JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — After a month without Todd Gurley, the Georgia Bulldogs were thrilled to have a nauseated and banged-up version of their superstar tailback.
Gurley had 121 yards and two touchdowns in the first six minutes to stake the Bulldogs to a lead they would never relinquish in a 23-20 Southeastern Conference victory over rival Florida before a crowd of 84,693 at EverBank Field. It was the first action for the 6-foot-1, 232-pound sophomore since he sprained his ankle in the second quarter of the 44-41 win over LSU on Sept. 28.
"He helped a little bit, didn't he?" Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "He played so well those first couple of series, and it was so good to have him back."
Gurley's return was evident from the first play from scrimmage, when quarterback Aaron Murray drew the defense in with a fake handoff and then kept the ball for a 17-yard gain. Gurley rushed for 14 yards on the second play from scrimmage and added a 25-yard run later in the drive to set up his 5-yard touchdown run on the next play.
On Georgia's second possession, Murray dumped a third-and-6 pass over the middle to Gurley, who quickly broke free and raced past Gators safety Cody Riggs for a 73-yard touchdown. It was so much, so soon for Gurley that he became sick and had to be taken into the locker room.
With Gurley out of the game, Georgia (5-3, 4-2) took its third possession 53 yards in 10 plays and went up 17-0 on Marshall Morgan's 49-yard field goal. The first quarter ended with the Bulldogs up 17-0 for the first time in this showdown since 1979.
Gurley returned to the game midway through the second quarter, reeling off a 30-yard run and catching a pass that was stopped for no gain, and his only play in the third quarter was a 4-yard carry. He entered the fourth quarter with five carries for 68 yards but rushed 12 times for 32 yards to finish with 100 on 17 to go along with 87 yards on three receptions.
On Georgia's final possession that consumed the last 8:17 of the game, Gurley converted two third downs.
"I personally think he's the best back in the country," Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "We did a nice job of getting him the ball, and just his presence out there gives us a physicality on offense and opens up the whole thing. I would have liked to have him healthy like he was in the first quarter.
"He was obviously banged up there in the fourth quarter, but he wanted the ball, and our players wanted to give him the ball."
Gurley led the Bulldogs in rushing and receiving for the first time in his career, which could be put on hold next week against Appalachian State considering a trip to Auburn looms on Nov. 16. He had a noticeable limp as he exited the field following the game and was not available to the media.
"His presence on the field was awesome," Murray said. "He had some some huge, huge plays for us all day long in the run game and the pass game. It was just great to have him back."
The Bulldog' third straight win over the Gators dropped Florida to 4-4, 3-3 in the SEC, entering this week's game against visiting Vanderbilt.
Georgia managed just 221 yards in a 31-27 loss at Vanderbilt on Oct. 19 but had 259 yards in the first quarter Saturday.
"We dug ourselves too deep of a hole," Florida coach Will Muschamp said.
A hole created by Todd Gurley.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
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 ...