LEXINGTON, Ky. — Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray followed a career-worst performance with a career-best.
Murray completed 30 of 38 passes for 427 yards and four touchdowns Saturday night to lead the No. 13 Bulldogs to a 29-24 escape of Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium. It was the first 400-yard game for Murray, whose previous high of 342 occurred in last month's rout of Florida Atlantic.
His output followed an 11-of-31 showing Oct. 6 at South Carolina in which he threw for just 109 yards.
"I think this was huge for us to come back offensively and put some points on the board," said Murray, who had the most passing yards for a Georgia quarterback since Eric Zeier threw for 441 against Vanderbilt in 1994. "We know we're a talented offense that had a bad game two weeks ago, and we know that we still have some work to do."
Georgia's victory coupled with Florida's 44-11 thumping of South Carolina in Gainesville put the Bulldogs back in control of their destiny concerning the SEC East race. Should the Bulldogs defeat Florida this week in Jacksonville and then defeat Ole Miss on Nov. 3 and Auburn on Nov. 10, they would win the division for a second consecutive season.
The Gators should be solid favorites following their showing against the Gamecocks and following Georgia's inability to rout a four-touchdown underdog that had lost 49-7 at Arkansas last week.
"That's why you play on Saturday," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said.
After a 2-yard run by Raymond Sanders with 3:59 remaining pulled the Wildcats within 29-24, Connor Norman recovered the onside kick for the Bulldogs. Georgia was then able to run out the clock to improve to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in league play.
Tavarres King was the big beneficiary in Murray's big night, making nine receptions for 188 yards and two touchdowns, including a long score of 66 yards late in the first quarter.
"We thought we could go after those guys because they were young and inexperienced," King said. "They gave it their best shot, and I was impressed with how they played."
Malcolm Mitchell had nine catches for 103 yards, and tight end Arthur Lynch made a late contribution with two catches for 32 yards and a 10-yard score with 7:51 left that put the Bulldogs up 29-17. Lynch had a 22-yard reception earlier in that drive, which was extended by a roughing-the-punter penalty on the Wildcats with 11 minutes remaining.
Todd Gurley led Georgia's rushers with 12 carries for 47 yards.
Georgia's defense struggled at the start again but strengthened as the game progressed. The Bulldogs allowed 114 yards in the first quarter and 202 the rest of the way.
"They ran some counter plays that we didn't match up well against, and they had a lot of third-down runs," Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. "When it's third-and-11, you ought to be able to stop a run for less than 11 yards. That's something we've got to address.
"This team was beating South Carolina 17-7 at half, so crazy things can happen."
Kentucky got the ball first and promptly marched 84 yards and 13 plays, taking a 7-0 lead on a 4-yard pass from Morgan Newton to Aaron Boyd. The touchdown was the first in the first quarter by the Wildcats offense in 20 games, dating back to the 2010 regular-season finale against Tennessee.
The Wildcats (1-7) will travel to Missouri this week in a matchup of East teams still seeking a first league triumph.
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 ...