Offense in overdrive
The Georgia Bulldogs put up fantasy-like numbers in Saturday's 56-20 rout of FAU
ATHENS, Ga. -- If one of Aaron Murray's teams has had a better night on offense, he can't remember it. Nothing comes close to Murray's Georgia club racking up a school-record 713 yards in Saturday night's 56-20 win against Florida Atlantic.
"As a whole, I think this is the best offensive performance I've ever been part of," said Georgia's quarterback, who completed 14 of 19 passes for a career-high 342 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
To keep things in perspective, No. 7 Georgia has opened the season 3-0 for the first time since 2008 by beating Missouri and two teams -- Buffalo and Florida Atlantic -- the Bulldogs should have dominated. But they scored 40-plus points against each, marking the first time in school history the Bulldogs have pulled off such a feat in their first three games.
"Overall the effort was outstanding. When guys had a chance to make plays, they made plays. And we had explosive plays, which was good to see," said offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, who had nine different players responsible for a play that covered at least 24 yards.
It was a night for the record books all around, as Bulldogs wideout Michael Bennett (four catches for 110 yards and a touchdown) and tight end Arthur Lynch (three for 73) set career-high receiving marks.
"I was talking to the little water boys about, 'This is what I do on NCAA!' " Lynch said, referring to the popular EA Sports college football video game. "It was a testament to Aaron's hard work and our coaches and us."
Freshman tailbacks Keith Marshall (10 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown) and Todd Gurley (10 for 111 and a TD) also established new career highs and became the first UGA freshmen to both surpass 100 rushing yards in a game since Thomas Brown and Danny Ware against Vanderbilt in 2004.
The two North Carolinians established a tight bond as recruits and chose to attend Georgia together, so both of them eclipsing the 100-yard mark on the same night -- only three games into their college careers -- was a dream quickly realized.
"It was probably more of what they envisioned, because they are good friends and they wanted to play together," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "They wanted to complement each other with their abilities, and I know they're good friends, roommates. I think that they're probably thinking their plan's going pretty good so far."
Marshall confirmed that it was, saying, "It's exciting. He's one of my good friends, roommates and everything, and we were able to have success, so we were able to enjoy it together and push each other every day to get better."
It was also a night for firsts. Outside linebacker Chase Vasser -- returning from a two-game suspension -- forced a fumble on his very first play on the field, setting up a Georgia touchdown drive. Cornerback Malcolm Mitchell recovered the fumble Vasser forced and later got to play offense for the first time this season, catching a 49-yard bomb from Murray on his first play at receiver -- the position where he was an SEC All-Freshman honoree last season.
If there was a downside to the night, it was Georgia's occasionally sloppy turnovers -- most of which came once the game was well in hand. The Bulldogs lost two of their three fumbles -- one by Lynch and one by backup quarterback Christian LeMay -- and both Murray and LeMay threw interceptions. Murray's came in the FAU end zone, giving the Owls a touchback.
Perhaps that was the best thing that could have happened for Georgia's coaching staff, showing that even on a night where the Bulldogs rewrote their offensive record book, they also made mistakes that might be costly once they dive headlong into SEC play next Saturday against Vanderbilt.
"We've got to protect the ball. That's not good," Bobo said. "The fumble [by Lynch] in the first half and the interception in the red zone aren't good, and the backups, when they got in there, they've got to protect the ball. But there's going to be a lot of things that we can improve on."