Even without A.J. Green and an assortment of other key offensive performers, Georgia had way too much firepower for Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday, rolling to a 55-7 victory marking a successful beginning to the Aaron Murray-era as the Bulldogs' starting quarterback.
Murray was impressive with three touchdown passes and at least for this day the Bulldogs didn't miss their star receiver who was held of the contest pursuant to UGA Athletic Association Policy pending a ruling from the NCAA clarifying his status.
Head coach Mark Richtdeclined any comment in his post-game press-conference, although he certainly had plenty to say about the Bulldogs' largest margin of victory in a home-opener since a 56-3 win over Kent State in 1998.
"We worked really hard all week as a team - all preseason - and it really paid off," Murray said. "I'm looking forward to getting back out there in practice this week."
It's no wonder.
Any concerns about the Tampa native were at least put to rest for one game as the redshirt freshman marked his first start by completing 17-of-26 passes for 160 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in just under three quarters of work. Murray also rushed for 42 yards on four attempts, including a 16-yard scoring dash on the final play of the first half.
That's when Hutson Mason made his college debut. The Bulldog inserted Mason with 2:47 to go in the third quarter and on the very first play threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Logan Gray to make the score 48-7.
It was a good day to be an offensive player.
Kris Durham helped take up the slack for Green and the suspended Tavarres King as the senior enjoyed a career game, grabbing five passes for 83 yards and one touchdown, a 3-yard catch on the first play of the second quarter.
Caleb King and Carlton Thomas made sure (suspension) wouldn't be missed as the pair combined for 109 rushing yards, picking up 62 and 47 respectfully.
Defensively, the [db]Todd Grantham-era got off to roaring start.
Take away a 60-yard touchdown pass from Chris Masson to Ladarius Green which occurred when safety Bacarri Rambo failed to cover, the Bulldog D was just as dominant as fans hoped it would be.
Even with the 60-yard play, Georgia held the Rajin Cajuns to 128 recorded three sacks and intercepted three passes, one each by Brandon Boykin, Jakar Hamilton and Sanders Commings.
Hamilton returned his first career pick for a 24-yard score early in the fourth quarter while Commings made a marvelous over-the-shoulder grab on Louisiana's next possession before bringing it back 25 yards.
"One of the highlights for me was how the defense played," Richt said. "We did have the mental breakdown when they scored on the long pass, but overall we kept a good mental edge on them and they got after it well. I thought they tackled well. There were a lot of good things that happened defensively."
Louisiana-Lafayette coach Rickey Bustle was impressed with what he saw from the Bulldogs.
"Georgia is a heck of a football team. They have great talent at a lot of positions. I haven't seen running backs run like that in a long time," Bustle said. "At the same time I'm disappointed in the way our defense played today. We left our defense out there too long. "
What concerns the fans might have had about Murray were answered in the first half.
Murray threw a pair of touchdown passes - 3 yards to Durham and 11 yards to Shaun Chapas - as the Bulldogs rolled to a 31-7 halftime lead.
For good measure, Murray added a 12-yard scoring run on the half's final play after King tallied the first Bulldog touchdown run on a 16-yard run in the first quarter.
A 52-yard field goal by Blair Walsh accounted for the rest of the first-scoring.
Defensively, the Bulldogs did exactly what fans attending hoped that they would - pressure quarterback Chris Masson unmercifully and forced a turnover when Boykin intercepted the ball after a tip by outside linebacker Cornelius Washington.
The only blip occurred when Rambo became lost in coverage and allowed tight end Landarius Green to get behind and pull in a 60-yard touchdown pass from Masson.
But the Bulldogs didn't let the score ruin an otherwise successful afternoon.
Leading 31-7, the Bulldogs used a 48-yard field goal from Walsh and Murray's 1-yard scoring pass to Fred Munzenmaier.
One of the day's biggest cheers would come later in the quarter.
That's when Mason was inserted into the game and promptly hit Logan for a 26-yard score, the first touchdowns of their respective career.
"Today was just a ton of fun," Boykin said. "It's really fun to get out there and stop the other team a bunch of times. Coach Grantham kept telling us not to let up and we didn't. We still made some mistakes and have a lot of work to do, but we're going to work on getting better this week."
Georgia returns to action Saturday when the Bulldogs open SEC play at South Carolina. Kickoff is set for noon.
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