Georgia saves its best for when it matters most

Aaron Murray threw four first-half touchdown passes when Dogs took a 35-7 lead. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Aaron Murray's four first-half touchdown passes gave Dogs a 35-7 lead. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

(UPDATED: 8:30 p.m.)

ATHENS — So. How many points do you think Georgia will be favored by over LSU?

The unexpected metamorphosis of the Bulldogs from 0-2 and punch-drunk to 8-2 and potential conference finalist took another unexpected turn Saturday. They were dominant. They were smart and efficient and tough. They looked remarkably top-10ish. They won a conference game that mattered in a way we probably haven’t seen in Athens since 2007.

Georgia body-slammed Auburn 45-7.

As the university president, Michael Adams, neatly summarized, “That was the first time this year when we really ran over somebody. You never know when a team is going to grow up.”

Goodbye to the wonder years. If this performance was something nobody could have projected two months ago, consider that the SEC East title suddenly comes down to a simple and certainly probable two-word mandate: Beat Kentucky.

Beat Kentucky? That’s it?

The day started with South Carolina defeating Florida 17-12, which temporarily lifted the Gamecocks into a first-place tie with the Dogs. That was followed by this half-jab from Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier: “We’ll see how Georgia plays when they know they have to win.”

We saw. The comment was a source of amusement for some Georgia players afterward. When asked if there was something he wanted to say to Spurrier, running back Carlton Thomas only smiled and said, “Congratulations on the win.”

Tight end Aron White was a little more expansive: “Coach Spurrier’s a great coach. But we’re not worried about him or what he’s saying. I couldn’t care less about South Carolina right now because we have a better record and we have a chance to go to the SEC [championship game].”

The Bulldogs reacted like you want a team to react. They punched Auburn in the mouth. They scored touchdowns on their first two possessions and three of their first four. They led at halftime 35-7. They cleared out the Auburn cheering section in the upper level of Sanford Stadium early.

Fans rocked Sanford Stadium like they hadn’t since maybe a win over Auburn in 2007. When Bacarri Rambo returned an interception 24 yards early in the second quarter, “It got so loud that I thought we were in Tennessee,” Rambo said.

The first seven wins proved showed something about character. The eighth win showed something about potential.  The combined SEC record of the Dogs’ five conference wins was 5-24, but what happened against Auburn can’t be diminished. The Tigers aren’t the dominant bunch that won the BCS title last season, but they had a winning SEC record (4-2) and a ranking (24th AP, 20th BCS). They had beaten South Carolina (a big assist to Georgia’s resurgence).

The backdrop did not scream: easy win. The Dogs had lost five straight and 10 of 12 to ranked teams. They hadn’t won an SEC game of such significance at least since beating LSU 52-38 in Baton Rouge in 2008. A case could be made it actually was the Dogs’ biggest since the 2007, 45-20 win over Auburn (so long ago that the black jerseys were revered).

OK. This doesn’t ensure anything against LSU, should the Dogs make it the Georgia Dome. But the team that played Auburn didn’t nearly resemble the one that got blown out by Boise State, or tripped over itself at South Carolina, or looked unimpressive in wins over Mississippi and Vanderbilt.

The offense converted 12 of 15 third-down situations and shredded Auburn for five touchdowns and 528 yards. The defense held the Tigers to 195 net yards, including 51 rushing. Special teams — no mistakes.

“We started out struggling and going 0-2, but we’ve definitely been making baby steps,” quarterback Aaron Murray said. “This was the first time we put it all together.”

Murray was at the center of it all. He had four touchdown passes in the first half, giving him 27 this season, a school record. He completed 14-of-18 for 224 yards and even had a 13-yard scramble on third down. He looked as most projected at the outset of the season — like the SEC’s best quarterback.

This win was more than any Georgia fan could’ve hoped for, more than anybody could have expected. Teams want to peak at the right time, and this is it. Two months after the 0-2 start, the Dogs need only to do one thing: beat Kentucky.

