ATLANTA Georgia’s record-setting quarterback did pretty much what he wanted to against his team’s biggest rival. Aaron Murray threw for 252 yards and four touchdowns to four different receivers in the No. 13 Bulldogs’ 31-17 victory over No. 25 Georgia Tech Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Georgia (10-2) won its 10th consecutive game and third straight in the series, and will play No. 1 LSU in the SEC championship game December 3 right down the road at the Georgia Dome. Tech finished the regular season 8-4.
Murray, just a redshirt-sophomore who has a school-record 32 touchdown passes in 2011, helped put the game out of reach late in the third quarter, finding Aron White for a three-yard score to put the Bulldogs up 31-10.
"We were just going with what was working," said Murray. "We had some big catches by a lot of guys today, tight ends, receivers, running backs. Everyone was making plays. My job was easy."
“It seems sometimes that’s the way it goes, nothing you can do about it, sometimes it goes that way,” said Tech coach Paul Johnson. “I give Georgia a lot of credit, they’ve got a good football team, they showed up and played very well.”
Georgia had built a two-touchdown lead immediately after halftime and the visitors weren’t threatened the rest of the game. Brandon Boykin scurried 60 yards to the Tech 36 on the opening kick off, passing Mississippi State’s Eric Pegues for second on the SEC’s career kickoff return yardage list. It didn’t take Murray long to get the Bulldogs in the end zone as a 28-yard completion, which Orson Charles fumbled and recovered at the three, preceded a three-yard scoring hookup between Murray and Tavarres King to make it 24-10.
"The kick off return was huge to start the half (and) to score right away and make it a two-possession game...we had a big score to start the second half," Murray said.
One of the few mistakes made by Murray happened on a second-and-long play with nine minutes left in the first. Steven Sylvester led a strong pass rush for Tech and the senior linebacker hit the Georgia quarterback Murray hard, which led to Louis Young’s first interception of the season.
The turnover didn’t hurt Georgia, and after a defensive stop the visitors went up for good with an efficient drive late in the first half. Starting from their own 24, the Bulldogs took five plays to march downfield, aided by a 20-yard run by Malcolm Mitchell on an end-around to set up first-and-goal. Murray was 4-for-4 and found Michael Bennett for a 15-yard touchdown.
Tech answered with an 11-play drive, and though the Yellow Jackets had a third-and-goal at the two and couldn’t get in the end zone, Justin Moore’s 22-yard field goal made it a 7-3 game with just over 12 minutes to play in the second.
"For us the margin of error was small and we didn’t take advantages of a couple opportunities we had early and when we did that we got behind," Johnson said.
The teams traded 80-yard scoring drives in the second quarter. Murray and the passing game had its way again on Georgia’s march as the redshirt-sophomore connected on another five passes, including a 14-yard connection to Chris Conley where the freshman beat Rod Sweeting on a fade route for a touchdown and a 14-3 cushion.
Tech converted a fourth-and-short in Georgia territory, part of a 14-play drive that culminated with David Sims breaking a tackle and plunging into the end zone for a five-yard score to cut the hosts’ deficit to 14-10. That was as close as the hosts would get.
Georgia came in ranked No. 4 nationally in total defense and lived up to the ranking, holding the Yellow Jackets to seven points after the Sims’ touchdown run with 1:13 left in the first half.
A strange set of events ended the first half when Georgia tried to tack onto its lead with a field goal. Blair Walsh’s first attempt was wide left, but Tech had called a time out, allowing Walsh to try again. This time the senior didn’t miss, nailing a 41-yarder to make it 17-10 at halftime.