ATHENS, Ga. (AP)—Georgia’s talent more than made up for its inexperience.
The No. 13 Bulldogs used 12 first-time starters—including eight on defense — but still overwhelmed Oklahoma State 35-14 on Saturday night.
“There were a lot of things we did well and a lot of things we have to learn from,” said Georgia coach Mark Richt. “The defense played solid, the offense did well. … It was exciting to see us play like that.”
Among the things they did well offensively: quarterback Matthew Stafford was 18-of-24 for 234 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions; senior Thomas Brown ran for two first-quarter touchdowns; freshman tailback Knowshon Moreno, playing behind Brown and senior Kregg Lumpkin, led the Bulldogs with 20 carries for 70 yards and added two catches on quick screens for 51 yards.
Defensively, the Bulldogs were impressive with five sacks of Oklahoma State quarterback Bobby Reid and 11 tackles for losses of 62 yards.
“We got outplayed across the board,” said Cowboys defensive end Nathan Peterson. “We got whipped because they always seemed to be in the backfield. They ran those quick screens a lot more than we thought they would, and we didn’t adjust quick enough.”
The No. 7 scoring offense last season in 2006 when it averaged 35 points per game, Oklahoma State was held to two touchdowns and 266 yards.
“They were around the ball on every play, I have to give them that,” said Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who led the Cowboys with seven catches for 85 yards.
Georgia started two true freshmen—offensive tackle Trinton Sturdivant and tight end Bruce Figgins—in a season-opening game for only the second time since 1964. Figgins caught an 11-yard touchdown pass.
After taking a 21-14 halftime lead, Stafford put the game out of reach with touchdown passes to Figgins and Michael Moore.
Reid was 16-of-30 for 191 yards with one touchdown—a 20-yarder to Adarius Bowman in the first quarter—and one interception.
Mikey Henderson’s 63-yard punt return set up Stafford’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Moore in the fourth quarter.
There were no turnovers for either team until less than 10 minutes left in the game, when Georgia safety Kelin Johnson intercepted a fourth-down pass by Reid.
Dantrell Savage scored on a 5-yard run with 5:43 left in the first half, but that was the last time the Cowboys’ high-powered offense could get into the end zone.
“We were looking forward to coming down here to find out about ourselves, and we found out we are not ready for the big time,” said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy.
“We didn’t tackle very well tonight, but I thought they outplayed us anyway. … We knew this would be a difficult game, but we thought we could win it.”
Georgia led 7-0 less than a minute into the game, even though Oklahoma State won the opening coin toss. After being stopped on downs, the Cowboys lined up for the punt, but Zach Allen’s snap sailed over punter Matt Fodge’s head. Fodge recovered the ball and was hit by Georgia’s Mohamed Massaquoi at the 14.
“I just kind of let the atmosphere get to me a little bit,” Allen said, referring to the Sanford Stadium crowd of 92,746. “That’s a cardinal sin for a deep snapper.”
On first down from the 14, Brown fought his way straight through the line for a touchdown.
The Cowboys began their third possession at the Georgia 47 and scored on Reid’s pass to Bowman from the 20.
Scoring runs by fullback Brannan Southerland from the 2 with 19 seconds left in the first quarter and by Brown from the 3 midway through the second gave Georgia a 21-7 lead.
“I’m excited about the way we started,” said Stafford, a sophomore who opened his first full season as a starter. “We are young in spots and we needed to have a good performance. We played with a lot of enthusiasm.”