Todd Gurley has a Dawgs debut worth woofing about

Todd Gurley lived up to all the hype in his UGA debut. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Todd Gurley lived up to all the hype in his UGA debut. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

On a sweltering day in Athens that saw mascot Russ going shirtless at one point and Georgia looking like a team that was missing several starters on defense, the positive fan talk on the way out of Sanford Stadium was Todd Gurley and … well, OK, that was about it.

But there’s nothing wrong with that, because Gurley’s debut as a Georgia Bulldog was definitely a performance to savor, with the true freshman showing those August scrimmage performances were no fluke: 100 yards on eight carries plus a 100-yard kickoff return for a total of three touchdowns. He’s the first UGA freshman to run for 100 yards in his debut game since Danny Ware in 2004.

Fellow freshman Keith Marshall, who had 46 yards on 10 carries, shows a lot of potential as an alternative back to Gurley but looked like more of a work in progress.

Overall, the Dawgs’ offense against the opening game opponent looked about like I expected: Mostly vanilla, explosive at times but inconsistent. Quarterback Aaron Murray, who surprisingly played deep into the fourth quarter, had a decent day statistically, completing 15 of 26 passes for 258 yards, but he got off to a shaky start in the first half, overthrowing several open receivers. Had he been more on target, that embarrassing 24-16 halftime score would have looked a lot more respectable.

Still, it wasn’t the offense that appeared most in need of improvement Saturday. That dubious distinction went to Todd Grantham’s defense, particularly in the first half before they’d had a good chewing out by their coach during the locker room break. Yes, some of Buffalo’s intermittent success throwing the ball was to be expected with most of the starting secondary missing the game, but it was the Bulls’ success on the ground against Georgia’s defense that was more disturbing.

Buffalo’s Branden Oliver is a decent back, so him getting 111 yards on 30 carries wasn’t that unexpected, but with Missouri’s James Franklin coming up next week the Dawgs’ trouble corralling Buffalo QB Alex Zordich, who racked up  83 yards running, had a lot of us concerned. The Dawgs’ much vaunted defensive front definitely didn’t have a particularly sharp day.

Let’s wrap up this initial assessment of the opener back on a positive note, though. While there’s still room for improvement, Georgia’s special teams play was for the most part encouraging. Placekicker Marshall Morgan missed his first field goal attempt, probably a case of nerves, but otherwise looked solid, particularly on kickoffs. Punter Collin Barber showed a strong leg and the Dawgs actually blocked one of those hated rugby-style punts that the Bulls tried. Buffalo did have one long punt return but that was thanks to getting away with one of several blatant holds that went uncalled by the infamous Penn Wagers officiating team.

Overall, a sloppy win that still had enough high points that I didn’t see fans scowling on their way out like they were at halftime.

What did you think of the Dawgs’ home opener?

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

113 comments Add your comment

Georgia Grad

September 1st, 2012
6:04 pm

If this is a precursor rather than a hiccup we’re in trouble. Play defense like that and we’re not winning anything this year.

UGA Grad 2012

September 1st, 2012
6:08 pm

Screw ANY fan who walked out at the half!

UF was up 14-7 on Bowling Green at the half and their stadium is still FULL!

Also, a big “what the hell?!” to the student section! The empty patches in the endzone and the fraternity section were PATHETIC! And the athletic department is considering giving the frats block seating in the endzone?!

I don’t give a flying you-know-what if it was hot out! YOU DON’T LEAVE AT THE HALF WHEN WE’RE ON TV AND EVEN WHEN WE’RE NOT! It’s embarrassing to our program for the cameras to catch those empty patches and it’s disheartening for our team and, quite frankly, disrespectful.

Also, STAND UP AND CHEER! I don’t care if we’re not playing our best ball. You inspire the team by being loud and nuts, not by sitting around and pouting like a five year old!

Sam

September 1st, 2012
6:09 pm

Good to see the blocked punt.

