ATHENS, Ga. — The Florida Atlantic Owls picked up $1 million for arriving Saturday night at Sanford Stadium and falling victim to a record-setting offensive night by No. 7 Georgia.
Florida Atlantic played the Bulldogs to a surprising standoff for the first 20 minutes, but junior quarterback Aaron Murray and the hosts erupted for a 56-20 pasting before a sellout crowd of 92,746. Murray completed 14 of 19 passes for a career-high 342 yards and two touchdowns, and he had two 1-yard rushing touchdowns on an offense that set a school standard with 713 total yards.
Murray's favorite targets were sophomore receiver Michael Bennett and junior tight end Arthur Lynch. Bennett had four catches for 110 yards, including a 67-yard scoring reception with 1:34 left in the second quarter that gave the Bulldogs a long-awaited cushion at 28-14.
Lynch amassed 73 yards and a score on three catches.
The Bulldogs were equally effective running the ball, with freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall gaining 111 and 104 yards, respectively.
It was not a dominating night defensively, as Georgia surrendered a staggering 263 yards in the first half to a program that averaged 248.8 yards a game last year in ranking last in the Bowl Subdivision. The Bulldogs were without All-America outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who was held out after playing through a groin injury during last week's sensational showing at Missouri.
The $1 million payout was the largest Georgia has provided for a Sanford guest. Buffalo received $975,000 for playing two weeks ago in the season opener, and North Texas will be paid $975,000 for visiting next season.
Florida Atlantic converted five of seven third downs into firsts in the first 15 minutes and tied the game at 7 at the 2:30 mark of the opening quarter on a 43-yard run up the middle by Damian Fortner. The Owls pulled even again with 12:19 before halftime on a 2-yard pass from Graham Wilbert to Nexon Dorvilus that was set up by a 48-yard pass from Wilbert to Dukes.
While the Bulldogs dominated offensively all night, the defense regrouped in the second half and aided in the rout as well. Inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera returned an interception 35 yards for a score late in the third quarter to make it 49-14.
Georgia will turn its attention to this week's night game against visiting Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs escaped Nashville last season with a 33-28 victory, but the game will be remembered for a heated exchange on the field afterward between Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and Commodores head coach James Franklin.
Vandy players were asked about traveling to Georgia immediately after their 58-0 win Saturday over Presbyterian.
"I'm not a big shouter," cornerback Trey Wilson said. "I don't do too much rah-rah-rah. My rah-rah-rah is in what I do between the lines. People are going to talk, but I just show up and play."
Said Commodores defensive end Johnell Thomas: "I see it as unfinished business."
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 ...