November 5, 2011

A real runaway



No drama, no questions, no worries … just lots and lots of points.

That's probably the best way to describe Saturday's Homecoming game against New Mexico State, won by the 18th-ranked Bulldogs 63-16 before a Sanford Stadium crowd of 92,746.

"The only thing we can do as a team it keep trying to get better and better," said quarterback Aaron Murray, who tied a school record with five touchdown passes. "All I'm worried about now is getting three more wins. That's the most important thing."

So much for the notion that Georgia's offense was going to be hampered following this week's one-game suspension of leading rusher Isaiah Crowell along with the absences of Richard Samuel (ankle) and wideout Malcolm Mitchell (hamstring) who missed his third consecutive contest.

The Bulldogs scored early and in the second quarter, often, tallying a school-record 42 points which enabled Richt to play predominately second- and third-teamers for the rest of the game.

Murray was one of those who received an early shower.

In one half of play, the redshirt sophomore completed 18 of 23 passes for 238 yards and each of his five touchdowns - all in the second quarter- to Michael Bennett, Brandon Boykin, Chris Conley, Orson Charles and Aron White.

Georgia's new-look backfield didn't do too badly, either.

Brandon Harton and Kyle Karempelis rushed for 98 and 63 yards, respectively and scored their first career touchdowns, while Branden Smith scored the Bulldogs' first touchdown of the day on a 56-yard run in the first quarter.

Receiver Rhett McGowan scored Georgia's final touchdown on a 23- yard pass from Hutson Mason in the fourth quarter.

The touchdowns scored by Harton, Conley, Karempelis and McGowan were the first of their college careers.

Georgia finished with 626 total yards total yards.

"I thought our guys played very hard," head coach Mark Richt said. "We got an awful lot of guys in the game. It's gratifying to see so many guys who don't normally have an opportunity to get in the game. We got to spread it around, so some of them scored for the first time in his career, and that has to be fun for them."

Georgia's seven-game winning streak matches the longest since the final seven games of the 2007 campaign, while the 63 points was the most by the Bulldogs since beating Northeast Louisiana 70-6 in 1994.

"This was no Aggie football, NMSU coach DeWayne Walker said. "I told our guys at the half to come out and play good football and not let them score 49 more points and they didn't. We have to lick our wounds, put this game behind us and get ready for Fresno State."

The two teams traded fumbles early in the first quarter.

First, it was Harton who fumbled into the end zone following a nifty 12-yard run before the Aggies returned the favor on their ensuing possession.

NMSU had the ball at its own 48, before nose Jonathan Jenkins made the strip with Shawn Williams picking up the loose ball the Bulldog 42.

Smith took it from there.

Following a 2-yard run by Tavarres King on a reverse, Smith took the next handoff, cut left and raced untouched for a 56-yard touchdown run.

New Mexico State cut the lead to 7-3 on the first play of the second quarter with Tyler Stamper's 24-yard field goal. They would get no closer.

Following the field goal, Georgia's offense exploded for two touchdowns over the next six minutes, first scoring on a 4-yard run by Harton followed by a 11-yard pass from Murray to Michael Bennett.

A 21-yard run by Karempelis keyed the drive.

The rout was on.

After Bennett's score made the score 21-3 with 8:41 on the clock, Georgia exploded, scoring four more touchdowns from the 6:27 mark on - each on the arm of Murray - to go into half with a 49-3 lead.

A 42-yard pass to Boykin, 47 yards to Conley, 19 to Charles and 6 yards to White accounted for the damage.

Conley finished with a team-high and career-best five catches for 126 yards.

A 1-yard run by Karempelis in the third and 23-yard pass to McGowan in the fourth capped the scoring for the Bulldogs.

"It was a little nerve-wracking at first, but as the game went on I got more comfortable," Harton said of his big day. "The coaches did a great job all week of preparing us so we knew what to do."

The second half was all about avoiding injury and giving the backups some welcomed time on the field.

Among them was Mason who completed 8 of 10 passes for 131 yards and threw the touchdown to McGowan, while the entire backup offensive line of David Andrews, Hunter Long, Hugh Williams, Watts Dantzler and Austin Long each received all the second-half snaps.

"A lot of guys got opportunities that they don't get often," Richt said. "We told them at halftime, 'Show your coach that you deserve more playing time.' I thought we were solid in the second half. It was a good day for Georgia, and I'm so thankful for that."

Kenny Turner scored a pair of touchdowns for New Mexico State (3-6) to account for the final score.

Georgia returns to action Saturday when the Bulldogs host Auburn.

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at dash@ugasports.com.