ATHENS, Ga. -- Apparently, all the hype surrounding freshman running back Todd Gurley wasn't hyperbole after all. The youngster from Tarboro, N.C. gave Georgia fans an afternoon they'll remember for a while by accounting for 227 total yards and scoring three times to lead the Bulldogs to a 45-23 win over Buffalo Saturday at Sanford Stadium. Gurley, who scored on runs of 10 and 55 yards, also found the end zone on a 100-yard kickoff return in the first quarter, tying both an SEC and NCAA record for a true freshman. He finished with eight carries for 100 yards and returned two kicks for 127 more. "That electrified the fans and it electrified me, too," coach Mark Richt said. "That was fun to watch. I was proud of him and Coach (Tony) Ball and the entire return team. You need a guy with bravery to hit it up in there full speed, the ability to break tackles and the speed to take it to the house. He looks like he will be a pretty good return man." Meanwhile, quarterback Aaron Murray shook off a slow start to complete 15 of 26 passes for 258 yards, including three touchdowns on throws of 63 yards to Tavarres King, 38 yards to Rantavious Wooten and 12 to Michael Bennett. "We were far from perfect, so I'm looking forward to learning something from this and being a better team next week," Murray said. "We're going to need to be." Defensively, the game wasn't one of the Bulldogs' better efforts. Georgia, which ranked fifth nationally in total defense a season ago, allowed 347 yards to the Bulls, a MAC squad which finished 3-9 a season ago. It didn't take Georgia's offense long to put the first points of the season on the board. A nifty 37-yard completion from Murray to Bennett put the Bulldogs in position at the Bulls' 12, setting up freshman Gurley who ran in from 10 yards out for his first collegiate score. After the Bulls responded with an 11-play, 75-yard yard drive, scoring on a 16-yard pass from Alex Zordich to Alex Neutz (the extra-point failed), Gurley went back deep to return his first kick. What happened next brought the Sanford Stadium crowd to its collective feet as Gurley took the ball at the goal line, cut left, found a seam and raced 100 yards down the sideline for a 14-6 lead. Georgia added a 25-yard field goal by Marshall Morgan and Murray's 63-yard bomb to King to extend the margin to 24-6 before Buffalo responded with a 3-yard run by Branden Oliver -- 30 carries for 111 yards -- and an 18-yard field goal by Patrick Clarke to draw within 24-16 at the half. Oliver's touchdown capped an eight-play, 94-yard drive for the Bulls. "To be able to come up with a 94-yard drive against one of the best defenses Georgia has had in a while gives us some confidence," Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn said. "We are a good football team and at times saw that today." Touchdown passes of 38 yards to Wooten and 12 yards to Bennett capped the scoring for Georgia in the second half with Zordich running in from 2 yards out on fourth down for Buffalo's final touchdown late in the fourth. "There's no such thing as a bad victory," Richt said. "But we've got some things to clean up, there's no doubt about that." NOTES: Starting wide receiver Marlon Brown missed Saturday's contest nursing a minor hamstring string. ... Starting cornerback Malcolm Mitchell was held out as well after spraining his ankle during Thursday's practice. ... Starting running back Ken Malcome left in the third quarter with a left hand injury did not return.
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By Anthony Dasher, The Sports Xchange September 1, 2012 5:30 PM