Sluggish start mars an otherwise impressive day for Mark Richt’s Bulldogs

Aaron Murray throws his record-setting touchdown pass against Appalachian State. (Ryon Horne / AJC)

Aaron Murray throws his record-setting touchdown pass against Appalachian State. (Ryon Horne / AJC)

Georgia senior quarterback Aaron Murray notched his third SEC record in Saturday’s Homecoming game against Appalachian State, topping Florida’s Danny Wuerffel to take the conference career touchdown record with 115.

And next year’s presumed starting QB, Hutson Mason, finally got into a game and for the most part looked sharp with his passing in mop-up duty as the Bulldogs won the game by the kind of margin most people expected: 45-6.

But that’s not what fans were talking about as they departed Sanford Stadium on a cool, slightly overcast autumn afternoon.

No, the good things accomplished by the Dogs Saturday — which, frankly, were expected — were overshadowed by the sluggish performance Georgia gave in the first half, as the Dogs came out (somewhat predictably) flat and sloppy in the wake of last week’s big win over the Gators, leading the game at halftime by just 14-6.

It didn’t help matters that the flag-happy officiating crew seemed determined to raise the bar for the Dogs, even if that meant calling phantom pass interference infractions and blowing another targeting call.

Add to that a Georgia defense that was initially rocked on its heels a little bit by App State’s uptempo spread offense, which dinked and dunked its way downfield as Bulldog defenders sat back in a soft zone, allowing receivers to make way too many catches in the short-passing game. The Dogs has some trouble with option pitches, too.

And there were offensive misfires for the Dogs, as Murray threw an interception in the first quarter to end one drive and a sputtering offense failed to make a fourth-down conversion using receiver Reggie Davis as the ball carrier on another.

Still, give credit to the defense for only giving up two field goals in the first quarter. Particularly satisfying was a Mountaineers drive aided by numerous penalty calls that ended up producing no points when an App State field goal attempt failed. And another good thing arising from that drive: Outrage over the refs’ botched calls got the home crowd into the game, finally.

Even so, besides Murray’s impressive thread-the-needle touchdown pass to Michael Bennett in the second quarter that gave the Georgia QB the SEC record, the main highlight of the first half was a surprise on-field reunion between a UGA faculty member’s family and their uniformed Georgia National Guard son, just back from a year in Afghanistan. Next best thing before the second half was seeing a 960-strong combined Redcoat Band and Redcoat Alumni Band fill the field from end zone hedge to end zone hedge in celebration of the latter’s 40th anniversary.

Back on the field, the Dogs did much better after the intermission, playing the sort of game the crowd had come to see. Georgia’s defenders at last started jamming receivers at the line (did Todd Grantham suddenly discover a missing page from his playbook?) and the offense got on track, highlighted by a 23-yard Murray run (the best of the game) that saw the QB make a couple of nifty cuts to extend his gain.

Todd Gurley had a solid day, though he still didn't look to be at full speed. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Todd Gurley had a solid day, though he still didn't look to be at full speed. (Jason Getz / AJC)

In the air, Murray had a good day, completing 19 of 26 passes for 281 yards and two TDs. He and Todd Gurley, who looked good at times (running for the ball 13 times for 75 yards) but obviously still wasn’t back to full speed, took off the fourth quarter, and Mason looked smooth and confident directing the second-string offense as he completed 11 of 16 for 160 yards. Yes, Mason threw a pick when he tried to force the ball into coverage, but even senior starters occasionally do that (ahem).

Overall, Georgia’s offense racked up an impressive 568 yards (441 through the air), and the defense didn’t allow a touchdown, which normally would be considered a fine game. But the day was marred by yet another less than imposing first half against a lesser opponent (unfortunately, a hallmark of Mark Richt teams).

Let’s just hope the Dogs remember that next week’s opponent isn’t the same Auburn Tigers that Georgia wiped up the field with last year. Get off to a slow start against Nick Marshall and Co., and the Bulldogs might find themselves in a hole they can’t scramble out of.

