ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Florida Atlantic scored only one touchdown against lower-division Wagner.
By early in the second quarter, they already had put up more points than that on the seventh-ranked team in the country.
That turned out to be the highlight for the Owls.
Aaron Murray passed for a career-best 342 yards and accounted for four touchdowns — two passing, two rushing — to lead Georgia back from another slow start for a 56-20 rout of Florida Atlantic on Saturday night.
The Owls (1-2), a 44-point underdog who have only two wins in two seasons, caused the crowd of more than 92,000 to get a bit restless when they kept converting third downs and matched Georgia score for score early on.
Damian Fortner broke off a 43-yard touchdown run and Graham Wilbert hooked up with Nexon Dorvilus on a 2-yard scoring pass that made it 14-14 less than 3 minutes into the second period.
“The first half was fun,” Fortner said.
Just when Florida Atlantic might have starting thinking of itself as the next Louisiana-Monroe, Georgia (3-0) took control. The Bulldogs ripped off six straight touchdowns, turning the game into the expected blowout.
“We came out pretty sharp,” said Wilbert, who was 18 of 33 for 183 yards. “We really played well against a good SEC team. But the second half was a completely different ballgame.”
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Owls. Next week, they travel to Tuscaloosa for another expected beating at the hands of No. 1 Alabama.
“You have to remember where we are,” said first-year coach Carl Pelini. “We only have so many bullets in the gun.”
Georgia has plenty of weapons, and Murray took advantage of them all. The junior completed 14 of 19, including a 67-yard touchdown to Michael Bennett and a 36-yarder to Arthur Lynch. Murray scored himself on a pair of 1-yard sneaks.
The Bulldogs finished with 713 yards, a school record. Not that Murray is concerned about gaudy numbers.
“The best legacy you can leave is winning games and winning championships,” he said. “I want to be known for that — not just for throwing touchdowns and having a good game here and there. I want to be known as a consistent quarterback and a quarterback who led Georgia to some championships.”
Murray eclipsed his previous high passing game, a 326-yard effort last season against Vanderbilt. He now has 67 touchdown passes in his career, pulling even with Eric Zeier for second place in the school rankings and only five behind the leader, David Greene. “Aaron was on fire,” said Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. “He was very sharp. He hit all his targets. He just threw the ball extremely well. … It was good to see him start fast. We needed him to start fast.”
Both of Georgia’s freshmen running backs went over 100 yards on the ground. Todd Gurley ran for 111 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown early in the third quarter that finally turned the game into the expected rout. Keith Marshall had 104 yards and a TD. Georgia played without star linebacker Jarvis Jones and two other defensive starters. FloridaAtlantic took advantage, piling up 263 yards during a wild first half. But the Owls had only 55 yards over the final two quarters.
Marshall carried it five times for 57 yards on a 67-yard drive that put the Bulldogs ahead to stay. He nearly scored his second TD, but was tripped up about a half-yard from the end zone. Murray finished it off with a sneak.
Getting it back against with 2½ minutes left in the first half, Georgia quickly struck for another score that provided some breathing room. Murray was sacked, but a slap to the face by Kayvon Sherrill resulted in a 15-yard penalty. After the Bulldogs were penalized for an illegal formation, Murray found Bennett streaking open down the middle of the field, hitting him in stride for the score that made it 28-14.
Georgia put the game away in the first 5 minutes of the second half.After receiving the kickoff, the Bulldogs needed only six plays to go 85 yards, Lynch hauling in a touchdown pass that was initially ruled out of bounds at the 2. After looking at the replay, the video official ruled that Lynch’s knee didn’t go down until he stretched out to clip the pylon.
Florida Atlantic punted it away after three straight incompletions, and Murray quickly hooked up with Tavarres King on a 25-yard pass to get the Bulldogs rolling again. Gurley capped another lightning-quick drive with his long TD run.
The only blemish on Murray’s line was an interception in the end zone when he should have thrown the ball away. But, in the very next play, Amario Herrera stepped in front of Wilbert’s pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown.
Georgia also struggled in the opening half of its first two games, giving up 16 points to lowly Buffalo and trailing Missouri 10-9 at halftime. But the Bulldogs sure know how to finish, outscoring their opponents by a combined 81-23 in the second half. Jones, who had a brilliant game against Missouri, was in uniform and came out for the coin toss as one of Georgia’s captains. But that was his only action, the Bulldogs deciding to give him the night off to rest a nagging groin injury with a stretch of seven straight Southeastern Conference games beginning next week.
Freshman Jordan Jenkins started in Jones’ place.
Defensive back Sanders Commings and linebacker Chase Vasser returned from suspensions, but All-American safety Bacarri Rambo and starting linebacker Alec Ogletree remained on the sideline. Coach Mark Richt hasn’t indicated when either will be cleared to play.
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