ATHENS, Ga. — Does Georgia's running game set up its passing game, or vice versa?
Led by veteran quarterback Aaron Murray and the freshman tailback tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, the No. 5 Bulldogs continued their torrid start by racking up 567 yards Saturday night in a 48-3 bewildering of Vanderbilt. Georgia has compiled a pinball-like 1,280 yards the past two weeks, and coordinator Mike Bobo has the luxury of picking his approach in attacking defenses.
"The first two games it was the pass for the run, and the last two games it's been the run for the pass," Bobo said after Saturday's throttling. "The bottom line is balance, and it doesn't really matter if you're getting anything early or not. You've got to be committed to running the football, and they've got to know it.
"When teams play Georgia, they know we're going to run the ball."
The Bulldogs lead the Southeastern Conference with 530 yards a game entering Tennessee's visit this weekend, and their 7.79 yards a play ranks second nationally to Florida State, which played two FCS teams (Murray State and Savannah State) in its first four games.
Six of the first nine play calls for Bobo against the Commodores were Gurley runs that totaled 27 yards, or 4.5 yards a clip. Then Marshall entered and had an 8-yard carry and a 52-yard touchdown run that put the Bulldogs up 13-0 late in the first quarter.
"That was good play-calling for him to believe in me as a freshman," Gurley said. "I'm thankful for that. If you can't run in this league, you're not really going to win ball games."
Said Marshall: "The last couple of weeks we have really gotten things rolling, and I'm glad Coach Bobo has confidence in us."
Gurley and Marshall combined for 212 yards and four touchdowns on 26 carries Saturday night, and neither played in the fourth quarter.
"Usually it takes a little time to break a defense down whether through the normal fatigue of the game or by hitting a few passes that soften things up," head coach Mark Richt said. "We ran it well, and most every time the backs had the ball, they had some space. When the safety is their No. 1 tackler, it's usually a pretty good sign for your running game."
Georgia's passing game continues to sizzle with Murray, who completed his first 12 attempts against the Commodores and tallied 250 yards and two touchdowns in three quarters. Murray ranks second in the SEC to Alabama's AJ McCarron in efficiency, having completed 69 of 104 passes (66.4 percent) for 1,092 yards with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.
That the run has set up the pass recently is fine with him.
"It's back and forth, but it starts with the offensive line," Murray said. "Those guys are playing lights out right now when it comes to pass protection and when it comes to run-blocking. It starts with them, and they are really driving us right now."
Georgia is averaging 47.5 points a game, which also leads the SEC, and has won four straight games by at least three touchdowns for the first time in 20 years.
Odds and ends
Senior defensive end Abry Jones left Saturday's game with an ankle injury, and Richt said Sunday that he does not believe it is serious. ... Junior guard Chris Burnette got engaged during a Sunday morning service. ... Richt said the status of safety Bacarri Rambo and inside linebacker Alec Ogletree would be revealed Saturday in pregame warmups. ... This is the first time since 2008 that Georgia has been ranked entering the Tennessee game, while the Volunteers haven't been ranked entering this matchup since 2006.
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 ...