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August 30, 2008Game Ticker | box score
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) The collar fit, and for at least one game, so did the crown.
Matthew Stafford threw for a career-high 275 yards with two touchdowns and Georgia, ranked No. 1 to start a season for the first time, beat Georgia Southern 45-21 on Saturday to give new mascot Uga VII a win in his debut.
Stafford completed 13 of 21 passes without an interception and Knowshon Moreno ran for three touchdowns on only eight carries as the Bulldogs scored the first 38 points.
Moreno matched his career high for touchdowns and added two catches for 53 yards.
Georgia coach Mark Richt hinted his players may have handled the No. 1 hype better than he did.
``I'd just as soon not go through it again, to be honest with you,'' Richt said. ``It did get pretty tiresome.''
Georgia led 38-0 before Georgia Southern scored on a 1-yard run by quarterback Lee Chapple late in the third quarter. The Eagles added two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Uga VII, a white English bulldog and son of Uga VI, who died this summer, drew a standing ovation and University of Georgia president Michael Adams and athletic director Damon Evans slipped a red collar over the dog's head in a pregame ceremony.
``It's a job where you are always second to a dog,'' Adams said.
From the opening minutes, Stafford found open receivers as Georgia Southern focused on Moreno and the Georgia running game.
Freshman receiver A.J. Green made a 36-yard catch to set up Moreno's first touchdown, a 2-yard run. Green added a 3-yard touchdown catch from Joe Cox for Georgia's final touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Green wasn't the only Georgia freshman to play a prominent role.
Georgia, playing with four new starting offensive linemen, had 535 total yards.
``All three guys ran the ball well,'' Stafford said. ``It's a testament to our offensive line. A lot of times we got to the second level without being touched. This is what we were looking for, and it's what we got today.''
Freshman Blair Walsh kicked a 52-yard field goal.
Moreno rushed for 1,334 yards and 14 touchdowns as a freshman last season and continued his high-scoring pace in the opener.
``It feels good and exciting to get back out there,'' Moreno said. ``We got to prove some things to ourselves.''
Samair Baker scored on a 3-yard run for the Eagles (0-1) in the final quarter. Leander Barney added a 34-yard touchdown catch from Antonio Henton with 1:45 left.
Chapple, a redshirt freshman from the Atlanta area, started for Georgia Southern and was 9-for-18 passing for 86 yards.
Henton, an Ohio State transfer, was 10-for-18 passing for 102 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Darell Norman led the Eagles with 12 carries for 60 yards.
Georgia Southern was overmatched, but coach Chris Hatcher was overjoyed.
``I think we are headed in the right direction and this is going to be a great season for our football team,'' Hatcher said.
``I am really pleased. I think our defense is much improved from last season, and they tackled really well at times today. But you've got to understand that we are outweighed up front by 30 to 40 pounds in every position.''
Hatcher said Stafford and Moreno are Heisman Trophy candidates.
Added Hatcher of some of the position mismatches: ``Their receivers are bigger than some of our linemen.''
Georgia suffered a potentially serious injury, losing starting defensive tackle Jeff Owens to a right knee injury in the opening quarter. He did not return.
Owens' status will be determined by tests, including an MRI, but Richt said it could be a season-ending .
``I doubt he'll be playing anytime soon,'' Richt said. ``It was sad and I went in there and saw him at halftime.''
Owens has not had a redshirt season, so he could return in 2009 if he has to miss the rest of the year.
``He'll probably be stronger next year and he'll be in better condition if in fact he has to go through that type of rehab,'' Richt said.
Owens, a senior, started all 13 games last season and had 27 tackles. The loss of Owens cut into Georgia's depth on its defensive front. Backup Kade Weston was held out of the game with a sprained knee.