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Georgia adjusts to pummel Georgia Southern

The SportsXchange

ATHENS, GA. -- If there's one thing fifth-ranked Georgia has shown this season, it's the ability to adjust to whatever opposing offenses are able to do.

Saturday's game against visiting FCS member Georgia Southern is another example. The Eagles and their triple-option offense caused Georgia all sorts of first-half grief, but the Bulldogs figuring things out in the second, en route to a 45-14 win.

"We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot," quarterback Aaron Murray said. "We work on things all week to be a better passing team, a better running team and a better blocking team. Today, I think we showed some of that."

Amazingly, the game was close for a while.

Georgia led 10-7 late in the second quarter, before a penalty helped stop a GSU drive deep in Georgia territory.

From there, the rout was on.

Murray was sterling, completing 19-of-28 passes for 330 yards and four touchdowns. Two went to Chris Conley, who led all receivers with four catches for 76 yards.

Freshman Todd Gurley also had a successful afternoon, rushing 15 times for 68 yards and a score. He went over the 1,000 yard mark with his performance, and joined Herschel Walker as the only true freshman to accomplish that feat.

Along with Conley, Tavarres King and Malcolm Mitchell also hauled in touchdown passes from Murray, who threw three in the third quarter alone as Georgia pushed its 17-7 halftime advantage to 38-7 heading into the fourth.

Backup quarterback Parker Welch capped the scoring with a 13-yard touchdown pass in the fourth to redshirt freshman Justin Scott-Wesley.

"It just took us some time to get comfortable with what they were doing and what plays they were going to run," linebacker Alec Ogletree said. "Once we got comfortable with them, I thought we played a pretty good game."

Quarterback Jerick McKinnon was Georgia Southern's top offensive player, rushing for 108 yards and scoring both touchdowns.

The Bulldogs limited Georgia Southern to 153 yards in the second half and just seven points after the game was out of reach.

"The second half of the season has been pretty impressive," Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. "We're happy with the results. I think the guys are focused and they think we've got a chance to do something special. All our goals are ahead of us, and we're happy about that."

Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken, whose teams is expected to receive a top seed in the upcoming FCS playoffs, didn't feel the same way.

"I'm disappointed in losing the game. We came here to win," he said. "You will always find me disappointed when we lose. Georgia is a very good football team, one that is going to play in the SEC Championship. We were going to have to play a nearly perfect game to beat them, and we didn't do that."

For Georgia, which will play in the SEC Championship Dec. 1, the first half was anything but stress free.

With the Bulldogs leading 10-7 late in the second quarter, the Eagles faced a fourth-and-2 from the Bulldogs' 13. Dominique Swope picked up what appeared to be a first down with a 5-yard run, but the Eagles were called for a 15-yard chop-block, and forced to bring out Alex Hanks for a 39-yard field goal attempt.

The kick sailed wide, giving Georgia back the ball with just more than a minute before the half.

That proved to be just enough time, as Murray, who was helped along by a 15-yard roughing the passing call -- drove the Bulldogs down the field, and connected with Mitchell for a 24-yard touchdown with four seconds left.

"It was a big penalty, but those things happen when you run this type of offense," McKinnon said. "We tried to bounce back from it, but they're a good team. We will take this as a lesson heading into the playoff."

Murray's first half was one of his best this year. The junior completed 10 of 15 passes for 199 yards the first half, including a 49-yard toss to tight end Arthur Lynch on the game's opening possession that set up Gurley's 1-yard run that put the Bulldogs up 7-0.

FCS Georgia Southern didn't back down, and tied the game after the two teams traded turnovers late in the first, with Dion Dubose jumping on a Rhett McGowan fumble after picking up a first down at the Eagles' 45.

Ten plays later, Georgia Southern found the end zone with McKinnon running in from 1-yard out with 11:53 left in the half.

The Bulldogs responded with a 47-yard drive after that, but had to settle for a 37-yard field goal by Marshall Morgan with 6:25 on the clock.

NOTES: Freshman fullback Merritt Hall left with an ankle injury in the first quarter but later returned. ... Georgia returns to action next Saturday at noon when the Bulldogs host Georgia Tech.

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