The view has changed significantly.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

1,020 comments Add your comment

knock-down, ........ drag-out

November 12th, 2011
6:58 pm

Hairy Dawg

November 12th, 2011
7:03 pm

Woohoo!  We goning to GA Dome!  Then we upsets LSUers to go to national champs.

I told you we need extends contract for Coach Richt!  He embareasses Awful Burn like they a stacks a dung heaps.  We beat them all up and down field like a rancid mule.  And Gaytors finishes under 500.  Cheese Dip and Judas Muachumps deserves each others.  Haha!

Go Dawgs!

JDawg1785

November 12th, 2011
7:05 pm

How ’bout them Dawgs?! Way to burn the Barn, boys!!!

Hairy Dawg

November 12th, 2011
7:06 pm

Typo: Judas Muschumps

Dr. Morpheus

November 12th, 2011
7:06 pm

Danielson: “Best Georgia team I’ve seen.”

Leo5150

November 12th, 2011
7:07 pm

Where you at 2010 BCS Champions? How you like dem apples? Hahahahah

JOKURONE

November 12th, 2011
7:08 pm

BRING ON THE CHINESE BANDITS

East Repeat

November 12th, 2011
7:08 pm

My handle, East Repeat goes up for auction to Dawg fans next saturday. But the question remains, will UGA ever beat South Carolina again? Not next year, as Mr Lattimore will be fully healthy to welcome bull dogs to Columbia, and UGA defense will welcome him with his annual 175 yds against UGA. See you in the BCS standings!

SBC Pastor

November 12th, 2011
7:10 pm

Assuming we don’t stumble against Kentucky (you never know), if UGA plays like they did today, the game against LSU could be a pretty good one.

John

November 12th, 2011
7:11 pm

Can we take Mark Richt off the hot seat now?

East Repeat

November 12th, 2011
7:11 pm

Hairy Dog, now you had to go bring up the BIG negative to UGA having a cupcake schedule and having a decent year- extend CMR contract? Damn Son, that justs gets everybody down except UGA’s opponent in SEC!

RedandBlackDawg

November 12th, 2011
7:12 pm

That crunch you just heard was the Auburn offense and MikeP, the man from Auburn’s jaw dropping after all his comments about how Auburn was going to destroy UGA because UGA wasn’t very good. Using that premise, I guess Auburn is a lot less than not very good then. Nest game Kentucky and then the scrimmage on North Ave.

GO DAWGS and GATA

NewnanDawg

November 12th, 2011
7:12 pm

LSU is gonna be a hell of a game. Even if we don’t come out on top, I expect a great game

True UGA fan

November 12th, 2011
7:12 pm

I’ll say it because I know Mark want- all you haters can kiss richt’s ass!!!!

East Repeat

November 12th, 2011
7:13 pm

Pastor- Hope your hand was not on the Bible for that one. Dawgs will do well against LSU (hardy-har-har). Look out for lightning strikes.

mike addington

November 12th, 2011
7:13 pm

Looked like Junkyard Dawgs on defense and maybe Crowell will man up after all. Jury out. Great blocking guys. Great running Thomas. Great throws and catches. U play like that, can play with anybody. Glad for Richt that he’s finally fielding a good team

GTBob

November 12th, 2011
7:15 pm

An amazing win over an amazingly great Auburn team. Just give UGA the BCS trophy. Very few teams can beat Auburn.

ryan

November 12th, 2011
7:15 pm

This was a huge victory no one said we could beat a top 25 team and we sure did 8 wins in a row Go dawgs this should quiet the Murray haters he had a perfect game .

td

November 12th, 2011
7:17 pm

Where is all the FIRE CMR people? It is time for you all to go away now and SHUT UP because CMR is not going anywhere any time soon. If you are really Georgia fans then it is time for you to go and find another team to root for. Go ahead a burn your gear and go get you some pea yellow colors.

