Dynamic debut by Todd Gurley overshadows lackluster day for Dogs

ATHENS — The Todd Gurley era at Georgia got off to a bad start Saturday. His first carry as a Bulldog, a toss sweep to the left side, went for all of one yard.

Of course, it went a little better thereafter.

After his 55-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter, the freshman tailback from Tarboro, N.C., had 227 yards and three touchdowns on 10 touches as Georgia slept-walked to a 45-23 victory over Buffalo in its season opener at Sanford Stadium.

“I felt like I did pretty good,” said Gurley, not realizing the understatement. “Not having ever come in here and played, I think did all right. But I’ve still got to take it one game at a time. I still have to come back next week and improve.”

Fans didn’t have to wait long to see what all the preseason fuss was regarding Gurley. On his second carry from scrimmage, Gurley broke two tackles at the line of scrimmage and scored on a 10-yard run off left tackle. Five minutes later, he returned a kickoff 100 yards for another score. It was a breath-taking jaunt that highlight Gurley’s power, agility and exceptional speed.

“That’s exactly what we’ve been seeing all preseason, all summer,” junior offensive guard Chris Burnett said. “I didn’t want to pump him up too much because he’s a freshman and I didn’t want him to feel like he’d arrived already. But just watching him in practice, you knew he was very, very impressive. He just showcased in the game today what he does in practice.”

Georgia fans wondered if the show was over after the kickoff return. Gurley was quietly ushered to the locker room by trainers shortly afterward. Turns out the electrifying run took a little out of him. He cramped up and had to go to the locker room to be administered fluids.

“I was a little tired,” Gurley said. “I was still running after I scored until my teammates caught me and knocked me down.”

In the end, Gurley finished with 100 yards on 8 carries as a tailback and 127 on two returns as a kick returner. He scored 33 percent of the time he touched the ball.

“He averaged about what he did in every scrimmage, about 12.5 yards a carry,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “I hope that’s a trend. I wouldn’t he betting on that for the rest of his career. But everybody got a chance to see what we had seen.”

There’s a good chance Gurley will get the ball a more against Missouri next Saturday in Columbia. Starting tailback Ken Malcome, a sophomore from Decatur, injured his left hand in the second half and did not return. He left Sanford Stadium in a cast but said he was holding out hope that it’s just a sprain.

Richt said it would have be determined later. But Georgia’s young backs are ready when called on.

“If he can’t go, me and Keith will have to step I up,” said Gurley of Keith Marshall, a fellow freshman from North Carolina who was Georgia’s second-leading rusher Saturday ( 46 yards, 10 carries). “That’s what we signed up for. Players want to come in and play for a top football program. We’re just going to have to get used to it and take it and handle it right away.”

Gurley’s performance and a few other big offense plays glossed over what was otherwise a lackluster if not downright disconcerting performance by Georgia.

The Bulldogs got a 63-yard pass from Aaron Murray to Tavarres King to give them what looked like a cushy and comfortable 24-6 lead with 9:26 left in the first half. But then they appeared to take the rest of the half off.

Buffalo, 5-19 the last two seasons in the Mid-American Conference, put a bit of a scare into the sedate crowd, which failed to fill up Sanford Stadium for a home opener for the first time since 1998. They trailed just 24-16 at the half and, if not for some special teams breakdowns, could have had a first-half lead.

Of particular concern was Georgia’s ballyhooed defense. The Bulls rolled up 347 yards while executing scoring drives of 94, 75 and 75 yards. They reached the Georgia 1 and had to settle for an 18-yard field goal two seconds before the half. If not for Gurley’s TD return and a blocked a punt by Chris Conley that set up a field goal, Buffalo could’ve grabbed the lead.

“Their defense was really hyped up, but we had a lot of confidence coming in,” said Buffalo running back Brandon Oliver, who had 111 yards rushing. “We thought we had a chance to win, and for a while we did.”

Meanwhile, Georgia’s offense wasn’t sharp. Murray finished with 258 yards and 3 touchdowns, but he threw 11 incompletions and missed open receivers deep several times. Murray was also sacked three times and the Bulldogs’ young offensive line came out of the game beat up.

Freshman John Theus, the starting right tackle, had to leave the game early in the fourth quarter with a sprained ankle. Right guard Burnette was sidelined with a bruised sternum

“It wasn’t pretty,” Richt said. “I wasn’t thrilled with the way we played… . We better play better than that next week or we’ll be riding home sad.”