SatillaDawg

September 1st, 2012
6:16 pm

No worries. Give it to Gurley!

Defense needs a lot of work.

On to Mizzou. Go DAWGS!

441North

September 1st, 2012
6:17 pm

JUST RUNNING AND DRIVING WITH THOSE BIG THIGHS. MY GOD A FRESHMAN ! !

Do I dare…….?

Sargeant Hulka's Big Toe

September 1st, 2012
6:20 pm

The offensive line is still a concern. The two injuries, if serious, will thin out an already very thin line. Plus that line allowed a lot of pressure on Murray today. Hopefully, most problems were first game jitters and we will see a different team next week.

Joe

September 1st, 2012
6:22 pm

Richt has never recruited the OL. Juwan James and Avery Young should be on the offensive line for UGA right now and Richt blew it with both of them. Line will not be able to stand up to the SEC schedule, weak as it may appear.

441North

September 1st, 2012
6:22 pm

Seriously Bill, I thought we played at 75% on both sides of the ball. We’re short handed on D, but that’s no excuse. We need to run with power better (see above Gurley comment), and stop throwing so many little quick outs. Guessin’ the D will come around. Don’t think we showed (?) a whole lot today, tho.

mike addington

September 1st, 2012
6:26 pm

I think if we’d taken away Buffalo’s QB runs, the D would have looked a little better. Overall, my overall impression was lack of intensity except for the aforementioned RBs. sorry to C Ken Malcome go out and wouldve liked to see R. Samuels some. QB runs showed the usual lack of first game preparation

mike addington

September 1st, 2012
6:31 pm

I agree with you GA Grad 2012

damngooddawg!

September 1st, 2012
6:41 pm

This team today would not beat Mizzou next week and would loose at least 3 games. We’d better get a kicker. Also, Murray takes too long to get warmed up but at least no turnovers. Two sacks. I’m worried.

damngooddawg!

September 1st, 2012
6:43 pm

Dawgs played 1 half of football. Lizzards played 1 quarter. We’re up a quarter.

preston thompson

September 1st, 2012
6:48 pm

My main concern is the condition of Theis. And that Bennett, my gracious what a football player.

Ed

September 1st, 2012
6:49 pm

Georgia Grad 2012…I hear your concerns about the empty seats. But we were playing Buffalo, with FAU and Ga. Southern coming up. Give the fans a crap product, and you get crappy support. This isn’t the 80s, and we aren’t opening up with teams like Tennessee and Clemson every year and bringing in teams like Texas A&M, UCLA, and BYU anymore. And it’s not just Georgia. Multiple cupcake scheduling is the trend throughout the country. It’s the fans that lose.

Jim

September 1st, 2012
6:50 pm

I second your comments Grad 2012. Another ill-prepared opener, maybe all the hype when to our heads about Buffalo being a 38 point underdog. If we had played Thursday nights South Carolina team the game could have gone either way but if we played last nights Tennenesse team we would have our cans kicked. Murray may look good on paper and at pratice but still has a long way to go. The whole nation will be watching Mettenburger tonight and comparing the two. Hope we improve this week and beat Missiour.

441North

September 1st, 2012
6:54 pm

It did concern me when they sacked us with only a three man rush.

Missouri will be foaming at the mouth. We’d better be ready.

Hairy Dawg

September 1st, 2012
6:57 pm

Gurley had a great day, but he dropped the ball early on the long TD run. Let’s hope Coach Richt and the staff remind him to hold onto the damn thing.

option smoption

September 1st, 2012
6:59 pm

If we don’t give the ball to Gurley at least 20 times a game there is something wrong with Bobo. I liked what i saw with marshall and malcome but can we please stop with the running back by committee approach. I know it’s only one game but Gurley looks like the first big time difference maker we’ve had in awhile. I just hope we use him wisely before he bolts to the nfl…

Matthew

September 1st, 2012
7:00 pm

I think what we saw was too be expected to some degree. The D looked like it was missing some depth, which it obviously is. I think the offense will look better next week. They need time to gel and they’ll be good. I thought our performance looked much better than south Carolina’s and apparently I was the only one who thought Tennessee looked better, not God like. I’d love to see all you fans get your panties out of a wad and quit being so negative about anything and everything you can!

