ATHENS, Ga. - The Georgia Bulldogs were shorthanded on superstars Saturday afternoon at Sanford Stadium, but they weren't short on good times.
Getting a slew of productivity from its offense, defense and special teams, Georgia routed Louisiana-Lafayette 55-7 in a performance that seemed to banish many of last season's struggles. The Bulldogs were without their leading rusher and leading receiver from a year ago but still managed the third-highest point total of the Mark Richt era, which is in its 10th season.
"We have our key guys, but underneath the radar we've got some guys who can make a play at the drop of a dime," reserve tailback Carlton Thomas said after rushing 13 times for 61 yards.
The No. 23 Bulldogs played without tailback Washaun Ealey, who was suspended, and without receiver A.J. Green, who was held out because of the NCAA's ongoing inquiry. Green has missed Georgia's last three regular-season contests, yet the Bulldogs have compiled 1,279 yards and 112 points in those games.
Fifth-year receiver Kris Durham did well in Green's absence, as the former Calhoun High standout had five receptions for 83 yards and a 3-yard touchdown reception early in the second quarter to give the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead. It was also the first career touchdown pass for redshirt freshman Aaron Murray, who would finish his debut with three aerial scores.
Murray's most memorable play, however, came on a 16-yard touchdown run as time expired in the first half to put Georgia up 31-7.
"I felt comfortable," Murray said. "My goal was to have fun, and I had fun today."
The 6-foot-1, 209-pounder completed 17 of 26 passes for 160 yards. He had an interception in the second quarter that bounced off Durham's hands and wound up in the arms of Ragin' Cajuns safety Lance Kelley.
"I took my eye off it, and it unfortunately cost Aaron his first interception," said Durham, who wore jersey No. 31 to recognize medically disqualified safety Quintin Banks. "It hit me right where you want it, and I dropped it."
Murray made an ill-advised pass to the end zone on Georgia's next possession, but Kelley dropped it. That drive was capped by Murray's scoring scramble.
With 2:42 remaining in the third quarter and the Bulldogs up 41-7, freshman Hutson Mason entered the game for Murray and immediately threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Logan Gray. It was the first career score for Gray, who entered spring practice hoping to fend off Murray for the starting quarterback spot.
"I was expecting a run, to tell you the truth, and Coach [Mike] Bobo called the play," Mason said. "I ran out there and just slung it, and when I looked at the sideline Kris Durham was halfway out on the field ready to mob me. These are the dreams that you live for when you are little, but I never thought in a million years that I would throw a TD on my first pass."
Murray is the first Bulldogs quarterback to throw a touchdown on his very first attempt and the first Georgia player to do so since tailback Thomas Brown threw back to quarterback Joe Tereshinski in the 2005 loss to Florida.