September 9, 2012

Grown man football

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Georgia coach Mark Richt admits he wasn't sure what was going to happen with his team trailing by eight points with just over 11 minutes left in the third quarter of Saturday's SEC opener at Missouri.

Considering all that had already gone wrong, it's no wonder.

But after what happened from there, Richt could only shake his head after his 7th-ranked Bulldogs woke up to roll to a 41-20 win.

"Our boys came through with some plays on the ball - on both sides of the ball," said Richt, whose team trailed 17-9 before finishing of the 21-point victory. "I never dreamed we'd do that. But the guys played hard, kept believing and played the whole game with a lot of intensity and made some big plays when we needed to the most."

Georgia's heroes were many.

Quarterback Aaron Murray shook of rusty start to complete 22 of 35 passes for 242 yards and three touchdowns, two going to wide receiver Marlon Brown who set a career high with eight grabs for 106 yards.

But the man receiving most of the credit was junior linebacker Jarvis Jones.

Jones, who Richt revealed played with a strained hamstring, was simply sensational a he collected eight tackle, recorded one sack, forced and fumble and picked off his first-career pass, returning it 21 yards before falling just short of the goal line.

"A lot of people thought we were going to come out here and get upset," Jones said. "But the guys stayed confident, the coaches kept us pumped."

Jones, meanwhile, pumped up his teammates by the way he played.
Following his interception, freshman running back Todd Gurley pulled in from the 1 for one of the Bulldogs' four second-half touchdowns.

Gurley finished with 10 carries for 65 yards, while Ken Malcome chipped in with seven for 33 and a touchdown, the first of his career.

"Georgia is a very good football team, as we expected," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "I was as impressed with them as I thought I would be. You can't make the kind of mistakes we made in the game and survive."

The Bulldogs made their share of mistakes early on.

First, it was Missouri setting Georgia up with excellent field position when a high snap on third down forced the Tigers to punt from inside their 5.

But Georgia failed to pick up a first down, giving the ball right back.

Later, a long pass from Murray to Michael Bennett appeared to Georgia a first down inside the Tiger 40, only to have the play wiped out by a false start on left tackle John Theus. Again, the Bulldogs were forced to punt.

Even when the defense provided a brief spark, like it did when Amarlo Herrera recovered a fumble to stop a Tiger drive inside the Bulldog red zone, Murray promptly threw an interception to give the ball right back to Mizzou, one of three turnovers by Georgia the first half.

Missouri finally scratched the scoreboard with a 28-yard field goal by Andrew Baggett with 12:07 in the second, until Marshall Morgan's 52-yarder tied the game with 5:52 to go.

The Tigers finally got their offense clicking four minutes later when Franklin hooked up with Lucas Marcus on a 41-yard pass.

Only 1:31 remained in the half, but that was plenty of time for Georgia, which marched 71 yards on just five plays to score on a 2-yard pass from Murray to Brown.

A 34-yard catch-and-run by Tavarres King keyed the drive, only to have Morgan push his extra-point attempt wide right allowing the Tigers to head into the locker room with a 10-9 lead.

But the Bulldogs didn't panic.

After falling behind 17-9 on a 69-yard pass from James Franklin to L'Damian Washington, Murray threw touchdown passes of 7 to King and 11 to Brown, before Gurley and Malcome capped the scoring with runs of 1 and 7 yards.

"We just kept fighting," Murray said. "I've been saying all summer, all camp and all season, we've got some great leaders. My job is to just make sure our guys are focused, make sure our guys are competing and that's what we did."

Running back Richard Samuel made one of the game's biggest plays although he never carried the ball.

With Georgia up 24-20, Samuel dropped punter Trey Barrow on a fake punt for a mere 3-yard pickup, setting up a 41-yard field goal by Morgan to extend the lead to 27-20 after the Bulldogs gained their first advantage on Murray's 11-yard pass to Brown.

"The bottom line is we blocked good enough for Murray to get the ball off until we started throwing and catching," Richt said. "They (Missouri) did a pretty good job against the run. But when we started throwing and catching, that's when things started to happen."