Feel free to share your own views of Saturday’s Homecoming win.

Got something you want to discuss concerning the Dawgs? Or a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Email me at  junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

255 comments Add your comment

Hairy Dawg

November 9th, 2013
7:39 pm

This shows how good Dawgs are now that Gurly back. We put the woodshed to that team today just like we did to Gaytors last week.

Macclenny_dawg

November 9th, 2013
7:40 pm

Same story as last week!!! Nothing new to see here!!! Go Dawgs!!!

Hairy Dawg

November 9th, 2013
7:41 pm

And another thing is laughing at Gaytors with Judas Muschump today. They cant even play better than 1945. Haha!

mcdaviddawg

November 9th, 2013
7:48 pm

Once again, the coaching staff spent the week at the golf course. Totally unprepared to play Ap State. How long is Georgia going to put up with no coaching for 3.3 mil.

Hairy Dawg

November 9th, 2013
7:51 pm

Unprepared. Ha. We put up 45 points and D did’nt even let in end zone. That shows how much Coach Richt getting Gurley back for ground game help team.

SC Dog fan

November 9th, 2013
7:53 pm

Thanks dawgs. I needed a weekend without major drama. Very much enjoyed the opening string of 7-8 completions by Mason. Maybe we’ll play two whole halves of football at Auburn.

1969 Graduate

November 9th, 2013
7:54 pm

Florida win looks less impressive (not that it was impressive except that we won for the third time) after seeing what Vandy could do to them.

Auburn looms! If we’re sloppy we have no chance.

I hope our coaches decide to earn their money.

Go, Buldawgs!

DawgVoiceofReason

November 9th, 2013
8:01 pm

So, we didn’t execute or perform at maximum level against App. St., as happens so often against lesser (much lesser, in this case) opponents. Let’s hope we’re saving it all up for Auburn. We’re going to need it. It was great to see Mason get some semi-quality playing time and nice to see Rumph get some big gains.

Go Dawgs!

mgdawg

November 9th, 2013
8:02 pm

Can someone please explain the targeting rule to me. Originally I thought that it was a hit to the head or neck of a defenseless player. However, it seems like any hit that is too hard or just doesn’t look right is deemed targeting. Corey moore hit the guy with his shoulder in the guys chest, not only was the penalty called, but it wasn’t overturned. Ray Drew was called against vandy and the guy was standing up, he wasn’t even leading with anything, it just so happened he was taller then the quarterback so the front of his shoulder pads hit the qb in his facemask. Please explain what is targeting and why it can’t be changed during the season, at least give the replay official the authority to overturn the penalty also.

Rick_James

November 9th, 2013
8:04 pm

I wish I had taken those 40 points Vegas was laying..

DawgVoiceofReason

November 9th, 2013
8:05 pm

Also, it was great to see Murray break the SEC touchdown passing record. His name is above all of the all-time greats in SEC history, including some recent ones. I was shocked and disappointed that it was not mentioned by the stadium announcer (unless I just missed it). Also, I REALLY want to see the replays on some of those, what appeared to be, HORRENDOUS calls by the officials against us. When they didn’t overturn the fumble call on Herrera I was incredulous. The multiple replays shown at the game seemed to make it evident he did NOT fumble. What the heck was going on?

dawgfan

November 9th, 2013
8:05 pm

App State’s inside LB clocks in at 210 lbs.

It was definitely an “impressive day.”

Rick_James

November 9th, 2013
8:06 pm

Jonathan Rumph is going to be a huge help..I wish Blake Tibbs would get a chance to return punts and kickoffs.He’s a good one.