Georgia plays its SEC opener next Saturday in Columbia, Mo., at 7:45 p.m. (ESPN2)

THE AJC’S COMPLETE COVERAGE OF SATURDAY’S GAME

Game story: Gurley’s dynamic debut overshadows lackluster game

Jeff Schultz column: Has Georgia duped us again, or was this performance just a hiccup?

Sidebar: Shaky start for Georgia’s vaunted defense

Photos: 14 views of the game

Video: Chip Towers recaps the game

Notebook:  Updates on suspensions and injuries

Quotes: What both sides had to say after the game

81 comments Add your comment

Ward

September 1st, 2012
6:44 pm

The defense played without any effort, the OL played like they were trying to be gentle, and Murray played like a spaz… Thank God for Gurley & Bennett… TK and RW played well too.

william cranman

September 1st, 2012
6:44 pm

BITTER FIRST

September 1st, 2012
6:47 pm

Ward

September 1st, 2012
6:47 pm

They have to get a lot better in a hurry… I cannot believe that 5 starters out on defense makes us look that poor against Buffalo! I cannot believe how easy their receivers got off the line of scrimmage. Our safeties looked poor against their TE all day long… It feels like we got really beat-up too with injuries. Does anyone have the official injury report yet? Who will be out next week with half our defense?

BITTER FIRST

September 1st, 2012
6:49 pm

GURLY WAS THE——-MAN—–#34 LIKE———?????UUMMM

——–Just give gurly the ball and lock up MURRAY—–

German Shepherd Dawg

September 1st, 2012
6:50 pm

A few more games like this, I could become a Gurley-man.

AugustaDawg

September 1st, 2012
6:57 pm

Got a lot to improve on before next week. Hope the injuries aren’t that serious. GATA

SatillaDawg

September 1st, 2012
7:02 pm

Go DAWGS!

Tighten up the D, keep giving Gurley the football, and get some of those suspended/injured players back in the game.

On to Mizzou!

WDE

September 1st, 2012
7:05 pm

I watched another game I guess. Was there ever any doubt we were the better team? Was anyone ever really worried we were going to lose this game ? We have things to work on but I think Buffalo played the best game they were capable of playing and that effort was good enough to keep it within 3 touchdowns. My hat is off to them the played hard and that QB and RB are both great competitors but at the end of the day the outcome was never in doubt. This was a tune up and that is what we did work on the OL gelling and seeing what the young backs could do. All in all it was to my mind a lot better effort than USCe vs Vandy. Worst to come out of this was the injuries we can only hope none are serious. Now we watch film make adjustments during practice and get ready for Mizzou…this wasn’t perfect but it was a solid W. After listening to CMR after the game I think practice this week will be interesting to say the least.

Bobo, Bobo, a pirate's life for me

September 1st, 2012
7:08 pm

…I cannot believe that 5 starters out on defense makes us look that poor against Buffalo! …

________________________________________________________________________________

Seriously?!?! 5 players out is almost half the entire starting defense…OF COURSE THAT WOULD MAKE US LOOK POORER THAN NORMAL!

However, I was very disappointed with the way they played against BUff.

DawgNation

September 1st, 2012
7:09 pm

Spot on WDE.

chipperdawg

September 1st, 2012
7:10 pm

First game guys…
Probably kinda hard to get up for the Bulls when you know you’re flying into Miz next week for what is to be their BIGGEST home game ever!
Lets hope this will keep our boys grounded and focused, knowing they can loose on any given Sat.
Coaches have some things to work on, but that can be said for every team in the country, I’d imagine.
I’ll take 12 more Ws just like it!

sandiegodawg

September 1st, 2012
7:14 pm

the biggest concern for me was the fact that their QB ran at will against us- Next week we will see one of the best dual threats QBs in the country. Please do NOT suspend Ogletree.

chipperdawg

September 1st, 2012
7:15 pm

“Lets hope this will keep our boys grounded and focused, knowing they can loose on any given Sat.”,

…with a lack of effort and focus, that is.

Phil

September 1st, 2012
7:20 pm

Isaiah who??

monty

September 1st, 2012
7:22 pm

So, are we a hard nosed running team that can pass, or a passing team that can run? We got beat up pretty good today. Another CMR team that wins because we have better athletes on the field but not because we coached them up. Too much finesse. Bama or LSU or even Tennessee would have cleaned our clock today. Long way to go.

Iloveuga

September 1st, 2012
7:23 pm

Thank goodness-the bitching has already started.
GO DAWGS!!

