ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia and Mississippi State football players met at midfield 23 minutes before Saturday's high-noon kickoff at Sanford Stadium, pushing and jawing back and forth before taking their respective routes to the locker rooms.
It was the last time the Southeastern Conference's two sets of Bulldogs would be viewed evenly.
Behind Aaron Murray's two first-half touchdown passes and Isaiah Crowell's 90 first-half rushing yards, Georgia built a 21-3 lead at intermission and coasted to a 24-10 victory before a soldout crowd of 92,746. The hosts already had motivation after getting whipped 24-12 in Starkville last season, and the midfield gathering only heightened the desire.
"That got us ready for the game, and we just had the attitude that we were going to go out there and destroy those guys," Georgia junior safety Bacarri Rambo said. "Everybody went out there with the same mindset and attitude, and we did a great job today."
To a point, at least.
For a second consecutive Saturday, the Bulldogs struggled in the second half against a Magnolia State team. After managing a lone field goal in the final 30 minutes of last week's 27-13 win at Ole Miss, Georgia came out in the third quarter against MSU and sputtered again.
Georgia produced just 78 second-half yards after racking up 237 in the first two quarters.
"There is something missing in the second half, for sure," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "We're definitely running the ball and moving the ball better in the first half, and we're throwing and catching better in the first half. I don't know, but I'm going to study the film and try and get some kind of answer."
Richt recorded his 99th career win and will go after No. 100 this Saturday night when the Bulldogs (3-2, 2-1) visit Tennessee (3-1, 0-1).
Mississippi State continues to struggle after going 9-4 last season with wins over Georgia, Florida and Michigan. MSU is winless through three SEC games, and coach Dan Mullen is no longer seeking to replicate last year's magic.
"We see where we want to be, but this last step is the hardest to take," he said. "We are trying to get to six wins, get to a bowl and continue building this program."
Also failing to emulate last season, at least in one aspect, is Murray. The redshirt sophomore threw three interceptions, including one in the fourth quarter that was returned for a touchdown, and now has six for the season.
Murray didn't have six interceptions last year until the ninth game.
"I just wasn't as accurate on those three passes as I needed to be," Murray said. "When you play great teams, they're going to make the plays if you don't put them in the right spots. I've got to be better prepared and more careful."
Said offensive coordinator Mike Bobo: "I'm not overly concerned, but the ones that go for pick-sixes bother me."