Dawgwild

November 12th, 2011
7:17 pm

Great day to be a Georgia Bulldog. Auburn got dominated by the dogs!!! It wasn’t even a close game and oh yeah TECH lost Thursday, even better. Bring on the wildcats.

BLOOD TYPE: RED & BLACK

November 12th, 2011
7:18 pm

2010 BCS CHAMPS, Come out, come out wherever you are! Where are you loud mouth punk?!

Oh my GOD the punishment we just served…HOW DOES IT FEEL AUBURN!

82Dawg

November 12th, 2011
7:18 pm

Were is Hershel Talker??? Hiding in Mama’s basement I guess….making so dumb video with the blanket over his head..

Bell

November 12th, 2011
7:18 pm

Keep it up ga. To those who jumped off the wagon don’t get back on! Just wait till next yr!

East Repeat

November 12th, 2011
7:18 pm

Way to go Schultz. 1-2 on the GT/VT, SC/FL, UGA/AU. Pretty good for an Obama voter. Is it required that you pick UGA now that Cynthia Tucker is President of UGA?

savdiddydawg

November 12th, 2011
7:18 pm

Great job! As often as I have read the negative posts, the fire Mark Rights and Coach Nobody comments; please have the decency to post something negative tonight. All you heard before this game was we haven’t played anybody. Last time I checked you play the games on the schedule. The team as a whole has grown up and they are playing great ball. GTG has been one of the best things to happen to UGA football because Coach Richt needed someone who could say GET AFTER THAT **** and mean it. I truly believe that we will finish the year strong. But because I ride or die with the Bulldogs, I am all good. BTW: for everyone who had a job offer ready to send to Chris Peterson in Boise, please offer him my apologies for his kicker!

Joey

November 12th, 2011
7:18 pm

Well, well. Thank goodness we’re done with the idiot 2010 bcs chump for a year. Good to see GTBob still wringing his hands over what he knows is coming soon . . .

82Dawg

November 12th, 2011
7:18 pm

GT Bob your an idiot we will see you in a couple of weeks..

Josh Smith for 3

November 12th, 2011
7:19 pm

Haters can keep on hating, but UGA looks just fine right now. One game at a time…Kentucky is the last stepping stone to Atlanta.

Herschel Talker

November 12th, 2011
7:19 pm

Schultzie:

I told everyone on here that I would admit if I was wrong about Richt. This beatdown is ridiculously impressive. Kudos to Richt for coming back from all the adversity. Let’s see him continue to build on this, but I give the man a lot of credit.

HT

chipperdawg

November 12th, 2011
7:19 pm

GREAT job Dawgs!!! Saw alot of emotion from you boys tonight! Made my heart smile to see my beloved Dawgs playing a complete game and showing alot of heart and determination. Just a really good win, all the way around. A well coached game as well, IMHO. Enjoy tonight, but then put it to bed, ’cause the job, and the journey, ain’t over yet! got some more ‘Cats to skin alive next week! GATA !!! It’s great to be a Georgia Bulldawg !!!

STILL PAYING ATTENTION

November 12th, 2011
7:20 pm

yeah think so!!! STILL PAYIN ATTENTION.!!

wdm

November 12th, 2011
7:20 pm

What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time Schultz and his band of idiot cohorts at the AJC sports department went on a full frontal press to get Richt fired. They kicked him while he was down. They threw him under the bus. But to no avail, Schultz and his band of idiots lost and Richt has won. But no one is really surprised because Schultz is a loser of historic proportion. And as predicted, Schultz is now trying to weasle his way back into the good graces of Coach Mark Richt and UGA fans. There is no sweeter headline than this ” Schultz wrong again!”

East Repeat

November 12th, 2011
7:20 pm

td- I and all the other SEC teams are THRILLED CMR will be retained as coach! Way to go UGA!

