturday when they visit the struggling Auburn Tigers.
“It feels great to be in charge of our own destiny,” Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said. “To be one win away, we are looking forward to it.”
After falling into an early 10-point deficit to the Rebels, the Bulldogs found their legs and avoided the Florida hangover by scoring on three straight possessions across the second and third quarters before adding a safety and a fourth quarter score to pull away from the Rebels.
While the Georgia offense caught fire, so did the defense, which forced the Rebel offense into five punts, a fumble and a safety in the second half.
The Bulldog offense finished the day with 533 total yards, while the defense limited the Rebels to 234 yards, including just 46 on the ground.
“I’m just very excited about the victory, very thankful,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “I thought Ole Miss did a wonderful job. Hugh Freeze had them ready to play, but I thought our guys were ready to play, too.”
Despite being sacked five times on Saturday, Murray completed 21 of 28 passes for 384 yards and four touchdowns, three of which were of 40 or more yards in length.
Murray’s third touchdown connection of the day was a 42-yarder with former Valdosta Wildcat Malcolm Mitchell (three catches for 55 yards on the day) early in the third quarter, which gave the Bulldogs a 21-10 lead.
“It was open earlier in the first half, but we came in and talked about it and I felt like I had the guy beat, so we just went back at it,” said Mitchell of the play. “They played cover 2 most of the day and that let me know whether the safety was going to come down or roll and they did that most of the game.”
Ole Miss used an eight-play, 58-yard drive to take a 3-0 lead on its opening possession before adding a 13-yard touchdown pass from Bo Wallace to Jamal Mosely early in the second quarter.
That’s when Georgia took over.
Murray started the momentum swing by connecting with Marlon Brown (3 catches for 118 yards) on a 66-yard touchdown pass to put the Bulldogs onto the scoreboard, sending the sold out crowd into a jubilant roar.
On the play, Murray faked the handoff and held the ball with his back to the defense before turning around and rifling the ball deep down the field to the wide-open Brown, a play very similar to what David Greene ran in 2002 under Richt.
“We had a lot of confidence in the play,” Murray said. “When you are in that kind of situation — third down and 1 — people are expecting you to run, especially with the backs we have, and like I said, it was a great play and a great play call.”
Murray’s passing score with Brown seemed to have changed the game as the Bulldog offense managed four more touchdowns and the Bulldog defense forced seven punts, three turnovers and a safety.
Georgia took its first lead of the game on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Murray to Tavarres King with just three seconds remaining in the first half. The play followed back-to-back sacks on Murray, which ran the clock down to 12 seconds.
After a timeout, which was filled with boos from the Bulldog faithful, Murray connected with King to propel the Bulldogs in front.
“They really blew coverage; the corner thought he had safety help, I looked and saw that and I just threw my hand up to let Aaron know I was wide open,” King said. “He did a great job of rolling out and he hit me right on the money. It was one of the most beautiful balls I’ve seen him throw.”
The Bulldogs kept the momentum in their favor into the third quarter, scoring on their first two possessions of the half to build a 28-10 lead and adding a safety late in the third quarter by Alex Ogletree to go ahead 30-10. UGA added a fourth quarter touchdown pass from Murray to Rantavious Wooten to ice the win.
“It was good, I guess we had 14 points right there in a row, so that was very important, very crucial,” Richt said.
Murray connected with Mitchell for the duo’s second touchdown connection in the last two weeks — Mitchell’s second scoring reception of the season — to open the scoring in the first. Following an Ole Miss punt, Murray led a 6-play, 77-yard drive that ended with an 8-yard touchdown run by Zander Ogletree, his first career score.
Georgia’s defense got onto the scoreboard on Ole Miss’ final drive of the third quarter after Alec Ogletree tackled Rebel running back Jeff Scott in the end zone for a safety, which made the score 30-10.
Then, with the minutes running of the clock in the fourth quarter, Murray found Wooten on a 23-yard score.
Following Georgia’s first touchdown of the game and an Ole Miss punt, the two teams combined for four turnovers in a span of five plays. First, Georgia’s Keith Marshall (11 carries for 38 yards) had the ball spit out of his group and into the hands of the Rebels, who in return fumbled on their next offensive play.
UGA’s Damian Swann, who recovered another fumble in the third quarter, returned the ball 53 yards, setting the Bulldogs up with first-and-10 at the Rebel 30.
Then two plays later, freshman Todd Gurley (18 carries for 118 yards) fumbled the ball, but the Bulldogs managed to intercept Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace on the following play.
“It was back-and-forth, but I think our guys were pretty resilient with the way they kept playing,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “When they got a turnover we went out and got one, so I was proud of that. Guys just kept playing and we played better as the game went on.”