Strat Cat Dawg

September 1st, 2012
7:17 pm

First game, key players on D out, excellent debut. Running back problem solved. Beats the heck out of last year.

chazzo

September 1st, 2012
7:22 pm

Funny, the Georgia boys seemed more affected by the humidity than the New York boys.

Phil

September 1st, 2012
7:30 pm

Gurley looked like everything Crowell was “supposed” to be. So I don’t miss Crowell at all. Murray was off on the deep passes, had guys open and he kept over throwing them. Marshall has potential. LeMay looked good the brief time he was in there, would like to see more of him, LeMay offers a different style to defend.

Defense has me worried.

marsh wrack

September 1st, 2012
7:52 pm

Naysayers, please do not despair so soon…Georgia has a long history of playing rather poorly in season home openers against cupcake opposition, especially when our team has been overly-hyped in the pre-season, It has happened against other opponents like that during the season–the Georgia Southerns, the UABs, et.al. always keep it decently interesting for a while. We nonetheless expect the 63-7 score in games like this, just like so many others of our college football brethren regularly seem to do (Bama, LSU, Southern Californoia, Florida in the past, etc.), The Dogs just never seem to get very excited about these kinds of games. No exception this time around against Buffalo. It was a lethargic performance against a guest team that came in emotionally ramped-up and hoping to make a decent impression on TV. For us, this equated to a mere controlled scrimmage game with officials and fans in the mix. It would have been nice to see the oblgatory surgical 55-7 rout but it was a win just the same, with some promising signs for the long haul. I think we will see a vastly different (improved) kind of effort against Missouri next week. I won’t go out and bet the mortgage on it but I really expect to see much better things demonstrated by our Dogs a week from tonight in the first conference game.

Intellectual Ninja

September 1st, 2012
8:06 pm

You guys have it all wrong about the student section.

This isn’t their fault.

This is UGA’s fault.

And it’s all about greed… but STUPID greed that doesn’t actually cost UGA anything.

Or actually, it’s wrong-headed attempt to shut down what EVERY school has: a student black-market ticket exchange.

Let’s call it what it is, people. UGA has sponsorships with StubHub or whatever ticket exchange they have a sponsorship with. The name isn’t important, just the fact that UGA has a sponsorship with a ticket exchange.

Anyway, “StubHub” (or whomever) sees UGA students selling their paper tickets to other students, recent grads, older, poorer alums, and “StubHub” tells UGA to stop giving students paper tickets to get rid of the black market that cuts into their profits.

So UGA sells out the students, and sells out their fans, and THIS is what they’ve reaped.

A Sanford Stadium populated by all the old, quiet, uncaring old-money alums, who refuse to stand, refuse to cheer and scream and act like, fans.

UGA priced-out all of the young alums & fans. And now, with their ticket-exchange sponsor, “Stub-Hub,” they’ve taken away any chance for those people to get tickets at a good price, and as such, have seen Sanford Stadium become more like a mausoleum on gamedays.

Shame on Michael Adams, Greg McGarity, and the rest of the short-sighted, moronic, super-greedy idiots who bowed to their sponsor’s demands and ruined the game day atmosphere Between the Hedges.

And screw all of you who don’t understand this.

UGA Grad 2012

September 1st, 2012
8:07 pm

That’s my point, though. Everyone bolted for the exit a halftime. UF fans, on the other hand, clearly stuck around Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for the duration of their sloppy game against Bowling Green.