82Dawg

November 12th, 2011
7:21 pm

Where is all of the Auburn fans?

RedandBlackDawg

November 12th, 2011
7:21 pm

East Repeat,

I think you will find out pretty quick next year, when UGA beats S.C. in your house. Steve Spurrier better teach that QB you have to pass better, or somebody is going to knock him out of almost every game. He looked like he would be a better fit for GA. Tech. than S.C. I know Spurrier likes to win, but he had better teach that young man how to pass.

Alaska Dawg

November 12th, 2011
7:22 pm

Hairy Dawg, I share your joy, but let’s not trip up against Kentucky. One game at a time. If we make it to SEC title game, let’s do it 10-2 giving the West champ something to worry about!

Hairy Dawg

November 12th, 2011
7:22 pm

Were all the bad fans and journalits that trying to hot sit Coach Richt? We coming together now to expose our talents and dominants the league. We just had to get experience and then we return to Sagger.

SEC East Champs Georgia Dawgs!

Now we out for more!

Go Dawgs!

Hookwilly's Last Custoner

November 12th, 2011
7:22 pm

Loving it. Figured we’d win today, but didn’t think we had a chance against LSU. Seeing the way we played today, as long as we stay healthy (which is a big “IF” with 2 games left), we might just kick some a$$ on our way to the end of this season. We probably can’t get into the MNC, but we might just decide who does. LLYFF

Joey

November 12th, 2011
7:22 pm

FYI GTBobbie,

@LSU 45 – AU 10.

Yeah, 3 weeks ago. Makes you go hmmmmm, doesn’t it?

Better tell PJ you do’t really have “bigger fish to fry” this month.

Good luck . . .

IL Jacket

November 12th, 2011
7:23 pm

Congratulations Dawgs on a great victory. That first half was just about perfect. I hope you get that out of your system before the 26th.

rev jim hicks

November 12th, 2011
7:24 pm

I really shot myself in the foot predicting an Auburn win over UGA. This is the best UGA performance since beating Auburn 45-20 in 2007. Was I ever wrong about these dawgs. Bring on the mighty Wildcats and then Tech. We may even stand a chance against LSU if we play the way we did today. I didn’t think this team had it in them for a game like this. My bad!

Mayo

November 12th, 2011
7:24 pm

If you don’t like Mark Richt, you must be a ‘Tech fan. Way to lay a whippin’ on those all-too-deserving Tigers. I was hoping they’d extract just a bit of pay-back for that filth in last year’s game. Job done–with tons to spare.

Vain Jangling

November 12th, 2011
7:25 pm

I just wish this team had been ready to play those first two games. The talent’s the same now.

padre

November 12th, 2011
7:25 pm

if this uga teams shows up the rest of the season-we are top ten

GTBob

November 12th, 2011
7:26 pm

I heard that Auburn’s whole team might go pro next year. Truly an amazing accomplishment by the dogs.

Joey

November 12th, 2011
7:26 pm

Enter your comments here

dawginexile

November 12th, 2011
7:26 pm

Okay, all you Dawg haters – time to shut the hell up!! How sweet it is to know Visor Boy won today, but had to endure watching the Auburn butt kickin’. SSI gator, The Dawgs didn’t need any help form your pathetic Gators. And Auburn fans – pay backs are an bitch, huh? Oh yeah, Techies – before you start your rants. don’t let your mouth write checks your butt can’t cash! UGA is 8-2, so all you haters, just live with it!!

Hairy Dawg

November 12th, 2011
7:27 pm

Swagger! I tolds everybodies that we table running after Visor Boy got lucky. And we now doing it. Go Dawgs!

GTBob

November 12th, 2011
7:27 pm

@LSU 45 – AU 10.

Yeah, and LSU is an awful offensive team. That should tell you something about Auburn.

Joey

November 12th, 2011
7:27 pm

I know, GTBobbie, Auburn was almost as good as Miss Virginia.

Got to hell.