Douglas

September 1st, 2012
7:24 pm

Murray: overrated QB. We will never win the SEC with him and Boo Boo. I am amazed we keep getting so much talent to play with such piss poor coaches.

straight dope

September 1st, 2012
7:27 pm

Gurley, Marshall, J Jones, Bennett, and T King came to play today. Everybody else needs to get his ass in gear.

WDE

September 1st, 2012
7:28 pm

@Douglas lets see he threw for 3 TD’s and had a couple more dropped yes he overthrew a couple but he protected the ball took sacks when needed and LEAD his team..you take your QB I’m just fine with ours.

North Georgia Dawg

September 1st, 2012
7:34 pm

I would say Gurley is pretty good. Georgia better not work him too hard though, he’s too important to our team. Spread the carries out so we will have fresh backs in throughout the game. I’m glad Theus jsut has a sprain though I don’t see him playing for at least a couple of weeks. Go dawgs!

Hairy Dawg

September 1st, 2012
7:37 pm

If Gurley pulls that crap where he drops the ball before he crosses the goal line again, someone needs to box his ears.

North Georgia Dawg

September 1st, 2012
7:39 pm

The most important thing in my opinion for Murray is that he didn’t turn the freaking ball over. He can get away with missing a couple of open receivers, especially on deep balls, if he doesn’t hurt the team by turning the ball over. It was against Buffalo, but 3 TDs and 0 INT is never bad. I hope Big John is back as soon as possible. I was afraid he had torn his ACL at first.

TallaDawg

September 1st, 2012
7:39 pm

@WDE – Murray looked good … for a red-shirt freshman, not for a third-year starter. He has to hit those long open guys in stride.

buzzDawg

September 1st, 2012
7:40 pm

The Dawgs take their press clippings too seriously. Gurley was as advertised but he didn’t rest on his earlier accolades from teammates. T. King played well but Murray slipped into old habits of over-throwing his receivers for long periods – he has rarely played a complete game. I think Grantham will properly ‘advise’ the defense they can’t loaf through the SEC schedule. Don’t know what can be done about Murray.

I dropped my fried twinkie

September 1st, 2012
8:00 pm

All I heard all week from the Kool-aid Drunk UGa fans was Our 3rd String could win this game. HAHAHAH right!

Murray was still trying to pad his stats with 8 minutes left in the 4th qtr.

Your Junkyard dawgs couldn’t win this game in the 1st half to even let the 3rd string get in the game.

Left Coast Dawg

September 1st, 2012
8:50 pm

@HairyDawg – I thought I was the only one who saw Gurley do that. You are right, someone needs to check him on that, quick!

Left Coast Dawg

September 1st, 2012
8:52 pm

Hey Twinkie….Murray is padding his stats all the way to the NFL. Is that a problem?

I dropped my fried twinkie

September 1st, 2012
9:01 pm

Turn on the Bama game and see how you put away a top#15 team……UGa #6 and played that bad……Bama 21-0 over Michigan in the FIRST QUARTER.

I dropped my fried twinkie

September 1st, 2012
9:02 pm

I bet Bama will be playing 3rd stringer in the 3rd qtr.

Dawg Tired

September 1st, 2012
9:10 pm

Suspend the coaches. It seems obvious they’ve been smoking something illegal.

Huh?

September 1st, 2012
10:00 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. And who can’t get up and excited for the first game of the season? BS…

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.

chuck

September 1st, 2012
10:24 pm

The lingering problem is UGA should have put Buffalo away early in the game. Then we could have been playing our second team guys (we don’t have 3rd string guys because CMR is an idiot when it comes to scholarship management) in the second half. Theus would have been safely on the bench and wouldn’t have gotten hurt. I’m sick of us playing down to whatever team we play so we can’t play the second team and build some depth.

BITTER FIRST

September 1st, 2012
10:50 pm

what?????clemp–son won—-the barn stinks—cheese stick gets the ax soon

I dropped my fried twinkie

September 1st, 2012
10:52 pm

Bitter you need to be on jeff Schultz blog

Inlet Dawg

September 1st, 2012
10:56 pm

I have been saying it all off season we are not going to be good this year.Line and special teams will cost us.