I don’t care who we’re playing: Stay for the whole game or give up your tickets to those who will. I’m tired of this “It’s not the 1980s” bull ****. You’re right, it’s not the 1980s. So if you’re one of those old alumni who sit with their thumbs up their arse while only removing them to “applaud”, please just stop showing up. This isn’t golf: Get up, cheer, go nuts….regardless of whether or not we’re playing like crap against a cupcake.

Stevie J

September 1st, 2012
8:36 pm

BEST FRESHMAN BACK SINCE GARRISON HEARST

Fridawg

September 1st, 2012
8:45 pm

I was disappointed to see the D play so poorly. They sure didn’t look like a special unit. I did think that Buffalo got away with holding ALL DAY.

Northern Sympathizer

September 1st, 2012
8:51 pm

Agree with most of your points. Gurley was outstanding as was our receivers. Special teams exceeded expections. Disagree with statement that offense was “vanilla”. I guess that is the best you can do in criticizing Bobo this week. Better luck next week.

damngooddawg!

September 1st, 2012
8:52 pm

Speaking of special units. Special teams still has issues.

Dawg Haus

September 1st, 2012
8:55 pm

It seems like we have ourselves a running back, but what on earth was going on with the D? Missouri and USCe have QBs who like to run, so it would behoove CTG and co. to spend most of this week figuring out how to stop a player like that before we see any more of them. Best of luck to Buffalo the rest of the season; they made things a little more interesting than we wanted them to be. Go Dawgs!

Buh Bye Mark Richt

September 1st, 2012
8:59 pm

Watch a real coached SEC team Bama vs Mich. Saban doesnt do swim parties and it shows. Bama is destroying Mich. Richt is a clown as ususal. What an embarrassment today.

Bill King

September 1st, 2012
9:05 pm

To Northern Sympathizer:

You’re seeing Bobo criticism where none was intended. Saying the offense was vanilla Saturday is not a criticism, just a statement of fact. You don’t waste all your offensive playbook on a nonconference cupcake opener. Same goes with the defense, they weren’t using all their schemes against the Bulls, and that’s no criticism of Todd Grantham. It just is what it is: An opening game that doesn’t mean much.

The Umpire

September 1st, 2012
9:05 pm

Well, after looking at the games these are my calls. TN is the dark horse favorite in the East. UGA, SC, and UF all started slower than expected. All are solid SEC teams. LSU is a more solid SEC team. Alabama is not a solid SEC team. They are solid NFL caliber. Looks like a replay of last year so far. A lot of football to be played, so we will see how the Dawgs progress relative to others. Richt teams, for whatever the reason, have started very slow the last six years in general.

Sad Richards

September 1st, 2012
9:06 pm

Not Too impressed today. Conner Shaw will eat our lunch when we play SC. Todd Grantham hasnt really impressed me . Looks like another season down the drain already as its the same ole crap. Should have beat this team 60 – 0…

SC Dog fan

September 1st, 2012
9:11 pm

Had to follow the game by computer play-by-play, so maybe my impression is off. But we were either trying to make Missouri think we have big problems or we really do have big problems, both offense and defense. I’d like to think we were playing possum to confuse Mizzou when it watches the film, but I can’t remember this coaching staff being that farsighted before.

Sad Richards

September 1st, 2012
9:11 pm

Im not buying that we didnt show much… Richt still got out coached by a team with supposedly much less talent. sure there were good plays and a few bright spots but we still got some glaring issues that were against a weak weak opponent.

Sad Richards

September 1st, 2012
9:14 pm

Bama up 24 – 0 now on michigan

Student Tckets should cost full price....

September 1st, 2012
9:22 pm

Our students rank 14 out of 14 in the SEC. You always complain why don’t the students get more tickets, I didn’t get tickets through the lottery, excuses, excuses….That is embarassing to see in a student section. Other than the students by the band, they show up with 5 minutes left in the 1st quarter and leave at halftime. We are in the SEC and its embarassing. I graduated in 2008 and student tickets used to be a hot item….

