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

Dawg Tired

September 2nd, 2012
1:53 pm

@Wallis the Dog – We don’t “fire” people. We “suspend” them.

Suzanne Hall

September 2nd, 2012
2:25 pm

I agree with all of you who said the half empty stadium is an embarrassment! I don’t know the politics about the ticket pricing and such, but where is your loyalty? I graduated in 2000, the Herschel Walker era of Georgia football, and it has rarely been as exciting, but I have remained a loyal fan in good times and bad, and it seems like that’s what the team deserves. Yes it was a hot day, imagine how hot the players were down on that field, and I don’t think we show our best to them or to the audience at home when we desert the stadium and leave all those seats empty! I live in Florida now and cannot afford to go to the games, but if I had been there I can guarantee you my kids and I would have been in our seats to the end cheering on one of the most storied teams in college football! Go Dawgs!

THE REAL PHIL

September 2nd, 2012
2:37 pm

Did anyone else notice that LeMay had to be told what play to run? They couldn’t signal them into him?

chazzo

September 2nd, 2012
2:43 pm

One thing I will say for all the backs is that they hit the holes. There wasn’t any hesitation or stuttering. Whether the holes will be there against a stouter D-line remains to be seen, but if they just keep on plunging in there, they’ll get something. I’d be happy with a consistent 4 ypc.

GB's Hamburgers

September 2nd, 2012
2:52 pm

The use of the spread causes these games to be closer than expected. Spread offenses are sort of an equalizer … it allows average teams compete. Skilled players remain important but the need for superior linemen is reduced. When a team with superior big men use the spread that advantage becomes irrelevant. So we have trouble with Buffalo while Alabama uses their superior athletes to pound Michigan.

GB's Hamburgers

September 2nd, 2012
2:53 pm

First game for Georgia. First game for Alabama. Notice the difference?

jack bull

September 2nd, 2012
2:57 pm

wow Bill, I’m actually glad to see you calling out the QB in your 4th paragraph instead of saying the usual, “it’s all Coach Bobo’s fault”…finally seeing what most of us see with him, huh?? I know he’d never say it, but Murray was throwing to Wooten on that one throw that just so happened to end up in Bennett’s arms.. I’m telling you, he’s simply too inconsistant

The 3-4 D struggling to stop the run is always concerning, but I’ve got faith in CTG to get it straightened out.

The kicking game(FG) scares the heck out of me..

Overall, wish we would’ve ran the ball more, but we’ll take it..

I saw a 9-3 team out there today.

virginia dog

September 2nd, 2012
3:12 pm

The hope scholarship killed the student section. The kids of all my UGA alum friends are going to Ga Southern, Ole Miss and Auburn. Especially the boys … nearly 60% of the last few classes are girls most are from two counties in metro Atlanta and most are transplants. No love for the dogs. No legacy support for the dogs… Just there because it was the best deal for there parents from Ohio.

Sam

September 2nd, 2012
4:05 pm

I live 2,000 miles from Athens now and haven’t attended a game in several years, but you people that gripe about fans leaving early need to get over yourselves. It’s Buffalo, folks. And it wasn’t in doubt once we pulled away in the 3rd quarter. You people act like it was the SEC Championship game. Don’t worry, I’m sure our fans will show quite a bit more enthusiasm for conference matchups and the Tech game.

Joe

September 2nd, 2012
7:02 pm

Until they have a running attack to set up the passing they will never win big. Their biggest probem is they are holding their breath in hopes that no offensive lineman gets hurt this year. Recruit Offensive Linemen. Richt has always been short on offensive linemen.

ty

September 2nd, 2012
7:09 pm

People never seem to take into account the time of possession effect on the offense and defense. Well Buffalo had this long drive. Gurley ran the KO back for a TD. Guess what the defense is back out on the field without much of a breather. One other way that effects the performance of the defense is for our offense to score quickly. Well the defense is back on the field quickly. When we win with less time with the ball than the opposition it is an unbalanced amount of time for the defense to be on the field. So something should be changed about the offense an their play calling.

pop

September 3rd, 2012
9:35 am

what was wrong with the defense they couldnt stop the run them def. tackles were not impressive at all they have got to get in that backfield and make things happen are they that weak the whole defense needs to play fired up mean and nasty instead of chicken defense lets go defensive cordinator lets play some hard hitting defense i hope u read this

obama SIN LADEN

September 4th, 2012
4:44 pm

whats wrong with the WIN ?