ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia pinned its hopes of improving in the running game on Isaiah Crowell, and thus far the star freshman has delivered.
Saturday's 24-10 win against Mississippi State marked the third time in three SEC games that Crowell has surpassed 100 rushing yards, with his 104 yards on 22 carries propelling a sometimes sluggish offense.
"I think he's a very talented kid that you can see, when the ball is in his hands, that he's got a chance to go the distance," Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "He did that today out in space and looked like he was goin to break a couple."
In fact, Crowell did take a run the distance -- almost. He broke what appeared to be a 49-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, only to have the score called back when referees ruled he stepped out of bounds at the 35.
It nearly gave the freshman the long touchdown run he has been aiming for, and he disagreed that he stepped out of bounds on the play.
"I know I didn't, but referees call the game," he said.
Even without the extra yardage on that play, Crowell had 90 yards on 12 carries by halftime. Bobo said it could have been much more.
"We've got to do a better job of blocking on the perimeter," Bobo said. "There were a couple times I thought he could've gone to the house in the first half, and we didn't finish blocks."
Defending the G
Following a heated game last season in Starkville, the two teams nearly came to blows before Saturday's game. Georgia's players took offense when Mississippi State's team gathered on the Georgia G painted at midfield, just before both teams went to the locker room before the opening kickoff.
They ran to the center of the field, and numerous players from both sides were seen pushing and shoving and jawing at one another before referees and coaches intervened.
"They disrespected us all day," Georgia safety Sanders Commings said. "During warmups, they came to our side of the field and warmed up. Right after warmups, they huddled on the G. We just took all that and took it out on them between the whistles."
Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones said "that just added flame to the fire," inspiring the Bulldogs to play with increased intensity when the game began, and several players said the locker room was as intense as they've seen it before a game.
Georgia held Mississippi State to 115 yards in the first half and led 21-3 at intermission.
"It really showed a sign of disrespect, but we had to go on the field and show them how the real Bulldogs were, and the outcome shows it," Crowell said.
Several Georgia players who missed last week's game at Ole Miss were out again on Saturday.
Receiver Rantavious Wooten (concussion), offensive lineman Chris Burnette (knee), cornerback Damian Swann (groin) all sat out as expected, while receiver Marlon Brown (ankle) and linebacker Christian Robinson (foot) returned to action.
Robinson made one tackle and broke up a pass, mostly in third-down spot duty. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said he expects Robinson to move back into a regular role next week at Tennessee after easing back into the linebacker rotation after a two-game absence.
Senior receiver Israel Troupe suffered a right knee bruise this week in practice and was on crutches on the sideline. Georgia coach Mark Richt said the knee swelled up during the week, but Troupe does not have cartilage damage and will not require surgery.
Georgia has outscored the opposition 110-23 in the last three games. ... Junior safety Shawn Williams made his first career interception in the fourth quarter to snuff out Mississippi State's final drive. ... Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray had thrown only three interceptions all year before Saturday but threw three against Mississippi State. ... Ken Malcome, who quit the team this week and returned a day later, was on the sidelines, but did not dress out. ... Freshman receiver Christian Conley made his first reception, an 8-yarder, in the second quarter. ... Georgia junior linebacker Mike Gilliard led the team with nine tackles, marking the third consecutive game he has been the Bulldogs' top tackler.
David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at email@example.com.