<
>

Murray's passing lifts offense

ATLANTA -- Georgia had every intention of pounding the run Saturday against Georgia Tech.

But when the Yellow Jackets came out intent on stopping the run and Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray enjoyed some early success throwing the ball, Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo scrapped his initial plan.

"I thought we were going to have to have success running the ball," Bobo said. "As the game started and early on, we kind of switched in midstream. We always want to be balanced and not one or the other, but today, it's a lot of credit to our guys protecting and Aaron doing a nice job with the receivers, because they pretty much knew we were throwing it there, and we were still able to execute."

For much of the Bulldogs' 31-17 win, Murray carried an offense whose depleted backfield was without injured starting tailback Isaiah Crowell. Murray completed 18 of 29 passes for 252 yards and four touchdowns, running his single-season school record for touchdown passes to 32.

But he said he had an easy job because of the healthy amount of time his offensive line gave him to hit nine different receivers.

"It's easy for any quarterback to sit back in the pocket with plenty of time and hit wide-open receivers," Murray said.

One of the few negative points from Murray's performance was a first-quarter interception forced when Tech's Steven Sylvester hit him while Murray was throwing. But even Sylvester said Georgia's number of available weapons made the Bulldogs difficult to defend.

"The tight end to the receivers, everybody's capable of running good routes and catching balls that he throws, and Aaron Murray himself makes plays with his feet," Sylvester said.

Along with completing passes to nine different receivers, Murray connected with four different teammates on touchdown passes: Michael Bennett, Chris Conley, Tavarres King and Aron White.

It all added up to another big outing for a sophomore quarterback who is enjoying one of the top statistical seasons in school history.

"When he's on fire, we're pretty good," Georgia coach Mark Richt said.

Running back situation
With Crowell sidelined, Georgia had to look for other options at running back.

That included a healthier dose of carries for Ken Malcome (12 carries for a team-high 39 yards) and even a bigger contribution from moonlighting cornerback Branden Smith, who had five carries for 20 yards and two catches for 13 yards.

Crowell suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter of last weekend's win against Kentucky and has not played since. Richt said he hopes the freshman standout will be available next weekend when the Bulldogs face top-ranked LSU in the SEC championship game.

"Isaiah, early in the week I was thinking he might make it, but as he attempted throughout the week, it was pretty evident he wasn't going to be able to go and be very effective," Richt said. "He has made progress. We're hoping he'll be able to practice maybe as early as Monday, I don't know."

Ogletree 'caught them off guard'
Perhaps the most surprising play in Saturday's game was a simple inside handoff to a fullback.

What would be surprising about such a basic play? When Georgia fullback Zander Ogletree took a third-and-1 handoff 21 yards to Georgia Tech's 9-yard line in the third quarter, it was the first time this season a fullback carried the ball for the Bulldogs.

"Was that the first carry by a fullback?" Richt asked. "Caught them off guard, didn't we? Well that's good. Maybe we'll do that some more."

Richt said the happiest observer of Ogletree's run might have been his former employer, Bobby Bowden, a major proponent of the fullback dive in short-yardage situations. Richt served as Bowden's offensive coordinator at Florida State for many years.

"I'll guarantee you Coach Bowden is happy," Richt laughed. "Not to have a fullback run in your offense all year, I'm sure he was upset with me all year. That was for you, Coach Bowden."

Still feeling it
Richt said there were two reasons why he wasn't more demonstrative in celebrating Saturday's win.

One was that the Bulldogs still have a huge game to play next weekend against LSU. The other is that he is still nursing a rib injury sustained when he joined with the players in celebration after last weekend's win against Kentucky that clinched the SEC East title.

Richt slid head first across the locker room floor that had been converted into an impromptu Slip 'N Slide.

"My ribs really hurt right now," Richt said. "I thought they'd be better by now, but they're not. I was shaking hands instead of hugging everybody, so hopefully they'll understand. Really, just jogging out when the game started was a little painful."

Another milestone for Walsh
By connecting on a 41-yard field goal late in the second quarter, Georgia senior kicker Blair Walsh tied former Bulldogs kicker Billy Bennett's NCAA career record of hitting a field goal in 43 games.

With seven points against Georgia Tech, Walsh also moved closer to Bennett's Georgia and SEC career scoring record of 409 points. Walsh has 400 career points with two games to play.

Extra points
Georgia's players wore a special helmet decal to honor late radio play-by-play man Larry Munson. The decal featured Munson with his headset along with "1922-2011" and "Hunker Down One More Time." Munson died last Sunday at age 89 of complications from pneumonia. ... Georgia's Brandon Boykin returned the second-half kickoff 60 yards to set up a touchdown. Boykin passed Mississippi State's Eric Pegues in the SEC record books for second place in career kickoff yardage with 2,558 yards. He trails only Florida's Brandon James (2,718). ... Georgia defensive end DeAngelo Tyson suffered an ankle injury on the second play of the game and did not return. Georgia Tech's Omoregie Uzzi was flagged for an illegal chop block on the play. Richt said Tyson has a sprained ankle but was unsure of its severity. ... Georgia running back Ken Malcome made his first career start.

David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at davidchingespn@gmail.com.