University of Georgia's Bacarri Rambo (18) stretches to the goaline after returning an interception for a touchdown during Saturday's game against Auburn.
ATHENS -- Needing a win to stay in the driver's seat for the SEC East Division championship, Georgia came up with easily its best and most complete performance of the season in the South's oldest rivalry.
Aaron Murray completed 14 of 18 passes for 224 yards and four touchdowns as the Bulldogs took a huge lead in the first half en route to making a statement with a 45-7 win over Auburn before a sellout crowd of 92,746 Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
Isaiah Crowell (132 yards and a TD on 24 carries) and Carlton Thomas (15-127) also had a big day upon their return from last week's suspension, while the Georgia defense also had a strong performance as the Bulldogs (8-2, 6-1 in the SEC) outgained Auburn (6-3, 4-3) 528-195 in an absolutely dominating afternoon.
"I can't really think of anything (Saturday) night I wasn't happy with," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "I'm proud of them. ... It was definitely, I'd have to say (one of the) top, maybe, five or so (best) games since I've been here, especially in this stadium."
It made for a satisfying victory in a rivalry that dates back to 1892, and also sets the Bulldogs up to clinch the SEC East and a berth in the conference title game Dec. 3 at the Georgia Dome with a win next week against Kentucky.
"To know we're one win away from getting back to Atlanta, it's an awesome feeling," Murray said.
Murray and Georgia came out flying from the start.
The Bulldogs marched 70 yards in 10 plays on its opening possession, draining 6:07 off the clock, their longest scoring drive of the season.
And they converted four third-downs along the way, with the biggest being Murray's 43-yard completion to Malcolm Mitchell on third and 15 from Georgia's own 45.
Murray later found Tavarres King on an 8-yard scoring strike on third and 7 to put the Bulldogs up 7-0 with 8:57 left in the first quarter.
But Auburn quickly put itself in position to answer when Clint Moseley hit Emory Blake on a 45-yard completion to the Georgia nine before turning to a pair of Georgia natives on third and goal.
Moseley pitched to freshman C.J. Uzomah on the reverse, and the North Gwinnett grad threw a strike to Marietta native Phillip Lutzenkirchen for the 4-yard TD pass, tying the the game 7-7 with 6:13 left in the opening frame.
But Murray and Georgia found the end zone again on their next possession.
This time, it didn't take nearly as long -- just six plays and 3:04 -- with Murray completing all five of his attempts, including a spectacular diving 27-yard snag by Michael Bennett for a touchdown that vaulted the Bulldogs back in front 14-7 with 3:02 left in the quarter.
And they firmly grasped control of the game thanks to a surge during a 5:36 span of the second quarter.
First, after an exchange of fumbles between the two teams, Murray capped a six-play, 40-yard drive with a 15-yard swing pass to fullback Bruce Figgins for a score to push the Georgia lead to 21-7 with 10:36 left in the first half.
Just 49 seconds later, the Bulldogs were back on the board again, courtesy of Bacarri Rambo's 24-yard interception return that made the score 28-7.
"I saw (defensive lineman) Abry (Jones) waving for me to come that way (on the return)," Rambo said. "So I did, and those guys just helped me into the end zone. We played great (Saturday). It's a great day to be a Bulldog."
Then after a three-and-out by Auburn, Murray went back to work -- this time, hitting Mitchell with a 25-yard scoring strike to extend the Georgia lead to 35-7 with an even five minutes left in the half.
And with the Bulldogs defense turning in a dominating performance, the least was plenty large enough.
While the defense was limiting Auburn to just 106 yards and five first downs in the second half, the offense shifted from the quick-strike mode of Murray and the passing game -- which went to the air just twice with one completion in the final 30 minutes -- to the time-consuming ground game of Thomas and Crowell.
The pair combined for 169 yards in the half, 114 by Crowell, who added a 9-yard TD with 5:59 remaining to put the cherry on top Georgia's win.
"It was a great day -- special teams, offense, defense," Murray said. "It was definitely was our most complete game of the year ... and the results show on the scoreboard."