Relax People

September 1st, 2012
11:09 pm

Guys – relax – you cannot base the season off this game – 1st game of the season and cupcake – most teams get caught looking ahead – GA will be fine – they will look much better next week – it is apparent that most of you idiots have never played football – sometimes it is hard to get up for a game that is “cupcake” especially when you have a big game coming up the next week – Go back and look at the game – Ga ran a vanilla defense scheme and basic offense plays – they did not want to open the play book for MIZ to have a lot of game film

Relax People

September 1st, 2012
11:15 pm

Hey I dropped my fried twinkie

If I remember correctly that great MI team lost to APP State one opening day

WDE

September 1st, 2012
11:23 pm

@Inlet Dawg how much have you had to drink..did you see the game our special team play was outstanding…

7576DAWG

September 1st, 2012
11:50 pm

The bad news is I don’t think there is any way Murray even gets a shot at the pro’s which means he will be back next year. Murray was the shortest offensive player on the field. He can not complete a screen pass. If through some miracle a screen is completed it nearly always go’s for no gain or has a lose.
Murray showed better leadership skills today with no turnovers but the question is can he keep from hurting the team when we play a good team. That is when he go’s into panic mode usually . Next week will tell us a lot.

Gumps

September 2nd, 2012
12:17 am

The sky is falling!

Good grief I love the dawgs but we’ve got some whiners in our fan base.

It was game 1 people.

Chill

[...] Game story: Gurley’s dynamic debut overshadows lackluster game [...]

[...] Game story: Gurley’s dynamic debut overshadows lackluster game [...]

Huh?

September 2nd, 2012
12:58 am

Relax People…Sometimes it’s hard getting up for a cupcake? Seriously? If you can’t get up the for the first game of the season, you have a problem.

1st game of the season and a cupcake, most teams get caught looking ahead? Didn’t seem to bother LSU…or Southern Cal…or Florida State…and about 20 other teams.

Rationale

September 2nd, 2012
5:00 am

At best, Murray will be a backup QB in NFL. Personally, I don’t think he has the talent to play in NFL. With all the preseason hype on him, he still cannot hit the open man downfield. I hope he tries to go pro after this year.

Steamer Lane Bulldog

September 2nd, 2012
7:24 am

The North Carolina Boys did a great job, and so did the receivers. Pretty much everyone else seemed, to be asleep at the wheel.
Practice is not going to be fun this coming week.

Where's the Junkyard Attitude?

September 2nd, 2012
7:29 am

Not to sound redundant on this blog – but UGA has had a recurring ability to come out flat against lesser opponents and “play down” to their level. The level of play was dad gum embarrassing on defense – heck – even Mike Bobo could have run through those holes.

My concern is that the butt-kicking, defend the home turf attitude is just not there. The Dawgs, not all, but many, got caught pro-gliding – that is playing and looking like they are better, but not giving 100% or even 75% effort.

Murray was unbelievably inconsistent again – and the play calling has GOT to get him out of the pocket more. UGA is more concerned about not running up the score, not showing too much from Bobo’s “deep” playbook – (every UGA fan can nearly predict his dial up offense anyway) than they are about making plays, sustaining drives and taking care of business.

In UGAs defense – Penn Wagers and his SEC officiating staff was ill-prepared again as well, which is also a common theme. When UB scored TD #1, there was an undresssing of our weakside DE by the tackle – the entire stadium is screaming HOLDING!!! But, Wagers missed it. I guess he was too close to the action. This was just one of many no-call holds that extended drives for the Bulls, who should be given some props. Bo Oliver is a very good back, maybe NFL player and Zordich ran well in very open green pasture before breaking out the Matt Ryan slide, expect Zordich actually got first downs for his team.

Note to the SEC Administration. When your head officials are old enough to draw social security, it is time for them to retire.

Note to UGA – Spy the stinking dual threat QB, and use Murray, who is capable as a dual threat as well. Don’t worry about showing your cards – we all know you are holding a 2, 3 off-suit anyway.

It worked!!

September 2nd, 2012
7:30 am

if the goal of todays so called game was to show Missouri nothing (or anyone else for that matter)
then congratulations!! IT WORKED! Looked like a typical Georgia first game. Unprepaired, not focused and just poor, sloppy play….nr. 6 in the country uh??

Destin Dawg

September 2nd, 2012
7:43 am

we played bad… BUT S.C. GameClucks sweated out a squeaker over Vandy on a bad call…. Floiduh is terrible under Crazy Will Muschamp… Tenn. looked pretty good… SEC East will be fun to watch!

Destin Dawg

September 2nd, 2012
7:45 am

Chizik has only had one winning season with Scam Newton and Late Hit Fairley… he’s gone next yaer !!!