DawgVoiceofReason

November 9th, 2013
8:10 pm

mgdawg,

I’m afraid you’re not going to get any explanation of targeting that makes sense. I’ve read about it and seen so many different calls in different games, it’s unbelievable. It is one of the worst thought out and enforced rules I have ever seen in my life. I understand they need to do something to reduce life-threatening injuries but this is a complete fiasco!!! They call it when they shouldn’t; they don’t call it when they should. The refs are looking completely foolish. The rule has got to be thrown out and they need to start over with some people who understand football. This was obviously developed by lawyers (no, I don’t know that for a fact) or football people who were in total panic mode. GET RID OF THE TARGETING RULE NOW!!!!

Truthiness

November 9th, 2013
8:18 pm

I don’t want to see the Dawgs in a “whole” or a “hole” against Auburn. Either way, they’re going to have their hands full and better step up defensively early.

DawgVoiceofReason

November 9th, 2013
8:19 pm

Targeting rule – cont.

If you saw the Baylor game, let me know your thoughts on the two plays (I think both in the first half) where Targeting was/should have been an issue. On the first one, Baylor #8 clearly (in my view) hit the OK receiver in a way that was targeting and it was called on the field correctly. They showed the replay half a dozen times and each time you could see the receivers head get hit very hard and the defender throwing a forearm, with clear intent to target. But then, they unbelievably overturned the ejection. That buffoon Pereira had the gall to say that the play was only shoulder to shoulder contact. He was utterly wrong.

There was a second play where the Baylor player hit the OK player with the crown of his helmet in the chest but this time targeting was not called. I was shocked. Hitting a defenseless player with the crown of the helmet is the textbook case of targeting but it was not called. I just don’t get it at all. Are they trying to cut out serious injuries or not? Then they call junk against the Dawgs that is obviously not anywhere close to targeting. This think is a colossal joke that is not funny!!!

wDE is rising

November 9th, 2013
8:20 pm

Come on down to the Plains and we are going to drill the awesome dogs next Sat. UGA is gonna get a whippin. Gus is going to show you what an intense coach is.

short memories

November 9th, 2013
8:22 pm

Great meaningless win after a terrible first half against a 2-7 junior college team. glad to see Mason look good.

Olive Branch Dawg

November 9th, 2013
8:24 pm

Come on guy’s, App. State was 2 -7 in a lower division and your proud of this victory? WOW!

GoDawgs

November 9th, 2013
8:26 pm

Oh, the memories of Wuerffel and the Visor hanging half a hundred on Ray Goof’s Dawgs in Athens. Sure is nice to see a UGA QB break that record.

Roswell Dawg

November 9th, 2013
8:28 pm

Bill,

“Whole vs. “hole”. Where did you go to school?

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

November 9th, 2013
8:30 pm

“So, we didn’t execute or perform at maximum level against App. St., as happens so often against lesser (much lesser, in this case) opponents.”

That has happened in every football game this year; it has nothing to do with App st

targeting dog

November 9th, 2013
8:35 pm

The buffoons on the competition committee decided to call targeting a penalty, resulting in expulsion from the game and a 15 yard penalty. And this is where the idiocy comes in…..if the replay shows that it wasn’t ‘targeting’, the defense is simply penalized 15 yards…for a legal tackle. Committee of idiots,
personified.

WDE is rising

November 9th, 2013
8:35 pm

I’m gonna love this smack down next Sat. in Auburn.

targeting dog

November 9th, 2013
8:37 pm

So, after handling Florida today, look for Vandy to lose their coach after the season, and look for Fla to run theirs off. Can we please hire Muschamp to coach our defense? Grantham is simply overmatched.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

November 9th, 2013
8:42 pm

Im curious to see if the defense has really “turned the corner”

I guess we will find out next week when we play a team that has a real offense and not some laughable joke in FL Vandy and App St

Flo-Ri-Duh

November 9th, 2013
8:42 pm

McCarron is choking in the LSU game… missed two guys wide open already.

LSU should be up 7 0 but instead they screwed up on two giveaway turnovers and Bummer is up 3 – 0. Good news is Bummer had to settle for a field goal.

Geauxxxxxxxxxx Tigras!

