ATLANTA -- Georgia defeated Georgia Tech for the 10th time in 11 tries under football coach Mark Richt, but the latest state championship was followed by the quickest celebration yet.
Minutes after the No. 13 Bulldogs downed the No. 25 Yellow Jackets 31-17 Saturday afternoon at Bobby Dodd Stadium, Richt said there is more to this journey and he was not in a reflective mood. Georgia won its 10th consecutive game to clinch its first 10-win regular season since 2007, but Richt and the Bulldogs displayed brief euphoria on the field and were already talking about No. 1 LSU and this week's Southeastern Conference title game in the Georgia Dome.
"We're thinking about LSU right now," said Branden Smith, a cornerback who was needed at tailback against the Jackets. "This win is over."
Aaron Murray completed 19 of 29 passes for 252 yards and four touchdowns to extend Georgia's stranglehold in the in-state rivalry. His scores went to Michael Bennett, Chris Conley, Tavarres King and backup tight end Aron White, but starting tight end Orson Charles was his top target with five receptions for 95 yards.
The Bulldogs played without starting tailback Isaiah Crowell (ankle), and Ken Malcome and Carlton Thomas combined on three first-half carries for minus-1 yard.
"I just thought that we were clicking early," Murray said of an aerial attack that produced 193 yards in the first 30 minutes. "We were moving the ball successfully through the air, and our receivers were making plays. Our line did a great job of giving me time. We were just going with what was working."
Georgia (10-2) led 17-10 at halftime before breaking it open with two third-quarter touchdowns. The first was set up by Brandon Boykin's 60-yard kickoff return that opened the second half, and an interception by a diving Shawn Williams set up another short field that enabled the Bulldogs to make it 31-10.
The Yellow Jackets concluded their regular season at 8-4, and school officials believe their most likely destination is the Sun Bowl.
"I give Georgia a lot of credit," Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "They have a good football team, and they showed up and played very well. For us, the margin of error was small, and we didn't take advantage of a couple of opportunities that we had early."
Georgia and LSU will comprise the second most common matchup in SEC championship history behind Florida-Alabama, a pairing that has taken place seven times. Georgia and LSU will meet for a third time for the league title, with the Tigers having won 34-13 in 2003 and the Bulldogs prevailing 34-14 in '05.
The Bulldogs expect to be double-digit underdogs against the Tigers, who improved to 12-0 Friday with a 41-17 whipping of No. 3 Arkansas.
"We were 6-7 last year and started out 0-2, but we've won 10 in a row," Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. "All we do is play and work hard and compete, and we continue to do the things we have to do to win the game. They are a great opponent with a great scheme, great players and great coaches, so we'll have to play our best."
Said Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo: "To me, it's been about us all year. There has been negativity surrounding Coach Richt, this staff and the players, and we've done a great job of staying together, fighting and not listening to the noise."
By defeating the Yellow Jackets, Georgia will continue to retain the Governor's Cup, and a 10th replica cup will go in Richt's office.
"It does mean a lot to me," Richt said, "don't get me wrong."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...