Brian E. Clancy
Special to the Times
Mind over matter. Such a tone might have been Georgia Southern’s only way to author an upset victory over its higher division opponent, the University of Georgia, last Saturday.
Instead, it just seemed like a matter of time before Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray broke open a 17-7 Bulldogs lead, and turned it into a commanding 38-7 advantage with 2:39 left in the third quarter. Reserves on both sides played in the final stanza, as UGA (10-1) dropped Georgia Southern to an 8-3 mark with a 45-14 win.
Yet the UGA mindset — specifically on defense — kept a high octane, multiple attack Georgia Southern offense in check for most of the first half.
A game-time decision by Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt to start senior Christian Robinson — due to “experience in setting the defense” — may have helped lead to the lopsided outcome.
“Christian had a good week and seemed to know (Georgia Southern’s) offensive tendencies real well,” Richt said after the victory over Georgia Southern. “He was able to really set the defense for us out there.”
Starting at inside linebacker — alongside Alec Ogletree — Robinson registered nine tackles, including two tackles for loss. Ogletree led the Bulldogs with 12 tackles.
“I was able to communicate with everyone on the defense this week, and get all of us on the same page,” Robinson said after the game, his 16th career start. “It was similar to (Georgia) Tech last year.”
Playing patient, assignment-driven defense saw the Bulldogs shut down the Eagles’ attack on three consecutive series that netted 22 yards on nine plays to start the third quarter.
Georgia converted on all three opportunities to take its 38-7 lead on a trio of touchdown strikes by Murray.
The Bulldogs’ signal-caller had plenty of targets once again. He started his aerial attack with a touchdown connection to former Valdosta High star Malcolm Mitchell, a 24-yard score with just four seconds left in the first half.
“That last drive of the half, what a way to finish,” Mitchell said after the game. “When we put our three best receivers out there, somebody’s going to get it.”
Mitchell, who ended with two receptions for 39 yards, shared the spotlight through the air with seven other Bulldog targets, resulting in 354 yards on 20 catches.
Sophomore Chris Conley led the Bulldogs with four grabs for 76 yards and two touchdowns, while senior Tavarres King had three catches for 61 yards and a touchdown.
For the second consecutive game, Murray used his double-tight end threat of Arthur Lynch and former Valdosta Wildcat Jay Rome to also ignite the passing offense.
Rome and Lynch combined for 97 yards on five catches, including a 49-yard delivery to Lynch that sparked the Bulldogs’ first scoring drive.
“If we don’t make that play, we’re staring at a three-and-out to start the game,” Richt said afterwards. “That was a great catch by Artie Lynch to grab it away from the defender. It could have gone either way.”
Rome agreed with his coach, and said it was important to take advantage when the Bulldogs were on offense.
“That was a big play by Artie (Lynch),” Rome said. “It felt like we had to make big things happen when we had the ball, since they (Georgia Southern) eat a lot of clock.”
Rome finished with two catches for 29 yards, both during the Bulldogs’ final drive of the first half, including a 21-yarder from near midfield that set UGA up for Murray’s touchdown pass to Mitchell. Lynch added two more catches to finish with 68 yards receiving.