WDE is rising

November 9th, 2013
8:43 pm

Next Sat. youwill see a coach that demands perfection. Hint its not the Georgia coach.

WDE is rising

November 9th, 2013
8:45 pm

I bet we can put 55 on Georgia. Even with all those 5 star players.

Flo-Ri-Duh

November 9th, 2013
8:45 pm

JUST SAY NO to Muschump! Not at DC or any where else. We don’t want that turncoat in Athens.

WDE is rising

November 9th, 2013
8:51 pm

Gus is licking his chops over that Georgia defense.

Flo-Ri-Duh

November 9th, 2013
8:51 pm

What was the last three years combined scores of UGA / Aubarn? Don’t think the Tigras will intimidate the Dawgs. Time for UGA to play a complete game.

Rumph is going to be a matchup nightmare for those puny Aubarn DB’s.

Flo-Ri-Duh

November 9th, 2013
8:52 pm

Just throw a laptop on the field and Marshall will grab it and run out of the stadium.

WDE is rising

November 9th, 2013
8:52 pm

We are getting better with each game. Georgia just stays the same. 55 easy.

SatillaDawg

November 9th, 2013
8:54 pm

Thanks for the detailed review, Bill.

Wasn’t able to see or hear the game, but always happy with a win.

Go Dawgs!

Flo-Ri-Duh

November 9th, 2013
8:54 pm

Go Tigras …. TD TD TD TD!!!!! Tigra’s OL dominating the Pachyderms.

WDE is rising

November 9th, 2013
8:54 pm

Georgia had Marshall playing DB. All you have is name calling and a so so coach. 55 baby.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

November 9th, 2013
8:54 pm

Flo-rid-duh

Give me a break about calling Muschamp a turncoat

We had an opportunity to get Muschamp to come to UGA but we were to worried about hiring friends instead of putting the program ahead of friendships

Do me a favor how about calling Mcgarity a turn coat too while your at it; as I recall he worked for Florida for 18 years

HotDawg

November 9th, 2013
8:55 pm

It was a nice scrimmage. Good time had by all there. Love all the alumni that join the band and cheerleaders at homecoming.

WDE is rising

November 9th, 2013
8:57 pm

I can hear CMR excuses. We are young and injuries.

WDE is rising

November 9th, 2013
8:58 pm

Mark it down DAWG fans, Auburn will play for a SEC or a National championship before UGA will.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

November 9th, 2013
9:00 pm

And you want to call Muschamp a turncoat

Trivia question time………………..

What assistant coach for 2 years in a row interviewed for other jobs; leaving the UGA program in limbo so that they might have to hurry and find a replacement????

HotDawg

November 9th, 2013
9:01 pm

Lsu is destroying the classless bamards. Should be 21-3….not yet, but will be soon.

Elemenno P.

November 9th, 2013
9:02 pm

Wow, some auburn smack talk. Haven’t heard that since your QB for hire left town.

DawgNole

November 9th, 2013
9:02 pm

1969 Graduate
November 9th, 2013
7:54 pm
Florida win looks less impressive (not that it was impressive except that we won for the third time) after seeing what Vandy could do to them.
______________________

ANY win over fla is impressive!

Elemenno P.

November 9th, 2013
9:03 pm

What was that you were saying hotdawg?

HotDawg

November 9th, 2013
9:06 pm

Lsu has bamards number in tuscapoosa….bama td doesn’t matter. Lsu offense is flying up and down field. They’re not gonna fumble every time they get in red zone.

WDE is rising

November 9th, 2013
9:07 pm

He left town with a National Championship. Something UGA has not seen 33 years.

DawgNole

November 9th, 2013
9:08 pm

Rick_James
November 9th, 2013
8:04 pm
I wish I had taken those 40 points Vegas was laying.
_________________________

I did. Whew!

Elemenno P.

November 9th, 2013
9:08 pm

I hope muschamp stays in Fla. Bought like I want Johnson to continue at tech.