Dawg Tired

September 1st, 2012
9:23 pm

Gurley – 8 carries all day. Now that’s either insanity or brilliance. I’m thinking the former. It’s like our coaches are not aware of what is happening. Was it fairly obvious that Gurley could not be stopped by SUNY.

Suspend the coaches. I suggest at least a 4 game suspension. I’m pretty sure they’ve been smoking something illegal for quite a while.

Macclenny_dawg

September 1st, 2012
9:26 pm

Looked like we always do. Play and coach to the compitition level. These coaches have to learn that momentum is everything. Coaches need to coach like its our last play and players need to play like its their last play. The defense one of the best in nation give me a break. We were a top defense last year because of our weak schedule. Anybody remember our bowl game. Yea we had some players out on defense but ALabama lost just as many and they are killing Michigan. Murray was his usual self he only plays a half of football everygame!!! Richt better put a fire in these boys very quickly!!! Go Dawgs!!!

bahits.com

September 1st, 2012
9:28 pm

I hated seeing the empty seats. WTH?

Intellectual Ninja

September 1st, 2012
9:29 pm

Student Ticket… you’re a moron.

If you graduated in 2008, you don’t know what’s happened, and what UGA has done to ruin the ticket process.

Better to shut your mouth, than open it and remove all doubt that you’re an idiot.

Huh?

September 1st, 2012
9:34 pm

UGA fans can talk about missing defensive starters, a lack of intensity, vanilla playcalling, and every other excuse you can think of…the FACT of the matter is that there is absolutely no excuse for UGA not to have beaten Buffalo in the ground. It’s Buffalo for God’s sake.

Bullfalo outgained UGA 243 to 188 yards in the first half??? UGA only led by 8 points at the half?

Say what you want, and make any excuses that you want….no way UGA looked like a #6 team…or an SEC contender for that matter. It was Buffalo for crying out loud.

Old Dawg

September 1st, 2012
9:37 pm

A lot of top teams struggled early … it’s the first game of the season.

It’s obvious the game plan was vanilla so Mizzou wouldn’t have a lot to work on.

The suspensions really hurt the defense. Let’s hope they’re ready next week.

Samw ole Same ole

September 1st, 2012
9:39 pm

Boos , empty seats and fans leaving early. yep its UGA football

Same ole Same ole

September 1st, 2012
9:42 pm

same excuse by the Richt apologists too. Bama sure aint struggling…. 31 – 7 over Michigan

Dawg Tired

September 1st, 2012
9:49 pm

Old Dawg – Are you aware that the suspensions will still in effect next week? CMR will not tell us, but we know the rules at UGA. In fact, all indications are that Rambo and at least one more starter will be out for a total of 4 games.

I’m just curious as to why you think we will be better next week with all the same guys out and the same guys coaching the ones that are actually allowed to play.

BTW, is Gurley on some sort of “semi-suspension?” I mean surely any other coach in America would give the ball to him more than 8 times.

oldtruckbob

September 1st, 2012
9:50 pm

Re: two sacks: on the first one, Gurley was supposed tobe blocking the left DE, and did not have a clue where he was. We are lucky Murray was not ground chuck after that one. So, in reflecting on freshman RB’s, Gurley can surely run, but in the SEC freshmen don not
know who to block or where. They have to be taught AND learn.

bubba4dawgs

September 1st, 2012
9:54 pm

I agree with all the comments about Gurley!! It is indeed thrilling to finally have a real star running back! I believe there was a guy here last year that had stardom written all over him and wore # 1 I believe…..ah, hell I forget his name! Perhaps someone can remind me! Anyway, good job Todd! Can’t wait to see you play again…I believe someone said you need 20 touches….I agree!! GO DAWGS!! Oh, Grantham, how bout getting the “D” ready for Mizzou!!

Same ole Same ole

September 1st, 2012
10:01 pm

Listen Folks…. Gurley looked good against a Mickey mouse team….. Wake up folks When we Face Carolina or a real SEC Defense it will be a different story.