Georgia has erupted since topping Florida

Georgia has erupted since topping Florida

November 15th, 2011 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray throws the ball during the second half.

Photo by Patrick Smith/Times Free Press.

Georgia's 24-20 comeback triumph over Florida on Oct. 29 counts as only one victory, but it appears to be the gift that keeps on giving for the rampaging Bulldogs.

Since defeating the Gators for just the fourth time in 22 seasons, the Bulldogs have gone from winning close calls to rolling to routs. Georgia has scored 108 points and racked up 1,155 yards the past two weeks in demolishing New Mexico State and Auburn, and that's after letting up on the gas.

The Bulldogs led New Mexico State 49-3 at halftime and led Auburn 35-7 at the break, displaying a confidence that had not existed until their defeat of the Gators in Jacksonville.

"I don't think it hurt at all," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said. "I think it was a big hurdle that we've just struggled to get over in years past. To win it probably did free us up a little bit. I wouldn't deny that."

Nobody seems to have benefited more than redshirt sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray, who a month ago had the reputation of not being able to win the big game.

Murray has completed 32 of 41 passes for 462 yards and nine touchdowns the past two weeks. He was 14-of-18 for 224 yards and four scores against Auburn, resulting in a career-high pass efficiency rating of 255.6.

"We just wanted to get that money off our back," Murray said. "Florida had won 18 of the last 21 times, and to go out there and win that game was huge for us. We've definitely been getting better every week. We've just got to continue working."

Murray is the first quarterback in Georgia history to throw for nine touchdowns in a two-game stretch, and his 27 touchdown passes in 10 games signify a new single-season record for the program. With a career total of 51, he could begin next season just a few back of the record 72 aerial scores David Greene compiled from 2001 to '04.

"He's just a sophomore, but he's such a leader," redshirt freshman receiver Michael Bennett said. "He's a great guy. He deserves this, bottom line, and I'm really happy for him."

Last year, Murray was intercepted three times in an overtime loss to the Gators. He didn't have a great game statistically his second time around, either, and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo felt the time was right for a talk.

Bobo knew Murray had confidence in his receivers but wanted that confidence to be complete.

"I think we've got a lot of guys who have worked extremely hard and have been selfless, and when the opportunity comes their way, they have made plays," Bobo said. "That Florida game was big for those guys making those plays. I made a point to him that you've got guys making plays and that you've got to trust it and you've got to throw it.

"I think the last two weeks he's done as good a job as he's done in his career."

Bulldogs duo honored

Georgia senior center Ben Jones was named SEC offensive lineman of the week for a second consecutive time Monday, while tailback Isaiah Crowell was SEC freshman of the week for the fourth time.

Jones graded out at 85 percent with 10 intimidation blocks Saturday, the 45th start of his career.

Crowell rushed for 132 yards and had 118 in the second half, when the Bulldogs had built a 35-7 lead and ran on 33 of 35 snaps. He ranks third in the SEC in league games with an average of 96.4 yards a game.

Odds and ends

Georgia's regular-season finale next week at Georgia Tech will kick off at noon and will be televised by ABC or ESPN. ... Junior tight end Orson Charles, who has 32 catches for 395 yards and five touchdowns, is among eight semifinalists for the John Mackey Award. ... The Bulldogs have picked up a commitment from Faton Bauta, the nation's No. 10 dual-threat quarterback according to Rivals.com. Bauta, a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder from West Palm Beach, Fla., also had scholarship offers from Alabama, Miami and West Virginia.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.